Saturday, February 23, 2008

A reporter reports that Obama was right about not enough soldiers in Afghanistan -- the right wing noise machine was wrong

Joe Sudbay (DC), This is an important story because we'll be seeing a lot of this over the next nine months. The right wing noise machine will falsely and baselessly attack our candidates. We'll, of course, fight back. The question is whether the traditional media falls for it this time around -- or does its job.

The right wingers were in a frenzy over an answer Barack Obama gave at the debate last night, which once again exposed the failure of the Bush/Cheney/McCain rush to war in Iraq:

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. 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. Now, that's a consequence of bad judgment.

Bad judgment is actually an understatement. So, no surprise the Bush/Cheney/McCain lovers would want to discredit that story. It's a devastating indictment of the national security abilities of the GOP. After all, Afghanistan enabled Al Qaeda -- and Al Qaeda launched the attack that killed 3,000 Americans. This incident is emblematic of the approach to national security undertaken by Bush and enabled by Congressional Republicans -- including McCain. They are failures.

So while the right wingers were in a lather over Obama's answer, Jake Tapper found out the story is true.

I called the Obama campaign this morning to chat about this story, and was put in touch with the Army captain in question.

He told me his story, which I found quite credible, though for obvious reasons he asked that I not mention his name or certain identifying information.

Short answer: He backs up Obama's story.

The longer answer is worth telling, though.

The Army captain, a West Point graduate, did a tour in a hot area of eastern Afghanistan from the Summer of 2003 through Spring 2004.

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."

He adds that maybe a half-dozen of the 15 were replaced by the Fall of 2003, months after they arrived in Afghanistan, but never all 15.

Despicable way to treat our soldiers. Despicable. And, actually, Tapper (who linked to ten sites that criticized Obama on this issue) puts it best:

I might suggest those on the blogosphere upset about this story would be better suited directing their ire at those responsible for this problem, which is certainly not new. That is, if they actually care about the men and women bravely serving our country at home and abroad.

UPDATE 02/24/08: Today's Washington Post reports that Senator John Warner dashed off a "stern letter" to Obama challenging his assertions:

Warner -- a World War II veteran and former Navy Secretary -- has been a staunch
advocate for U.S. troops. Warner's letter to Obama asks the senator to provide "essential facts" about the Army captain's story, including his personal information, so members of the committee can interview him and others to establish accountability, "depending of course, on the accuracy of the facts."
It's almost amazing how quickly the Republican machine will respond to a perceived attack on their strengths. This was clearly a concerted effort to beat back a very damaging story. What Obama said on Thursday night shines another spotlight on the failures of the Bush/Cheney/McCain record. The Republicans respond very quickly when politics are involved. It's disturbing they don't respond as quickly when soldiers' lives are on the line.

Now, we have two networks that have verified Obama's account. The right wing machine was wrong again. Not just the blogs, but the Pentagon and the "esteemed" John Warner. That should tell the media something. Don't just regurgitate the right wing spin -- and that includes the Pentagon. Verify first because none of them can be believed.

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