In his speech at West Point, Barack Obama accused Donald Rumsfeld of ignoring demands for troop increases in Afghanistan from 2001-2006:
Throughout this period, our troop levels in Afghanistan remained a fraction of what they were in Iraq. When I took office, we had just over 32,000 Americans serving in Afghanistan, compared to 160,000 in Iraq at the peak of the war. Commanders in Afghanistan repeatedly asked for support to deal with the reemergence of the Taliban, but these reinforcements did not arrive.
Rumsfeld immediately objected to that accusation, saying that he had never turned down a specific request for more troops. Jake Tapper followed up the next day with Robert Gibbs, who backed away from the allegations at light speed:
TAPPER: Former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld took issue with a lot of the speech last night, and I just wanted to clarify it. The president said commanders in Afghanistan repeatedly asked for support to deal with the reemergence of the Taliban, but these reinforcements did not arrive. I assume you’re referring to the McKiernan requests throughout 2008.
GIBBS: Well, I — that’s, I believe, what the speech — the line of the speech. I will let Secretary Rumsfeld explain to you and to others whether he thinks that the effort in Afghanistan was sufficiently resourced during his tenure as secretary of defense.
TAPPER: Well, he says…
GIBBS: I — I think that’s — that’s something that, you know…
TAPPER: … he said he’s not aware of a single request of that nature between 2001 and 2006 when he was secretary of defense.
GIBBS: I — again, I’ll let him explain to the American public whether he believes that the effort in Afghanistan during 2001 to 2006 was appropriately resourced. You know, you go to war with the secretary of defense you have, Jake.
TAPPER: That’s cute. The — the question, though, is what specifically was President Obama talking about when he said that?
GIBBS: Again, what President Obama was talking about were additional resource requests that came in during 2008, which we’ve discussed in here. But Jake, again, I’ll leave it to the secretary of defense in 2001 to 2006 to discuss the level of resourcing for that — understanding the level of commitment that we already had dedicated in Iraq, and whether or not he feels sufficient that history will judge the resourcing decisions that he made during that time period in the war in Afghanistan were or were not sufficient.
In other words, Barack Obama lied during the speech. Did we have enough resources on the ground in Afghanistan? Obviously not, in retrospect, and Obama is doing the right thing in boosting troop levels now, and criticism on those lines is perfectly fair. But that’s an entirely different than accusing Rumsfeld and George Bush of deliberately ignoring specific troop requests from commanders on the ground. Obama made that accusation, and Gibbs tried dodging the question because he couldn’t come up with any support for it.
And who was the Secretary of Defense in 2008? Why, none other than Obama’s current SecDef, Robert Gates.
Besides, isn’t that tremendously disingenuous coming from the man who said this when it came to General David Petraeus and his request for more troops in Iraq?
Disingenuous hardly begins to cover it.
Got an Obamateurism of the Day? If you see a foul-up by Barack Obama, e-mail it to me at [email protected] with the quote and the link to the Obamateurism. I’ll post the best Obamateurisms on a daily basis, depending on how many I receive. Include a link to your blog, and I’ll give some link love as well. And unlike Slate, I promise to end the feature when Barack Obama leaves office.
Illustrations by Chris Muir of Day by Day. Be sure to read the adventures of Sam, Zed, Damon, and Jan every day!