By California Yankee Posted in 2008 | Afghanistan | Barack Obama | Democrats | Texas Debate — Comments (19) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
During last night's Democratic presidential debate in Texas, Barack Obama told the following "platoon" story:
Here it is in black and white from CNN's transcript the debate:
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.
Today the Pentagon weighed in on Obama's platoon. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters, he
finds Obama's story "pretty hard to imagine":
"Despite the stress that we readily acknowledge on the force, one of the things that we do is make sure that all of our units and service members that are going into harm's way are properly trained, equipped and with the leadership to be successful," he said.
According to Reuters, Whitman's remarks were unusual as the Pentagon often declines to talk about comments from political campaigns.
The Associated Press "fact checked" Obama's platoon story:
The Obama campaign offered no details to support the captain's story, making it impossible to verify. A spokesman did not immediately respond to questions about who the captain was and when and how the candidate learned about the allegation.
[. . .]
The captain said, however, that the unit did not go after the Taliban for the purpose of getting their weapons, but sometimes used those weapons when some were captured.
[. . .]
Obama said the platoon was supposed to have 39 soldiers. A platoon does not have to consist of 39, but can have between 16 to 40 soldiers, according to standard Army unit organization. It is also commanded by a lieutenant and not a captain.
The Associated Press also relied upon ABC's Jake Tapper in its "fact check":
ABC News said it talked to the unidentified captain, whose account of shortages in Afghanistan was for the most part accurately summarized by Obama, although not verified.
According to the ABC report, the captain was a lieutenant when he took command of the rifle platoon.
It doesn't seem all that accurate to me. I ran this post by friend who has had the pleasure being in both Afghanistan and Iraq. The short version of his reaction is that Obama’s Platoon story is too incredible to believe.
Senator John Warner also has questions about Obama's Platoon story. Warner has written Obama about this "disturbing framework of factual allegations":
As a former Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, the timing of the situation you describe quite likely occurred during the period of my Chairmanship.
There are specific military regulations governing the use by U.S. forces of weapons other than of U.S. manufacture, and, likewise, regulations covering the deployment into combat zones of military units at manning levels below an optimum level.
Consequently I, and I believe other members of SASC, have a responsibility to establish where in the military chain of command rests the "accountability," depending of course, on the accuracy of the facts.
I am endeavoring to determine this now and have tasked the Chairman of The Joint Staff, through his J-3, and other entities in the Department of Defense to assist me. Moreover, it is my intent to raise this issue with Secretary Geren and General Casey when they testify before the Armed Services Committee next Tuesday.
What I need from you are the essential facts of when- the dates- the unit was deployed, to which brigade combat team, or other unit it was assigned, the name and current location of the captain, or other military personnel who shared the alleged facts with you, so that committee staff can debrief them.
Warner's letter is available here [PDF file].
What do you think?