By Julian E. Barnes McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON — The Gen. Stanley McChrystal firestorm in Washington erupted after a magazine profile in an upcoming edition of Rolling Stone — the article, “The Runaway General,” is already on the magazine’s website — included comments from him and his advisers that appear to ridicule Vice President Joe Biden and are portrayed as dismissive of civilian oversight of the Afghan war.
The article says the staff of the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan frequently derided top civilian leaders, including special envoy Richard Holbrooke and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry.
One anonymous aide calls White House national security adviser James Jones a “clown.”
The article says that only Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton received good reviews from McChrystal’s inner circle.
McChrystal is reported as visibly exasperated by e-mails he receives from Holbrooke, appointed by Obama to oversee developments in Afghanistan and Pakistan. “Oh, not another e-mail from Holbrooke,” the article quotes McChrystal as saying after receiving one message. “I don’t even want to open it.”
McChrystal criticizes Eikenberry for writing a classified cable that critiqued the war strategy and was later leaked, saying he felt “betrayed” by the episode and that Eikenberry was trying to protect himself.
“Here’s one that covers his flank for the history books,” the magazine quotes McChrystal as saying. “Now if we fail, they can say, ‘I told you so.’ ”
The article’s author, Michael Hastings, says that McChrystal and his staff, while preparing for a question-and-answer session in Paris, imagined ways of “dismissing the vice president with a good one-liner.”
“Are you asking about Vice President Biden?” McChrystal says, according to the article, trying out a possible answer. “Who’s that?”
“Biden?” suggests a top adviser. “Did you say: Bite Me?”
During the trip to Paris, McChrystal and unnamed aides are portrayed as impatient with the assignment of explaining the war to foreign officials at state functions.
“I’d rather have my ass kicked by a roomful of people than go out to this dinner,” McChrystal says of one appointment, then adds: “Unfortunately, no one in this room could do it.”
Late Monday, McChrystal issued an apology for the Rolling Stone article. “It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened,” he said in a statement.
McChrystal offered also a public apology Tuesday, the Associated Press reported, and met with Holbrooke, Eikenberry and Afghan President Hamid Karzai and privately apologized.