To heck with the war. It’s becoming a story about egos. Or more precisely, as one commentator put it recently, "By focusing on McChrystal’s supposed challenge to Obama’s manhood—the press is turning a story about policy into a story about penises."

Ever since Rolling Stone‘s story broke, the chattering—and twittering—class started to speculate about McChrystal’s firing. Was Obama going to prove his mettle by firing the loose-lipped general? Or would this be another failure of the president to take charge, get angry, act mad?

Most of us got tired of Freudian foreign policy under Bush, when it was common to speculate that the entire Iraq invasion came because Shrub had something to prove. And here we are again if a general and a president are at odds—it must be a manhood-measuring contest.

War is about many things. If you believe the loudest US voices, the war in Afghanistan is about revenge, security, terrorism, rebuilding, some even talk these days about democracy. You won’t find many challenges to any of that in the money media—when the two parties agree, the media tends to go along. And so it is now, with the tale about boys and their toys.

If you weren’t cynical enough, this will do it. Instead of a serious discussion of McChrystal’s record and policy—this is a man who was in charge when torture happened, who was in charge for the Tillman cover-up, who seems to disagree completely with the president’s stated policy for Afghanistan and the electorate’s stated wish for a draw down. This is the man who told Rolling Stone itself that US forces have killed "an amazing number of civilians" for no good reason in Afghanistan. Instead of any of that—the media focuses on manliness.

A change in leadership in Afghanistan should be cause for rethinking the entire policy. Instead, the press is only concerned with who’s got the biggest… mouth.


The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on satellite TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415 Free Speech TV) on cable, and online at and Support us by signing up for our podcast, and follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on