Archive for February 22nd, 2008

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Spotted: Another Brobdingnagian Factcheckathon

February 22, 2008

I got the feeling that the rightosphere pulled another all-nighter, as their blogs are all abuzz over an anecdote that Obama used in last night’s Democratic debate. 

First, the anecdote:

“You know, I’ve heard from an Army captain who was the head of a rifle platoon — supposed to have 39 men in a rifle platoon,” he said. “Ended up being sent to Afghanistan with 24 because 15 of those soldiers had been sent to Iraq.  And as a consequence, they didn’t have enough ammunition, they didn’t have enough humvees.  They were actually capturing Taliban weapons, because it was easier to get Taliban weapons than it was for them to get properly equipped by our current commander in chief.”

Then came the Brobdingnagian factcheckathon (see HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE.)  These bloggers called BS, because, you know, prior to last night’s debate there was no evidence whatsoever that the Iraq adventure diverted resources from the mission in Afghanistan.  It’s not like the Iraq Study Group said exactly that or anything.

So, what came all this hysteria?  Well, some journalist guy actually contacted the Army captain that Obama was referring to.   And what do you know?

Prior to deployment the Captain — then a Lieutenant — took command of a rifle platoon at Fort Drum. When he took command, the platoon had 39 members, but — in ones and twos — 15 members of the platoon were re-assigned to other units. He knows of 10 of those 15 for sure who went to Iraq, and he suspects the other five did as well.

The platoon was sent to Afghanistan with 24 men.

“We should have deployed with 39,” he told me, “we should have gotten replacements. But we didn’t. And that was pretty consistent across the battalion.”

and

Also in Afghanistan they had issues getting parts for their MK-19s and their 50-cals. Getting parts or ammunition for their standard rifles was not a problem.

“It was very difficult to get any parts in theater,” he says, “because parts are prioritized to the theater where they were needed most — so they were going to Iraq not Afghanistan.”

“The purpose of going after the Taliban was not to get their weapons,” he said, but on occasion they used Taliban weapons. Sometimes AK-47s, and they also mounted a Soviet-model DShK (or “Dishka”) on one of their humvees instead of their 50 cal.

Oh well, perhaps now they’ll get some sleep. 

Nah.  There’s some BS in there somewhere.  I just know it.

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Just End The “War On Terror”

February 22, 2008

Speaking of memos, Newsweek’s Michael Hirsh has an excellent article up today: Memo to President Obama

It is a debate that only Obama can start. McCain won’t bring it up. Nor will Hillary Clinton. Apart from being on the verge of oblivion politically, she is too fully vested in the war on terror, having voted in 2002 to authorize the war in Iraq as part of it. And if that debate doesn’t start, we as a country will be effectively doomed to a “war” that has no prospect of ending. Bush has gradually expanded his definition of the war on terror to include all Islamic “extremists”—among them Hezbollah, Hamas, and other radical political groups that have no ties to Al Qaeda, ideological or otherwise. In doing so the president has plainly condemned us to a permanent war, for the simple reason that we will never be rid of all the terrorists. It is also a war that we will wage by ourselves, since no other nation agrees on such a broadly defined enemy. As Princeton scholar G. John Ikenberry has written, “It is perhaps a paradox—and one that is fitting for the strangeness of our current age—that we will need to end the war against terrorism because we cannot end terrorism.”

This is something that I’ve argued here in the Chamber many, many, many, many times*.  Would Obama have the political courage to change the paradigm in this country?  I’m not sure. 

During one of the presidential debates last April (have they really been going on for that long?), the candidates were asked to raise their hands if they believed that such a thing as a “global war on terror” existed.   Obama, somewhat hesitantly, did raise his hand:

I’m in complete agreement with Hirsh on this.   If we really want “change”, one of the first things we need to do is to start making the distinction between policies of smart counterterrorism and protecting the homeland and a ‘war’ that is, by definition, unwinnable.  John Edwards understood this, but he did a terrible job in articulating it (the “bumper sticker” thing just wasn’t working).  

I really hope Obama gets this memo.

*For a full list of Chamber entries on this issue, check the “war on terror” tag.

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