An answer to the question of why Hillary hasn’t gone after him over it: Because, like me, she’s heard enough old stories of troops being underequipped not to doubt any new ones too strenuously. Even the Pentagon is skeptical but Jake Tapper was put in contact with the captain by Obama’s campaign and corroborated most of the details with him. The guy commanded the platoon back when he was a lieutenant, which explains the odd incongruence between rank and unit; the ammo shortages were related to grenade launchers and to .50 caliber machine guns, although only during training (problems with finding replacement parts for the weapons persisted into the theater); and they were short on humvees from day one and sometimes had to rely on pick-up trucks.
As for the Messiah’s essential claim that “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,” that’s a little more nuanced:
“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.
Stuart Koehl acknowledged this morning that troops do, as they always have, occasionally scrounge for weapons when they’re in a spot but mooching off the enemy isn’t regular practice, and even Obama’s source doesn’t suggest that it was. We’ll chalk up the exaggeration to, shall we say, audacity.
Milbloggers, everything squared away here?
Update: I was going to let this go since Tapper did good work in following up on the story but his snide “tsk tsk, right-wing bloggers” outro warrants some static. Like Rusty says, what does this mean?
I find that Obama’s anecdote checks out.
Well, except for that very minor detail about them not actually having to capture Taliban weapons to fight, okay. But how does it “check out” merely because Obama’s source for these explosive charges is willing to repeat them to a reporter? If you’re willing to take the guy at his word, fine, but the Times applied this same standard of “checking” to the McCain/Iseman rumors. How’d that work out for them?
Update: Ah, and here’s Yglesias in Greenwald mode, not paying attention to what the right-wingers he links actually write lest it complicate the narrative. I made a point of saying last night that the story could be true; troops are in fact underequipped. The Yglesias reimagining:
Basically, as you can see if you check the conservative blogs above, that story can’t possibly be true, and the fact that Obama would say it reflects either his dishonesty or else his gross ignorance of military matters.
No surprise: If he’s willing to gloss over the fact that Tapper’s source didn’t corroborate Obama’s basic claim, he’s willing to gloss over whatever else. Beauchamp redux, like the man says.
Update: The AP notices a detail that eluded Tapper and Yglesias:
He underscored his point in the Democratic debate Thursday by telling a story about a rifle platoon in Afghanistan that allegedly didn’t have enough soldiers or weapons to do its job, leaving the platoon to scrounge for weapons from the Taliban…
The captain said [to ABC], 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.
I didn’t know this either:
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.
Update: Never mind Tapper’s piece; read this illuminating post by Phil Carter instead, which does actually involve “checking out” details from beyond the source himself. Carter says he has in fact heard of guys using Taliban weapons because they can’t get parts for theirs and asserts that it’s a result of resources being diverted to Iraq, although it’s unclear how widespread the practice is and to what extent it would be happening anyway due to standard military inefficiency. As Carter says, “These stories are timeless; you’ll see similar ones in the narratives from WWII, Korea and Vietnam vets too. Anyone who’s dealt with the Army supply system – particularly at the pointy end of the spear – ought to be able to sympathize.”
Update: Vets for Freedom, which is sort of the hawkish counterpart to VoteVets, just issued a press release challenging Obama. I’m dreading this turning into another Beauchamp saga, I don’t mind telling you.
Update: I should note that Phil Carter is doing some work for the Obama campaign.