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The political Left's attack on Petraeus failed. Will McChrystal fare as well?

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McChrystal, Watch Your Left Flank

The political Left’s attack on Petraeus failed. Will McChrystal fare as well?

The political Left is now attacking Gen. Stanley McChrystal over his proposed troop surge in Afghanistan in the same way it tried to besmirch the character of Gen. David Petraeus when he promoted the successful Iraq reinforcement.  

The lesson: when a four-star commander wants to win a war with more troops they get profiled by the Left as betrayers, rogues and liars.  With Petraeus, they failed.  Will McChrystal fare as well?

Everyone should remember the infamous 2007 newspaper ad from MoveOn.org, the hard Left advocacy group, that posted a video showing George W. Bush transforming into Hitler.

In Petraeus’ case, MoveOn was a bit kinder. It only depicted him as a traitor to his country. "General Petraeus or General Betray Us?" the ad said. "Cooking the books for the White House."

The ad, for which the New York Times granted a huge price discount, went on to assert, "Every independent report on the ground situation in Iraq shows that the surge strategy has failed."

Hillary Clinton also condemned Petraeus in stark terms. At a Senate hearing, she said to the four-star general, "The reports that you provide to us really require the willing suspension of disbelief."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who had pronounced the Iraq war lost, said of the general,  "He’s made a number of statements over the years that have not proven to be factual."

A year later, a short-lived political consensus emerged that the Iraq surge worked in greatly reducing violence. As a bonus, America defeated the Iraq wing of al Qaeda.

Today, it is McChrystal who must watch his Left flank, getting flack from the same type of leftists who applauded former Gen. Eric Shinseki for publicly saying the U.S. needed more troops for an Iraq invasion.

In recent days:

•    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi chastised McChrystal for a speech in gave in London on what was needed to win in Afghanistan.

Said the speaker on "The Charlie Rose Show,"   "Let me say this about General McChrystal, with all due respect. His recommendations to the president should go up the line of command. It shouldn’t be in press conferences."

•    Paul Begala, former member of the Bill Clinton attack machine, called McChrystal a "rogue" general on CNN.

“Here’s the situation where General McChrystal has one- on-one time with the president of the United States, not with the rest of the team, but at least direct access to his commander in chief, and then apparently still went rogue," Begala said.

Begala totally misstated the chronology. McChrystal gave the London speech, then traveled to Denmark for a hastily called, 25-minute meeting with President Obama.  Prior to that, from the time Obama chose McChrystal to command in Afghanistan last March, Obama had only taken the time for one other conversation with McChrystal.

•    Liberal law school professor Bruce Ackerman accused McChrystal of breaking the law by giving a speech that breached the chain of command. He called for new rules to prevent generals from talking.

"As commanding general in Afghanistan, McChrystal has no business making such public pronouncements," Ackerman wrote in the Washington Post. "Under law, he doesn’t have the right to attend the National Security Council as it decides our strategy …. He should show more self-restraint. Indeed, his breach should provoke a broader discussion of the meaning of civilian control in the 21st century. It may well make sense for the Pentagon, or a special commission, to frame more concrete guidelines so that we may avoid future breaches."

•    Post columnist Eugene Robinson, an enthusiastic Obama supporter, accused McChrystal of trying to out maneuver the president. "McChrystal is out of line in trying to sell his position publicly," Robinson wrote.

There you have it. To the Left, McChrystal, a tireless warrior who hunted down Abu Musab Zarqawi — the worst terrorist in the Middle East — is a rogue, lawbreaking big-mouth waging war against the president.

Words do hurt these guys. After MoveOn attacked Petraeus via the New York Times on the day he testified before Congress, Petraeus put on a brave face. He mentioned the group’s First Amendment rights while rebutting its charge.

But an Army officer and Petraeus colleague said the general was truly hurt and offended that in the New York Times he would read that he was betraying a country he had served most of his life.

"He was not pleased to say the least," said the officer. "To question his sense of duty and integrity is something that he does not take lightly.  To even do that before he had even uttered one word before Congress was also beyond belief.  He saw that he was not promoting one side or the other, but the facts as we knew them.  If the trends were going in the opposite direction, he was prepared and would have reported as such.  In his confirmation hearing he stated that if progress was not being made, he would be prepared to report as such."

A postscript: HUMAN EVENTS spoke with officials inside the Pentagon to determine the exact circumstances of McChrystal’s Oct. 1 London speech. Some have reported the Pentagon approved the engagement; on the Left, pundits suggest he went against White House wishes. The truth lies in the middle.

McChrystal had made the commitment weeks earlier to the Institute of International and Strategic Studies, before he finished his own assessment of the battlefield and concluded he needed as many as 40,000 more troops. As the speech date drew near, with a debate over more troops dominating Washington, McChrystal’s staff checked with Pentagon public affairs people and other officials on whether he should go ahead.

He got mixed reaction. Some advised to cancel. Others said a speech in the capital of a vital ally was a good idea. With no one directing him to do either, McChrystal decided to go ahead.

"There were mixed opinions on the advisability of keeping the engagement," said one defense official "It was ultimately his decision to make and he did."

McChrystal’s spokesman declined to comment on the criticism.

Written By

Mr. Scarborough is a national security writer who has written books on Donald Rumsfeld and the CIA, including the New York Times bestseller Rumsfeld's War.

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