Just a Gigolo

Dateline: Washington, D.C. “Stronger U.S. Role likely in Afghanistan,” reported the Christian Science Monitor Aug 12, 2008. But the U.S. decision to shift assets to that region has been known for some time.

So why the front-page story? It seems author Gordon Lubold is using Afghanistan as a backdrop for his true subject: Army Brig. Gen. John W. Nicholson. 

Who? Could this be the same, infamous then-Col. John Nicholson? More on that in a bit.

Lubold reports that in light of a long-ineffective NATO coalition in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary (and occasional superhero) Robert M. Gates is dispatching Nicholson to the region. Could this be a superhero in one-star clothing? Lubold seems to think so. A “senior retired officer familiar with the move” was quoted calling Nicholson a “tremendous talent.”

Hmmm. Who might that senior officer be? Well, according to another senior retired officer who knows the details of Nicholson’s past affiliation in Taliban territory all too well, it could have been Nicholson’s father, retired Army Brig. Gen. John W. Nicholson (West Point Class of ’56), currently an appointee to the American Battle Monuments Commission and former undersecretary for Memorial Affairs at the VA. But wait! It also could have been Nicholson’s uncle, a former VA secretary, a retired Army colonel, and a well-connected member of the Class of ’61, Jim Nicholson. Did we mention Ol’ Jim is a former chair of the national committee of a major political party and was ambassador to the Vatican? (Could it have been Jack “You Can’t Handle the Truth” Nicholson? Unlikely.)

The article dishes that the baby brigadier (West Point Class of ’82. We sense a trend.) is likely to become “a deputy commander … of Regional Command South, making him the go-to American contact to coordinate U.S. efforts within the snarl of U.S. and NATO commands.”

Snarl of U.S. and NATO commands? Go-to guy? Sounds like the Second Coming. Gordon Lubold has either consumed the Kool-aid or is doing this well-placed family some favors.

Regional Command South? Nicholson knows the area. In fact, amid his thinly veiled gushing, Lubold failed to mention Nicholson’s biggest qualification for this supposed job: He’s the guy who made the classic “I am embarrassed to be an American” speech following a fatal incident involving a Marine Corps special operations company:

So I stand before you today, deeply, deeply ashamed and terribly sorry that Americans have killed and wounded innocent Afghan people. We are filled with grief and sadness at the death of any Afghan, but the death and wounding of innocent Afghans at the hand of Americans is a stain on our honor and on the memory of the many Americans who have died defending Afghanistan and the Afghan people. This was a terrible, terrible mistake, and my nation grieves with you for your loss and suffering. We humbly and respectfully ask for your forgiveness.

(Whoever crafted these words must be writing speeches for some candidate’s spouse. Somewhere.)

Nicholson’s stunt infuriated Corps Commandant James T. Conway and a number of others. It later would come out that not all those Afghans were so innocent in the ambush of the Marines that day.

Our senior retired guy says Nicholson’s temperament and judgment are in question, as revealed during the court of inquiry into the Marines’ deadly encounter. Despite Nicholson’s public self-castration (see remarks above), the Marines were exonerated.

And the story? It’s about what money and power can buy in Washington. We’ll see how many other new one-stars get this rock-star treatment.

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