Marc Ambinder finds something fascinating:
In the Rolling Stone article that kiboshed Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s career, writer Michael Hastings notes that longtime confidants of McChrystal who were with him in Afghanistan under the NATO/ISAF force referred to themselves as “Team America,” an homage to South Park’s balls-out parody of special forces. (The SOF guys love South Park.) …
Not only is Hastings’ vignette true, but the “collection” of people who identified themselves with Team America had a special patch made for their service. (It was created for them by a small company somewhere in Missouri.) Here, for the first time, is an image of the patch that cemented the camaraderie of Team McChrystal. I discovered it on Twitter and verified its validity.
Go there for the picture (not sure he’d take too kindly to my reposting it). This is interesting for two reasons: one, it may or may not say a lot about how irony-friendly our top military advisors are (and I don’t know which answer is actually scarier), but two: it pokes holes in how McChrystal’s defenders took to the press after the Hastings article came out. For example:
In the e-mail, a copy of which was provided to The Washington Post by a military official sympathetic to McChrystal, Boothby is asked to confirm the makeup of McChrystal’s traveling staff on the Paris trip and the communications equipment they brought with them on an earlier visit to London. “They don’t come close to revealing what ended up in the final article,” the official said.
“Does McChrystal’s staff joking refer to themselves as Team America?” the fact-checker asked. “Not really,” Boothby replied. “We joke that we are sometimes perceived that way by many of the NATO forces” under McChrystal’s command.
A certain Army patch—if true!—would like to disagree. This gets at a deeper issue in the whole McChrystal flap, which is how the media tend to cover these things. It’s a much bigger discussion that this post can allow, but the paragraph immediately following spokesman Boothby’s denial of the whole Team America thing is very revealing:
In the article, Hastings wrote that McChrystal and his aides “jokingly refer to themselves as Team America, taking the name from the South Park-esque sendup of military cluelessness, and they pride themselves on their can-do attitude and their disdain for authority.” In other passages, Hastings took what appear to be similar minor liberties with the facts as Boothby described them.
That’s Karen DeYoung and Rajiv Chandrasekaran, both of whom I deeply respect (and I consider Rajiv a friend) badly missing it, implying fabulism where the facts don’t support it, and getting played. The military-media relationship is deeply dysfunctional, and I really don’t know how to fix it.