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May 12, 2009

McKiernan: It Was Great Knowing You… Whatever You Said

Gates-McKiernan-Afghanistan.jpg

This DOD photo shows Defense Secretary Gates taking leave of Afghanistan and shaking hands with U.S. Commander McKiernan having informed him of his firing three days before. In retrospect — the announcement of the General’s fate still several days off — the photo seems like overkill, the two men offering quite a show of solidarity, the clasp reinforced by the shadow clasp and even the visual sense of the men connected by way of the powerful aircraft engine.

On the contrary however, the outright firing of McKiernan sends a blatant and unceremonious message. According to the NYT: “Pentagon officials said it appeared that General McKiernan was the first general to be dismissed from command of a theater of combat since Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War.” It certainly seems McKiernan is taking a very public hit from Team Obama/Gates/Petraeus for a war that has been suffering conflicts with NATO, bad PR over civilian casualties and, now apparently, a strategy acknowledged as going nowhere.

Looking at the picture again, however, division is as much a theme. What is probably the attempt to speak over the engine noise offers us a strained-looking McKiernan trying to have some truly parting words while split from the Secretary by the groove running through the tarmac, and the handshake.

(image: U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Jerry Morrison/DOD. caption: U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates thanks U.S. Army Gen. David McKiernan, commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan and NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, after visiting Field Operating Base Airborne in the Wardak province, Afghanistan, May 8, 2009. photo essay: Gates Visits Field Operating Base Airborne, Afghanistan )

  • thomas

    In addition to the specifics you mention, I also see here a reinforcement of the notion of civilian control of the military. Bush was so deferential to the military — even dressing up and pretending to be a part — that it frequently felt that his administration was just an adjunct to military will and the militarization of culture and policy. I wonder to what degree the abruptness of McKiernan’s dismissal isn’t also meant as a message to everybody in the armed forces that the suits are indeed in charge.

  • http://www.kstreetblues.com Ed

    Here’s another take – juxtapose this photo wit the news that a JAL jet at LAX sucked an entire baggage container into its engine (http://aviationblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2009/05/jal-jet-sucks-baggage-containe.html) and you get some ominous stuff for the General.

  • Gasho

    Ed – YOU SO BEAT ME TO IT.

  • Gasho
  • yg

    wow, from nyt:
    One spot on General McChrystal’s generally sterling military record came in 2007, when a Pentagon investigation into the accidental shooting death in 2004 of Cpl. Pat Tillman by fellow Army Rangers in Afghanistan held General McChrystal accountable for inaccurate information provided by Corporal Tillman’s unit in recommending him for a Silver Star.
    The information wrongly suggested that Corporal Tillman, a professional football player whose decision to enlist in the Army after the Sept. 11 attacks drew national attention, had been killed by enemy fire.

    did he get fired for the cover up?

  • http://www.michaelmoore.com/ yg

    michael moore connects another dot:
    McChrystal ran the Joint Special Operations Command, home of an “executive assassination ring”

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