Published June 22, 2010
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. war commander in Afghanistan, is under fire in Washington for his comments in this week's issue of Rolling Stone, in which he and his staff slammed President Obama and Obama's national security team.
McChrystal has issued an apology, but he has been called to the White House Situation Room on Wednesday to explain his comments to the magazine directly to the president. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs repeatedly refused to say Tuesday whether McChrystal's job is safe, only allowing that "all options are on the table."
Rep. Dave Obey, D-Wis., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, demanded that McChrystal be removed, calling him "bull-headed."
"It isn't even the first time we've seen this general be contemptuous," Obey said in a written statement. "Anybody, including a U.S. Army general, is entitled to making a damn fool of themselves once. But Gen. McChrystal hasn't appeared to learn from his mistakes."
Obey accused McChrystal of "repeated contempt for the civilian chain of command."
"That is damn dangerous in somebody whose decisions determine life and death for American troops and others in the region," he said.
But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, echoing several other lawmakers, said McChrystal's future is for the president to decide, adding that it's "very important" for the commander in chief to have confidence in his general.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said McChrystal "made a significant mistake and exercised poor judgment in this case."
"We are fighting a war against Al Qaeda and its extremist allies, who directly threaten the United States, Afghanistan and our friends and allies around the world," he said in a written statement. "Going forward, we must pursue this mission with a unity of purpose. Our troops and coalition partners are making extraordinary sacrifices on behalf of our security, and our singular focus must be on supporting them and succeeding in Afghanistan without such distractions."
Gates said McChrystal has apologized to him and is reaching out to others named in the article to apologize to them, too.
In the article, McChrystal's staff described the president as unprepared for their first one-on-one encounter, and McChrystal said he felt betrayed and blind-sided by his diplomatic partner, U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry.
When asked whether Obama should fire McChrystal, many lawmakers were noncommittal, saying that would be the president's decision.
"It's clearly bad judgment, and the rest of it's up to him and his commander-in-chief," Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., a Vietnam War combat veteran, told Fox News. Webb said McChrystal has had three bites at the apple, citing his role in the controversy over Pat Tillman's death, his "60 Minutes" interview in which he revealed he hadn't spoken to Obama in three months, and a speech in London in which he criticized Vice President Biden's proposed slimmed-down strategy for the Afghan war.
"I think it's a pretty serious matter," Webb said.
Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., called McChrystal's comments "inappropriate," adding that happens next is up to the president.
"It's his decision and a tough one," he said, adding that he will respect whatever decision the president makes.
In a written statement, Lieberman and Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said McChrystal's comments were "inappropriate and inconsistent with the traditional relationship between commander-in-chief and the military."
"The decision concerning Gen. McChrystal's future is a decision to be made by the president of the United State," they said.
Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, said it is "appropriate" that McChrystal issued an apology but added that the article is "unfortunate."
"But it should not detract us from our real goal of working together to defeat Al Qaeda and the Taliban," he said in a written statement.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said during a hearing Tuesday that he spoke with McChrystal and emphasized to him that he will have to answer for those comments to Obama and his national security team.
"I have enormous respect for Gen. McChrystal -- I think he's a terrific soldier -- and this is a critical moment in Afghanistan," he said. "And as far as I am concerned personally, the top priority is our mission in Afghanistan and our ability to proceed forward competently."
Sen. Roland Burris, D-Ill., told Fox News that it's the president's decision as to whether McChrystal should resign. But he added that if he had to vote on McChrystal's confirmation again, "I would be a little worried."