The award-winning Rolling Stone profile of General Stanley McChrystal — which portrayed the former top general in Afghanistan as having a loose tongue when it came to the Obama administration — effectively ended his military career.
But the Department of Defense is still maintaining McChrystal and his staff, who were quoted in the article making disparaging comments about Obama administration officials, were not at fault. An Inspector General report released Monday after a Freedom of Information Act request has cleared the general and his staff of any wrongdoing.
The report also claims that the Rolling Stone story, written by reporter Michael Hastings, is inaccurate. “Not all of the events at issue occurred as reported in the article,” concluded the review. “In some instances, we found no witness who acknowledged making or hearing the comments as reported. In other instances, we confirmed that the general substance of an incident at issue occurred, but not in the exact context described in the article.
In a strongly-worded statement posted on its website, Rolling Stone stood by Hastings’s work.
The report by the Pentagon’s inspector general offers no credible source - or indeed, any named source - contradicting the facts as reported in our story, “The Runaway General.” Much of the report, in fact, confirms our reporting, noting only that the Pentagon was unable to find witnesses “who acknowledged making or hearing the comments as reported.” This is not surprising, given that the civilian and military advisors questioned by the Pentagon knew that their careers were on the line if they admitted to making such comments. Asking unnamed sources to reveal their identities strikes us as an exercise in futility. Rolling Stone stands by our story, which is accurate in every detail. We also note that Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s own response to the story was to issue an apology, saying that what was reflected in the article fell “far short” of his personal standard.
The specific incidences cited in the Rolling Stone story that were under investigation by IG report included:
— McChrystal giving his executive officer the middle finger.
The report said the action “could not be independently verified through sworn witness testimony,” and found that, while it “is possible that the incident occurred as described in the article, none of the witnesses who recalled the pre-dinner conversation recall seeing General McChrystal making the gesture.”
— Comments made about McChrystal’s first one-on-one meeting with President Obama.
The profile quotes an advisor who said the general was “pretty disappointed” that President Obama was not more engaged. According to the IG report, “witness testimony led us to conclude that Gen. McChrystal did not share his private interactions with President Obama with anyone except perhaps, his closest staff,” as McChrystal considered the content of his discussions with Obama “sacrosanct.”
— Whether McChrystal’s team referred to themselves as “Team America” and “exhibited a disdain for authority.”
The report found insufficient evidence to conclude that either claim was true. “Our analysis of witness testimony led us to conclude that the team was known to some members of the staff but was not used by them in the manner portrayed in the article,” it said.
— A drunken evening at Kitty O’Shea’s, an Irish bar in Paris.
Hastings’s article describes McChrystal’s staff at a celebration for his 33rd wedding anniversary.
From the profile:
By midnight at Kitty O’Shea’s, much of Team America is completely shitfaced. Two officers do an Irish jig mixed with steps from a traditional Afghan wedding dance, while McChrystal’s top advisers lock arms and sing a slurred song of their own invention. “Afghanistan!” they bellow. “Afghanistan!” They call it their Afghanistan song.
The IG report refutes this account, saying that “analysis of witness testimony led us to conclude that the behavior of Gen. McChrystal and his staff at Kitty O’Shea’s, while celebratory, was not drunken, disorderly, disgraceful, or offensive.”
After the article was published in June 2010, Obama recalled McChrystal to Washington, where he resigned.
Earlier this month, McChrystal was back in the news when the White House announced he would head a new advisory board to support military families.