When Was the Last Time a Pope Was Shit-faced Drunk On the Streets of Paris?

Just a month before parading drunkenly through the streets of Paris, McChrystal drew a fail whale to describe his COIN strategy. (detail from an ISAFMedia photo)

The answer to that question is actually early on the morning of April 17, 2010, at least if you read chapter 11 of Michael Hastings’ “The Operators” (the chapter is titled “Totally Shit-faced”).

Well, it was Stanley McChrystal and his entourage who were shit-faced drunk on the streets of Paris, but one of McChrystal’s many nicknames is The Pope. It comes from Dalton Fury’s fawning profile (pdf): “Later on, about the time he started to wear shiny silver stars, we started to refer to him as The Pope.” To drive his point home, Fury’s profile was also titled “The Pope”.

A much different version of Stanley McChrystal is found in Hastings’ book. He paints a vivid picture of McChrystal and his closest aides, where the group can be viewed as “operators” whose primary role was to manage public profiles while putting the best possible spin on what happened, rather than really achieving the objectives of the war which they commanded.

As part of the briefing that McChrystal is shown delivering in the photo on the left, from March of 2010, you can see his “protect the people” message. This was but one aspect of the overall strategy of his COIN (counterinsurgency) approach that was aimed at the proverbial battle for “hearts and minds”.

Early in Hastings’ book, we see Hastings visiting McChyrstal and his aides in Paris. After Hastings sits in on a meeting in which McChrystal is preparing to deliver a speech at the Ecole Militaire later that evening, Hastings steps outside with an aide:

After the meeting, I waited outside the hotel for Duncan. I noticed an Arab guy, around five-feet-five, walking by in shorts and sneakers. I continued to smoke my cigarette. Duncan and I walked to the Metro to catch a train to the Ecole Militaire. At the top of the Metro steps, I saw the same Arab guy again.

“Hey, man, do people really spy on you guys?”

“Yes, they try,” Duncan said.

“I think I just saw a guy I’d seen earlier walking by the hotel.”

“He’s not doing a very good job then, is he?”

So here we have the leader of NATO’s military effort in Afghanistan visiting Paris to promote cooperation within the coalition. McChrystal is also using his operators to push the aspects of his “new” COIN strategy that will protect the people of Afghanistan and to put the coalition into a better relationship with the people of Afghanistan who practice a conservative version of Islam. The group knows it is under scrutiny by Arab spies.

Despite all those important background points, and despite the fact that the entourage rented a significant portion of a large hotel and undoubtedly could have socialized in a reserved meeting room there, after the lecture and after dinner, the group went to Kitty O’Shea’s Irish pub, which Hastings described as “right around the corner from the hotel”.`They weren’t exactly discreet:

The team took over half the bar. They locked arms in a big circle and started giving toasts. They toasted to Afghanistan. They toasted to one another. They toasted to Big Stan. They toasted to Rolling Stone. They started singing songs.

The party in the bar finally broke up at two in the morning:

At two A.M., we exited the bar. Casey took care of the bill–about three hundred euros’ worth of whiskey and beer, he said. Mike Flynn came out the door, still singing what sounded like “Suspicious Minds.” McChrystal tripped over the curb, nearly face-planting in the street. The manager of the bar ran out behind us, telling us to be quiet and not to wake the neighbors. The boozy foot patrol continued down the street, back into the Westminster lobby.

That’s really perfect, isn’t it? Knowing that they are under watch by groups that ban alcohol and while on a mission to build bridges with allies, McChrystal’s group goes the Ugly American route, getting shit-faced drunk and raising such a ruckus the owner of the bar has to follow them into the street to get them to quiet down.

Driving home the extreme hypocrisy of McChrystal as a “leader”, in the very next chapter, Hastings jumps back in time to McChrystal’s arrival to take command in Kabul, with one his very first steps being to close the beer garden at the base.

Oh, and for all the operating McChrystal and his staff did to build the picture that his COIN strategy was so good and so successful, Hastings throws in this parenthetical:

(One stat reveals what a senior military official calls McChrystal’s “smoke and mirros”: After McChrystal takes over, there’s actually an overall jump in civilian casualties.)

Yup, McChrystal’s fail whale advocating “protect the people” was downright prescient.

19 replies
  1. Petrocelli says:

    I remember an MSM “wet kiss” for McKissDaGround, where they talked about his intense self discipline, emphasizing that he ate only one meal a day … cuz that’s all a body needs …

  2. scribe says:

    There you see the perverse product of the West Point Honor Code. By explicitly forbidding lying, cheating and stealing and promoting intolerance of those who do, the Code trains those under it to do exactly that, but in subtle, conniving and even more corrosive ways. In other words, they build better liars, cheats and thieves. That’s the first lesson the Code acutally teaches.

    Actual honesty, accountability and non-thievery are for wimps. Intolerance of those who do, is ratting out someone and cause for ostracism. That’s the second lesson the Code teaches: if you want to survive in this profession, learn to lie without lying and cover for your buddies. To get to four stars, you have to be the apotheosis of that skill-set.

    And, Jim, while you put “leadership” in scare quotes, in reality that was exactly what McChrystal was doing. He was leading his men into a bar and debauchery. It’s like the old saw that whatever you do in the military is training, but the question is whether you train correctly (i.e., to the published standards) or not (to do things like hang out and drink coffee rather than doing appropriate soldiering things). He was leading and training and operating with his men – right into a bar. Similarly, he was managing to the objectives he had – both in-theater and out. His objective in Paris was to blow off steam and get hammered, and he achieved it. His objectibe in theater was to fulfill the bureaucrat’s prime directive: “always act in such a way as to guarantee the continued existence (and, if possible, expansion) of your job (and pay, rank, staff size, and prestige)”. “Winning” the war, whatever that means, never was on the radar screen.

    So, viewed that way, he was performing perfectly. If you think he wasn’t, that’s just because you don’t understand the requirements and objectives he was working under.

  3. Frank33 says:

    This is why we do not know which war we are fighting or who is winning or what winning is, but the Afghans do know. One drunken binge is not enough to conclude that the American military leadership has been broken. McChrystal is not serious about fighting a war. He was just another CEO of War Inc.

    This does seem to be a pattern, of broken military leadership, as previously McChrystal was insubordinate to the Commander in Chief. He got promoted out of Afghanistan, instead of being fired.

    But the good news is that there is a real journalist, Michael Hastings. He is a rare breed, not being embedded in the Pentagon Department of Delusions. It is weird, an actual war correspondent who actually discovers some reality about these endless Oil Wars. And that is not approved by Total Information Awareness.

    I am sure there will be Drones targeting Hastings and Rolling Stone.

  4. Raphael Cruz says:

    yes, mcchrystal is quite representative of what i have come to expect from my fellow americans in foreign countries… my first boss in kabul was a major but functional alcoholic and i’ve worked with many fellow americans in afghanistan who seem to have no qualms about showing the absolute worst to afghans who we are supposedly trying to set a good example for… all night parties, shit-faced drunken orgies, openly referring to afghans as lying dirtballs, all seems to be ok in these peoples’ world…


  5. PeasantParty says:

    @scribe: A-ha! Your eyes are focused the same as mine. Another little thing I would like to add that is not such a little thing is the military’s long lie about rules. Can we not pull up a few rules in which the military has stood on camera with politicians promoting a war for Corporate gain? Rules in the military seem to be a buffet to serve up only those that are hungry for a rule; ie: Dan Choi in DADT, and Manning in crimes of war.

    The rest of the world already sees and knows this, as you say. Most Americans are seeing it now.

  6. eCAHNomics says:

    Glad you’re reading the book, Jim, so I don’t have to. The portion you discuss gives me all the detail I need to know.

  7. Frank33 says:

    Indeed, along with Jason Leopold. Of course Emptyheel is also a fearless reporter and firebrand. The number of such brave patriots is small. The number of National Security reporters who are gutless cowards, is much larger.

  8. JThomason says:

    As for the state of National Security reporting in traditional media in the US see Michael Hasting quoting Julian Assange in Rolling Stone Issue 1149:

    The Times ran in the face of fire; it abandoned us once the heat started from the U.S. Administration. In doing so, it also abandoned itself, and it abandoned all jouralists working on national-security related journalism in the United States.

    What the Times was concerned about is being being swept up in the government’s investigation. If Bradley Manning or anther U.S. government employee had collaborated with us to provide us with classified information, and we, in turn, collaborated with the Times to provide it to the world, then the argument would run that the Times had been involved in a conspiracy with us to commit espionage. This is something the Times was deeply concerned about. It said to us that we should never refer to the Times as a partner-that was their legal advice.

    Assange is referring to the New York Times.

  9. thatvisionthing says:


    Actual honesty, accountability and non-thievery are for wimps

    Regarding McChrystal’s leadership — I want to leave a comment here about McChrystal and the chain of command and events associated with him. Lot of dots to connect:

    McChrystal and Pat Tillman: (from Hastings’ book p.57)

    Pat Tillman had been killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in April 2004. McChrystal knew about it almost immediately, but he still went ahead and signed off on a falsified recommendation for Tillman’s Silver Star that suggested he was killed by the enemy. A week after Tillman’s death, McChrystal sent a memo up the chain of command, specifically warning that President Bush should avoid mentioning the cause of Tillman’s death. “If the circumstances of Corporal Tillman’s death become public,” he wrote, it could cause “public embarrassment” for the president.

    Coming from the secretive Special Forces world, he’d been able to avoid most quesions on his role. There was an Army review, and McChrystal escaped any reprimand, despite his leadership position. His name was blacked out when the Army report became public. He’s refused to answer questions from the Tillman family.

    I left a nested thread of comments on Daily Kos in 2010 following the trail of Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich, who served under McChrystal as Pat Tillman’s Executive Officer. My thread started with then-latest first, Kauzlarich in Basra making things nice for oil companies, preceded by Collateral Murder in July 2007 (Kauzlarich was Ethan McCord’s Ranger battalion commander, Ethan McCord saved the kids in the van), preceded by Kauzlarich’s 360-degree rotational fire order in June 2007, (kill everybody around, including unarmed civilians), preceded by Kauzlarich diverting his battalion from training into surge combat so he could make general, preceded by Kauzlarich as Pat Tillman’s ExO: on ESPN calling Pat Tillman “worm dirt” because Tillman was an atheist, and in 2004 apparently deep-sixing and re-doing original investigation into Tillman’s death.

    McChrystal – Tillman’s Battalion Commander Jeff Bailey – Spc. Bryan O’Neal: Soldier: Army ordered me not to tell truth about Tillman

    The last soldier to see Army Ranger Pat Tillman alive, Spc. Bryan O’Neal, told lawmakers that he was warned by superiors not to divulge — especially to the Tillman family — that a fellow soldier killed Tillman.

    From 360 Degrees of Rotational Fire by Ethan McCord:

    It was in June that our Battalion Commander [Kauzlarich] came to our COP (combat out post) where my platoon was. He walked past us into the office where the 1st Sgt. and company commander were. After about 20 minutes the Battalion commander walked into the weight room where 3rd platoon was at, yelled out “Listen up, new battalion SOP (standard operating procedure) from now on: Anytime your convoy gets hit by an IED, I want 360 degree rotational fire. You kill every motherfucker in the street!” Some of the soldiers were happy to hear this, they were tired of having their hands tied behind their backs. Others like myself couldn’t believe what we had just been told to do. The words I heard were kill them all, fuck em, they don’t deserve to live! I knew that there was no way I could kill women and children or even unarmed men.

    This policy was placed into effect immediately….As far as the policy went, and soldiers following them, we weren’t trained to know an unlawful order. We watched other units carrying the same thing out, so to us the word was that of law. Nobody in a leadership position was stepping up to say, ‘hey, this is wrong, we shouldn’t do this.’

    And doesn’t the 360-degree rotational fire order sound a lot like Haditha?

    AMY GOODMAN: Tim McGirk, that possibility of other people being charged, going up the chain of command, is there any possibility?

    TIM McGIRK: I think there is absolutely zero possibility of that happening. I mean, as far as the Marines and the Pentagon go, this is—this is a case that’s been shut after six years. And I think that’s the end of that, you know, as far as they’re concerned. There’s certainly no chance that anyone further up the chain of command is ever going to be brought to any kind of court over this thing.

    Dots dots dots . . .

  10. thatvisionthing says:

    Also re the Pope drunk in Paris angle? Calls to mind a different Pope meets alcohol story, in London. Talking bout the Undiebomber:

    Bomber at the Palace

    But at the time of the [post 9/11] 2001 school trip to London Abdulmutallab was known as “The Pope” by classmates at the British International School in Togo… On the trip to London Abdulmutallab became upset when the teacher took students to a pub. He said it was wrong to be in a place where alcohol was being served…

    “His nickname was ‘The Pope’. In one way it’s totally unsuitable because he’s Muslim, but he did have this saintly aura…”

    (In the class photo in this article he’s the one pointing to the sign that says “STOP KILLING KIDS”.)

    The teacher recalled a class trip to Buckingham Palace in 2001 when Abdulmutallab, now 23, was still his student. The boy had about $80 to spend on souvenirs, but opted instead to give the money to an orphanage.

    …Abdulmutallab’s college classmates say he seemed too lazy to pull off an international terrorist plot – and they were shocked to hear of his bomb-laced frighty whities.

    “We worked on projects together,” Fabrizio Cavallo Marincola, a 22-year-old mechanical engineering student at University College, told The Independent newspaper. “He always did the bare minimum of work.”

    “When we were studying, he always would go off to pray,” he said.

    (Dare we hope for GWOT Punching Popes?)

  11. host says:

    RE: “Pope drunk in Paris”- Stanley McChrystal/Michael Hastings:

    Lara Logan’s producer, Maxwell McClellan, began producing her CBS reporting when his wife’s, Atlantic Page’s uncle, Porter Goss, was still the DCI. So much for transparency from CBS.

    Sunday, Feb 27, 2011 04:28 ET
    The military/media attacks on the Hastings article
    By Glenn Greenwald

    … Politico observed that a “beat reporter” — unlike the freelancing Hastings — “would not risk burning bridges by publishing many of McChrystal’s remarks”; and an obviously angry Lara Logan of CBS News strongly insinuated (with no evidence) that Hastings had lied about whether the comments were on-the-record and then infamously sneered: “Michael Hastings has never served his country the way McChrystal has.” Here’s Jon Stewart last year mocking the revealing media disdain for Rolling Stone and Hastings in the wake of their McChrystal story……

    Lara Logan’s producer, Max McClellan, is on record saying he began working for her in March, 2006.

    The Public Eye Chat With … Max McClellan
    September 27, 2007
    …Matthew Felling: How long have you been producing Lara Logan’s work?

    Max McClellan: I’ve been working with Lara since March 2006. So, about a year and a half. In fact, she works with many producers, particularly when she’s in Iraq for long stretches, but my current assignment is to work exclusively with her…

    Atlantic Page, M. C. McClellan
    Published: November 07, 1999

    Atlantic French Page, the daughter of Garril Goss Page of San Anselmo, Calif., and Charles Hall Page of San Francisco, was married yesterday to Maxwell Couper McClellan, a son of Elizabeth B. Powers of Weston, Vt., and James O. McClellan of Hilton Head, S.C. ….

    ….Mr. McClellan, 34, is the White House producer for ”The CBS Evening News With Dan Rather.” He graduated from Haverford College….

    Was McClellan involved in the “Rathergate” op?

    Paid Notice: Deaths GOSS, VIRGINIA JOHNSTON – New York Times
    nytimes.com – Sep 25, 1997
    GOSS-Virginia Johnston, at Sanibel, FL., on September 23, 1997. … by two sons, Richard W. and Porter J., 2 daughters, Wayne G. Douglas & Garril G. Page, .

    Joint McClellan – Page realty transaction in 2002:

  12. thatvisionthing says:

    @Jim White: One more thought, about McChrystal and leadership a la @14. There’s this, from Alex Gibney’s documentary Taxi to the Dark Side:

    REAR ADMIRAL JOHN HUTSON (RETIRED): The spine of the United States armed forces is the chain of command. What starts at the top of the chain of command drops like a rock down the chain of command. And that’s why Lynndie England knew what Donald Rumsfeld was thinking without actually talking to Donald Rumsfeld.

    Because McChrystal wasn’t the top of the chain of command.

    And this, from the commentary track of Errol Morris’s documentary Standard Operating Procedure, about Abu Ghraib and the “bad apples”:

    1:26:34 ERROL MORRIS: Here is an important detail that hardly anybody knows about, that there were actually secret groups among the operatives at Abu Ghraib responsible directly to Rumsfeld and the Defense Department.

    I bolded that, because I was astounded when I heard that. When you think of Abu Ghraib, do you think bad apples or do you think Rumsfeld? Maybe I should rephrase that: If you’re the media, do you report bad apples or do you report Rumsfeld?

    Scene 24

    JANIS KARPINSKI: I came back from a meeting. It was very late at night.

    ERROL MORRIS: This is, of course, the culmination of the story. Photographs have been leaked to the Criminal Investigation Division of the Army. But what does the Army do? The Army tries to cover it up.

    JANIS KARPINSKI: I sent an e-mail back to him and I said, “I don’t know what to say. First I’ve heard of it.” I was preparing in my mind to hold a mini press conference to tell the truth and to tell it early. To say, “This is what we’ve uncovered. We’re looking into it because we discipline ourselves. We’re Americans, and we know right from wrong.” General Sanchez said, “No, absolutely not. You’re not to discuss this with anyone.” The fear of the truth silenced people.

    LYNNDIE ENGLAND: Everybody knew.

    ERROL MORRIS: Now this is one of the extraordinary parts of this story. Many, many, many people at Abu Ghraib were aware of these photographs. They were used as screensavers, they were passed from soldier to soldier, they were available on CDs in one form or another. When the photographs came out, the Army, of course, was interested in trying to contain what they realized could be a public-relations disaster. I remember reading in the New York Times about the destruction of two tapes of a CIA interrogation of al-Zubaida. We’re not talking about two tapes here, we’re talking about the massive destruction of evidence. There’s a signed order by Colonel Thomas Pappas, who essentially ran the prison, ordering an amnesty period, an amnesty period which meant, essentially, destroy everything and we will pin the blame on these few soldiers.

    Rumsfeld, McChrystal, Sanchez, Pappas, Miller — covered up and redacted. Lie, scapegoat, can’t remember. And that’s what goes for leadership.

  13. thatvisionthing says:

    That thing I bolded?

    ERROL MORRIS: Here is an important detail that hardly anybody knows about, that there were actually secret groups among the operatives at Abu Ghraib responsible directly to Rumsfeld and the Defense Department.

    Brings to mind The Pat Tillman Story, I saw it too. Rumsfeld was particularly following the career of Tillman. There’s a memo or a letter or something. You know what’s funny? I went to google and then to wikipedia to see what it was. Google suggested “rumsfeld tillman case” which leads to stories about Rumsfeld testifying to Congress (“lies” “I forget” “denies cover-up”) — and wikipedia has zero, 0 mention of Rumsfeld on Pat Tillman’s page. (How can that be?)

    It was a letter and an e-mail:

    Tillman was the first NFL professional since the Second World War to voluntarily leave the game for military service, and his recruitment was a public relations gift for the army. Rumsfeld, after sending Tillman his personal letter of congratulations on June 28 2002, emailed the Secretary of the Army, Tom White, noting that Tillman ‘sound [sic] like he is world-class. We might want to keep our eye on him.’

    But Tillman didn’t play Rumsfeld’s script. He was against Bush and the war (“so f***ing illegal”). His death on April 22, 2004, was a convenient PR spin op, against the backdrop of a Fallujah mission gone bad and Abu Ghraib. Dot dot dot.

    Back to Standard Operating Procedure — Errol Morris makes the point that the Abu Ghraib photos were theatrical, as in staged, as in that’s why they were taken. He’s talking about the show the Americans were putting on for the captive Iraqi audience chained to the cell bars so they had to watch, and for themselves as they passed the photos around. Like the most infamous photo of all, the hooded prisoner on the box with electric wires — staged, snapped, then the set broken down, the whole thing lasting a few minutes. But with the bolded thing so bold in my mind, I’m wondering if the audience wasn’t bigger time than that. I wish Morris would have said more about that secret direct line to Rumsfeld.

    LYNNDIE ENGLAND: We didn’t cut their heads off. We didn’t shoot em. We didn’t cut em and let em bleed to death. We just did what we were told, to soften em up for interrogation. And we were told to do anything short of killing them.

    ERROL MORRIS: When you look at all of these scenes, I most certainly look at all these scenes with a sense of horror and sadness, that somehow this is really part of America, but I think it’s important for us to realize that what, again, we’re looking at, maybe not in each specific instance, this idea of sexual humiliation, abuse, hooding and nakedness, is something that maybe was taken to extremes, but was nonetheless part of policy. People talk about the smoking gun, trying to link the administration with what you see in these photographs. I don’t think that anyone in the administration ordered Chuck Graner or Ivan Frederick to pile these prisoners in a pyramid. I don’t believe any such thing. I don’t think everything that happened at Abu Ghraib was orchestrated from above, but I do know that there were policies put in place that made all of this not only possible, but made it inevitable.

Comments are closed.