Rolling Stone has done it again with another scoop by Michael Hastings showing the U.S. military's manipulation of public opinion and wanton disregard for civilian leadership. The article, "Another Runaway General: Army Deploys Psy-Ops on U.S. Senators," is another example of an officer corps run amok, right?
Not so fast. Both stories expose an altogether different problem once you cut through the hyperbole.
Central to Hastings's article are charges by Lt. Col. Michael Holmes that he was part of a team of "psychological operations soldiers" ordered to use psychological operations techniques to deceive and manipulate the opinion of senators and other dignitaries visiting the NATO training mission in Kabul. This was done, Holmes describes, under the orders of the commanding general, Lt. Gen. William Caldwell IV (above), and his staff.
The overstatement in the article, stemming entirely from comments by Holmes, has in turn spurred more of the same focused on alleged "mind tricks" against several senators, including John McCain (R-Ariz.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), and Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), other members of Congress, think-tank analysts, and foreign dignitaries.
Hastings and his supporters are quick to indict the military for allowing another cowboy to go off the reservation to create support for an unpopular conflict people simply want to have disappear. Challenging the narrative by Holmes has been described as a "smear campaign." Others reacting to these criticisms slam the media as trying to take down the military.