Thursday, December 03, 2009

Close Your Eyes And Hope The Problem Goes Away

Charles Krauthammer expressed the right-wing Repub mindset in late October when he claimed

In the Barack Obama version, there are 50 or so such blame-Bush free passes before the gig is up. By my calculation, Obama has already burned through a good 49. Is there anything he hasn't blamed George W. Bush for? The economy, global warming, the credit crisis, Middle East stalemate, the deficit, anti-Americanism abroad -- everything but swine flu.

There is no need to defend President Obama against the charge that he blames Bush 43 for all these things. He doesn't blame Mr. Bush for all these problems, only that the former President either exacerbated numerous problems or dithered while they festered.

And so he did. But the reality-challenged extremist wing of the GOP (decide for yourself how much that is) was bound to get all hot and bothered when it heard Obama note on Tuesday evening

Commanders in Afghanistan repeatedly asked for support to deal with the reemergence of the Taliban, but these reinforcements did not arrive.

The following day, a Rumsfeld aide sent Politico a statement contending

In his speech to the nation last night, President Obama claimed that ‘Commanders in Afghanistan repeatedly asked for support to deal with the reemergence of the Taliban, but these reinforcements did not arrive.’ Such a bald misstatement, at least as it pertains to the period I served as Secretary of Defense, deserves a response.”

“I am not aware of a single request of that nature between 2001 and 2006. If any such requests occurred, ‘repeated’ or not, the White House should promptly make them public. The President's assertion does a disservice to the truth and, in particular, to the thousands of men and women in uniform who have fought, served and sacrificed in Afghanistan.”

“In the interest of better understanding the President's announcement last night, I suggest that the Congress review the President’s assertion in the forthcoming debate and determine exactly what requests were made, who made them, and where and why in the chain of command they were denied.”


Former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, thankfully, no longer is in a position in which he can endanger United States security. Predictably, however, Rush Limbaugh defended him on Wednesday, claiming

So Rumsfeld's calling him out here. Rumsfeld said he's lied in the speech: "such bald misstatements," and almost demanding an investigation by Congress. Okay, if these requests were made, by who? I didn't turn them down. I never even saw 'em, who did? Now, investigations probably will not happen, and Rumsfeld's statement will probably not go much beyond this program or Fox News. But nevertheless, I said it, and I wanted you to know.

You probably have noticed in this remark the right's characteristic claim of victimization: "Rumsfeld's statement will probably not go much betond this program or Fox News." Everyone but the GOP's house organs, we're to believe, will suppress the truth.

Politico reports the following reaction to Rumsfeld's claim:

"I will let Secretary Rumsfeld explain" whether the war in Afghanistan "was sufficiently resourced during his tenure" ... and how he thinks "history will judge whether they were or were not sufficient," Gibbs said.

Gibbs quipped: "You go to war with the secretary of Defense that you have."


And from the same source there is this:

And indeed, while Rumsfeld was still Secretary, he faced debate about troop levels --though there's no evidence that he specifically faced military requests for more.

Indeed, the AP reported in November of 2006 that the Afghan minister of defense, Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak, had told Rumsfeld "his country needs more firepower, transport planes and armored vehicles. The Afghans have asked for additional helicopters and aircraft that can move troops and supplies through the mountainous regions.”


We may never know about the details of the charge Obama made at West Point. Rumsfeld, who was replaced as Secretary of Defense promptly after the 2006 off-year elections, argued "I am not aware of a single request of that nature between 2001 and 2006." It is unclear from the piece in Politico as to when the request(s) from Afghanistan's minister of defense was made- only that it was reported in November of 2006. Any requests made directly to, or through, the U.S. defense secretary after that time would have involved Robert M. Gates- who replaced Rumsfeld and now is President Obama's Secretary of Defense.

What degree of failure to respond to any requests for "more firepower, transport planes and armored vehicles" falls upon Rumsfeld's shoulders thus is unclear. Obama's charge did not specify Rumsfeld as the culprit. It is easy to call the President's bluff by "a review of the President's assertions.... determine exactly what requests were made, who made them, and where and why in the chain of command they were denied." There are plenty of reasons no investigation of the failure of American policy toward Afghanistan over the past eight years will be made, including President Obama's aversion toward any investigation of any action, however illegal, taken by his predecessor. Rumsfeld doubtless knows that.

We do know that after seven years of war, George W. Bush had no policy. None. He then turned the war over to Barack Obama, who in a mere eight months was being hounded by conservative Republicans to accede to whatever the military commanders asked of him. Whether it was Rumsfeld or Gates, or even Condi Rice or Bush, the prior administration neglected its responsibility to address the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. Rumsfeld knows that, too.

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