The New York Times reported on Monday that retired General Stanley McChrystal has asked students to keep secret the contents of his Yale course, the latest twist in a public rehabilitation that began soon after his 2010 firing by President Obama.
McChrystal, who was dismissed by President Obama following the publication of a 2010 Rolling Stone story where he and his aides slammed the president and his administration, told the Times his class was “off the record,” citing security concerns when he discusses “sensitive operations in Iraq and Afghanistan,” according to the paper.
(I wrote the Rolling Stone story, “The Runaway General,” and am a contributing editor at the magazine. My book, The Operators, provides more details on the insults McChrystal and his team leveled at the president and his civilian advisors.)
In the front page Times story, McChrystal claimed he was surprised by his dismissal, saying he would have been less surprised had he had “been killed by stampeding giraffes.”
Before McChrystal was fired in June 2010, he’d apologized to the president for his behavior and comments in the Rolling Stone story.
Post-firing, McChrystal has remained an outspoken—and behind the scenes—critic of the White House and its policy in Afghanistan.
In an interview with Tom Brokaw last fall, McChrystal said that the U.S. was just over halfway to reaching its goals, a direct slap in the face to an administration that has claimed they had accomplished their mission in Kabul, and are beginning the withdrawal process. McChrystal previously said the “jury was still out” on the war.
In another speaking appearance in Aspen, Colorado, McChrystal described Afghanistan as a “post-apocalyptic nightmare.” When asked by a member of the audience if he would have fired himself if he were President Obama, McChrystal replied: “Several times.”
McChrystal recently commented on the president’s leadership, saying he believed President Obama and the administration “gets better every day…I wish it would get better.” He also said the commander-in-chief was learning “as he goes a long, and it’s pretty impressive.”
In the past year, McChrystal has given at least two off the record interviews to prominent television reporters, where he claimed there was “no trust” between the Pentagon and the White House, according to sources familiar with the interviews.
McChrystal has also battled critics at Yale over the high profile cover-up of Pat Tillman’s death and human rights criticisms of his work with torture squads in Iraq while he ran the Joint Special Operations Command.
The revelations in the Times story immediately drew hackles from anti-war activists, who felt it was a bad choice for the hollowed academic institution to allow McChrystal to teach a secret class.
“A new low,” Tweeted Robert Greenwald, an influential activist and founder of Brave New Films. “McChrystal teaching at yale is,”off the record-students are not supposed to talk about it outside class.”
The Times piece, written by Elizabeth Bumiller, is the second flattering profile McChrystal and his team have engineered to rehabilitate the general’s image during his time at Yale.
The first profile, similar to the Times story, was published in the Yale Daily News in 2011 by a student reporter.