General Stanley McChrystal on the Tasks Behind Him (With CBS News Video)
"It's a challenge. While I think the relationships were positive and I think the relationships were professional, they had not yet grown into the kind of trust that allows you to make extraordinarily difficult decisions, often under time pressures."
Then Rolling Stone published "The Runaway General," depicting McChrystal and his closest aides trash-talking their civilian leaders.
"I was awakened about, I think it was two in the morning," McChrystal said, "and I was told there was a problem, that the Rolling Stone article was about to come out and it was bad. . . . I was completely surprised."
McChrystal and his wife Annie had been celebrating their 33rd anniversary while on a trip to Paris to brief French officials on Afghanistan. They had invited the Rolling Stone reporter, Michael Hastings, to join them for late night drinks with McChrystal's staff.
Annie recalled, "That evening when Stan and I were getting ready for bed, I said to him, 'Wow, I am so glad the reporter saw that evening and got to see what I saw, was just this amazing group of men who have been serving together for so many years and in this fight for so many years, and that kind of connection that they all had to each other."
But the anonymous quotes attributed to McChrystal's staff were devastating, including one about a meeting with President Obama: "The boss was pretty disappointed."
"My whole life, I'd expected that I could get killed in war," McChrystal said. "In my wildest dreams I never once thought I could be accused of anything approaching disloyalty or disrespect."
McChrystal was recalled to Washington to meet with the president face-to-face.
"What did you say to your staff?" Martian asked.
"That they didn't fail. You owe that to them."
"Did you feel like you had failed them?"
"Almost by definition, in my heart I failed them, and almost by definition in my heart I failed in my mission, because I didn't stay to finish it," he said.
He described his meeting at the White House: "I told the president that I would support any decision he made -- if he wanted me to go back or if he wanted to accept my resignation, which I carried with me."
The president accepted his resignation. McChrystal returned home.
"I'd been a soldier, an officer, for more than 34 years. And now at 55, in an instant, all of that has changed. I'm not a soldier. And everything that I think I am and everything that I had tried to be is at least in question."
McChrystal added, "There was a girl in that house who had been married to me for over 33 years who I thought I might have let down."
"What he said to me was, 'It's over,'" recalled Annie. "And without even thinking I said, 'Good. We've always been happy. We're always going to be happy.'"
Nine months after McChrystal left the Army, the Joint Special Operations Command which he had transformed into the "Amazon.com of killing" finally got bin Laden.