A conservatory of Ldotter blogs.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

The Associated Press. . .

. . .puts the "A" in agit, and the "P" in prop in a wire report about SecDef. Rumsfeld's surprise visit to wounded troops in Iraq. I say this as someone who is loathe to attribute every terminological inexactitude in the media to a conspiracy to bring down the Republican Party. Reporters can be human-like at times, and thus, given to honest mistakes.

But, when there has been ample demonstration of the facts to all who are willing to look and see them, and misstatements persist despite readily available and easily discernible facts, somebody ought to point it out. In this case, it's a simple matter of the language chosen to describe the now-famous question and answer session between SecDef. Rumsfeld and soldiers serving in Iraq in which the up-armoring of Humvees was brought up.

Here's the situation as described by AP Military Writer, Robert Burns:

" Rumsfeld has made several visits to troops in the region, most recently two weeks ago to a forward base in Kuwait. There, a handful of soldiers openly challenged him about inadequate equipment and long deployments. Rumsfeld cut off their complaints by saying, 'You go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want or wish to have.'"

Here's the exchange as it actually happened, and reported by Michael P. Tremoglie, of MensNewsDaily.com:

"Specialist Wilson asked, 'Yes, Mr. Secretary. My question is more logistical. We’ve had troops in Iraq for coming up on three years and we’ve always staged here out of Kuwait. Now why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromise ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles and why don’t we have those resources readily available to us?' [Applause]

Rumsfeld replied, 'I talked to the General coming out here about the pace at which the vehicles are being armored. They have been brought from all over the world, wherever they’re not needed, to a place here where they are needed. I’m told that they are being – the Army is – I think it’s something like 400 a month are being done. And it’s essentially a matter of physics. It isn’t a matter of money. It isn’t a matter on the part of the Army of desire. It’s a matter of production and capability of doing it.

As you know, you go to war with the Army you have. They’re not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time. Since the Iraq conflict began, the Army has been pressing ahead to produce the armor necessary at a rate that they believe – it’s a greatly expanded rate from what existed previously, but a rate that they believe is the rate that is all that can be accomplished at this moment.

I can assure you that General Schoomaker and the leadership in the Army and certainly General Whitcomb are sensitive to the fact that not every vehicle has the degree of armor that would be desirable for it to have, but that they’re working at it at a good clip. It’s interesting, I’ve talked a great deal about this with a team of people who’ve been working on it hard at the Pentagon. And if you think about it, you can have all the armor in the world on a tank and a tank can be blown up. And you can have an up-armored humvee and it can be blown up. And you can go down and, the vehicle, the goal we have is to have as many of those vehicles as is humanly possible with the appropriate level of armor available for the troops. And that is what the Army has been working on.

And General Whitcomb, is there anything you’d want to add to that?'"

One might think it a distinction without a difference that the reporter in the AP story would refer to the SecDef's response as having said "cut off their complaints by saying, 'You go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want or wish to have,'" but given the fact that much of the case being made against Rumsfeld in the media has to do with the absurd and caustic lie that he simply does not care about the welfare of the troops, viewing them as mere pawns to be manipulated in pursuit of oil and defense spending, you can't help thinking there's a good bit of "gotcha" involved here.

The implication here is that Rumsfeld was angered at having gotten the question, and dismissed the soldier's question as insolence. Reading the quote in full context makes it clear that this is not what happened. It's fair, if ill-conceived, to try and make the case that the SecDef. could have prepared for the post-war occupation better than he did, and that someone else might be better suited to do it. But, to try and make the case that Rumsfeld is so arrogant and dismissive as to brush aside the complaints of the men and women risking their lives under his command is the height of demagoguery.

The soldiers who were not actually at this question and answer session have to rely on media reports like this for the truth, and they're not getting it. What they're getting is a healthy dose of subversion and subterfuge from a press corps so hostile toward Rumsfeld, and the administration in general that the morale of the troops is disregarded in favor of the goal to have him removed from office.

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