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November 05, 2006

Army Times to call for Rumsfeld's Departure...

And, breathlessly reported by the New York Times, so will the Navy Times, Air Force Times, and Marine Corps Times.

Okay.

These papers do, after all, speak for the military right? Fingers on the pulse and all that?

Well, no.

They are four faces of the same paper. They run the same stories, with about 1/4 of their content any given issue being specific to the service named on the front page.

There is greater editorial diversity among the Washington Post, New York Times, Boston Post and Los Angeles Times than there is at the ArmyNavyMarineCorpsAirForceTimes media show, because it's all the same paper, published by Gannett, which owns USA Today.

Despite what the NYT and Owen or even Shawn (Owen and Shawn in comments in yesterday's H&I Fires post) the ArmyNavyMarineCorpsAirForceTimes is not a voice of the military, it's a voice of Gannett.

Being the only paper to target the military market, it is certainly read by the military community. There's a post over at Milblogs that covers that nicely.

Not for nothing is the Navy version of the paper called the "Naval Enquirer." Certainly, they are *not* equivalent to the National Enquirer in absolute terms, but they are the aimed-at-the-military-market equivalent.

There's a reason that I ceased subscribing to them in 1983/4, when they shifted to the tabloid format they use now. They became less serious, went in for the attention getting, breathless headline - that was usually misleading. But they are a source of useful info, as well. I buy around one issue a year, usually the Pay Chart issue, not only to get the chart, but to see if anything has improved.

Let me put it this way - I subscribe to NYT Select and The New Republic - but not the Army Times.

They want to be the voice of the services, certainly. And as the only game in town, they get some attention. But to infer that because Gannett is calling for Rumsfeld's head means the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are calling for Rumsfeld's head is to infer that if USA Today, the Washington Times, or Kansas City Star call for it, well then, everybody must agree.

Just sayin'.

DoD responds here. It's now officially a tussle.

Tony Snow runs through the White House defense.

MR. SNOW: A number of things. I mean, observation number one is everybody is entitled to their own opinions, but not to their own facts. And as a factual matter, the editorial -- which is a uniform editorial that I guess all the papers are being told to carried -- is just -- it's a shabby piece of work. I'll run through some of it for you.

The other important thing to note is this -- although these are Army Times and the Military Times, they're a Gannet publication. A lot of people are thinking, aha, what you have are a lot of military people in open revolt against the President, when, in fact, you've got a lot of Gannet editorial writers, which would be thoroughly consistent with USA Today and the rest of the Gannet chain, which I think, if memory serves, does not have a single strong conservative editorial page in the entire chain.

Hang on a second, I've got a printout of it, because I went through the thing. Give me a moment. The editorial, for one thing, makes the allegation that -- it says, "One rosy reassurance after another has been handed down by President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld." That's just flat not true. And what they do is they revert to cheesy old partisan talking points about "mission accomplished," which, as you recall, was referring to the mission of the USS Abraham Lincoln and the President, on the deck of the Abraham Lincoln, talked about a long, hard fight to come, and so on.

But maybe the worst is this, it says, "A new course of criticism is beginning to resonate. Active duty military leaders are starting to voice misgivings about the war's planning." It then goes on to site General John Abizaid completely out of context, when he said before Congress -- he said, "I believe the sectarian violence probably is as bad as I've seen it. It's possible that Iraq could move toward civil war."

The following month General Casey said -- let's see, a couple of things. First, he said that, "A, I think we can prevent a civil war. Secondly, things in a counter-insurgency environment, as you well know, take time to mature militarily and politically, and we're confident that with the measures we're taking now we can be successful."

General Casey also said recently, "The situation is hard, but Iraq is not a country that's awash in sectarian violence. I think it's important to remind people that 90 percent of the sectarian violence in Iraq takes place in about a 30-mile radius from the center of Baghdad, and, secondly, that 90 percent of all violence takes place in five provinces."

You can get the rest at the link above.

I'm not a fan of Rumsfeld, though I think he was something the services needed at the beginning of his tenure.

That said - the Army Times does *not* speak for me. Of course, I have my own space to speak here.

Comments on Army Times to call for Rumsfeld's Departure...
Jack briefed on November 5, 2006 10:39 AM

So *now* the White House (through the words of spokesman Tony Snow) feels that "everybody is entitled to their own opinions, but not to their own facts."

Hmmm...

Seems to me like it has been that no one is entitled to an opinion different than that of "The Decider" else they want "the terrorists to win" and the only facts are the ones the administration propagates (as in propaganda). Are we finally seeing reality creep in???

Nahhhhh... it's just more spin to keep power.

Sorry, I woke up very cynical this morning.

John of Argghhh! briefed on November 5, 2006 10:52 AM

C'mon, Jack, Geez. Go back to bed and try again!

SangerM briefed on November 5, 2006 11:49 AM

I quit paying attention to the Army Times long before I left the Army; it's been a POS from way back (except for the pay chart of course).

I quit paying attention to lefty nutjob newspaper people about the time Ronald Reagan became president. That's when I finally accepted that some people really do just want to see America crash and burn because that's the only thing that will ever satisfy their immature need for attention and vindication. Dirtballs like Michael Moore.

I quit giving credence to cynical comments (like Jack's) around 8th grade when I first realized that some people really do believe the mean dumb things they say. You know, the bitter people who took it badly that no one believed in their imaginary childhood friends, and who now think Michael Moore speaks truth to power...

John of Argghhh! briefed on November 5, 2006 02:12 PM

Message... not messenger, please.

OD briefed on November 5, 2006 07:31 PM

Amusing that the Pentagon should put out a "setting the record straight" document, noting that Army Times doesn't represent the military. These setting the record straight thingies are a Rove-McClellan invention, usually put out straight from the White House. They don't represent the views of the military either.

And it's so easily rebutted. "We challenge those who say the Secretary has ever painted a “rosy picture” to provide his quotes as well as the full context of those remarks."

OK, "Pentagon", since you ask:

Steve Croft, CBS Radio: "Back to that email, Mr. Secretary. Hundreds of people have been awakened with dreams of a war with Iraq quickly escalating into World War III. What can effectively be done to limit the conflict, and what is your opinion about the possibility of a wider war breaking out?"

Rumsfeld: "In the event that force has to be used with Iraq, there will be no World War III. The Gulf War in the 1990s lasted five days on the ground. I can't tell you if the use of force in Iraq today would last five days, or five weeks, or five months, but it certainly isn't going to last any longer than that."
http://www.defenselink.mil/transcripts/2002/t11152002_t1114rum.html

OD briefed on November 5, 2006 07:32 PM


Pentagon: 'The assertion, without evidence, that senior military officers are “toeing the line” is an insult to their judgment and integrity.'

Gen James Jones, former NATO commander now being nagged to run CENTCOM, called his friend Pete Happyface Pace a "parrot on Rumsfeld's shoulder" when Pace visited him in Germany. He added that "The Joint Chiefs have been systematically emasculated by Rumsfeld". When Pace accused journalists of making these comments up, Jones went public and said they were accurate - proving Pace a liar.

As for Myers, he is so notorious for toeing the administration line that no less fervent an Iraq war supporter than John McCain told him not to bother answering questions before the Armed Services Committee. "I want to hear Gen Abuzaid's answer," said McCain. "Gen Myers, It became apparent long ago that you have nothing to say beyond repeating the Secretary's line."

Franks himself admits in his book American Soldier to making endless changes to his plan to get Rumsfeld and his assistant Feith off his back. He incorporated all Feith's suggestions and meddling even though he considered Feith, in his own words, to be "the dumbest f**king guy on the planet."

During planning, Franks echoed Rumsfeld's disapproval of anyone who worried about the postwar scenario. This is described at length in Cobra II by Michael Gordon and Gen Bernard Traynor.

I know I'll get jumped on for saying this, but Myers and Pace betrayed the legacy of George Marshall. As Joint Chiefs, their job is to support the commanders and look out for the troops in the field. But the only back they have been interested in covering is the GOP's.

As for Franks, he's just an extremely bad general.

OD briefed on November 5, 2006 08:28 PM

Tony Snow: 'But maybe the worst is this, it says, "A new course of criticism is beginning to resonate. Active duty military leaders are starting to voice misgivings about the war's planning."'

They've been doing that since within days of leaving their jumping-off points in March 2003.

Even before Baghdad fell, Maj-Gen James Thurman, who now commands 4ID, but was then V Corps Chief Operations Officer, told reporters that: "The enemy we're fighting is a bit different than the one we war-gamed against."

Gen Mckiernan had to beg Rumsfeld and Franks not to relieve Thurman for that remark.

The books of people like Ricks, Gordon & Traynor, Chandresenkenan, and Woodward are full of quotes from officers criticising the plan. Active-duty, they do it anonymously, unless they have nothing left to lose like Schoomaker and Jones. Once retired, they immediately go on the record. None of these quotes are made up.

The media and the administration (and its tame generals Myers and Pace) have been advancing different images of Iraq for three years.

Remember how the media was Hiding The Good News From Iraq? Failing to report the Real Progress?

Where has all that rosy talk gone now? Instead of continuing to claim that Iraq is full of unreported good news, Rumsfeld is now claiming he was grim and dour from the off.

Even the Archpriest of the Church of Why-didn't-you-report-that-school-being-painted, Colonel Blimp Ralph Peters, now says "hope is dwindling. Iraq is failing. No honest observer can conclude otherwise...Iraq still exists on the maps, but in reality it's gone."

So if Rumsfeld and Peters have decided that Iraq is perhaps not a freshly-painted primary school playground after all, would they like to apologise to the media whom, it seems, they now admit was correct in the balance of its reporting? The hell they would.

Does anyone deny that Rumsfeld said for years that Iraq was making progress and was full of unreported good news? Nope. So clearly he was selling a rosy scenario. Case closed.

Iraq has not made progress, it is sliding backwards. All metrics are getting worse. US deaths are up, US wounded waaaay up, Iraqi dead up, suicide bombs up, IEDs up, sectarian violence up, the police are more infiltrated than ever, the Iraqi army won't come to Baghdad and is melting away as fast as it can be recruited, oil receipts are actually down, electricity is stagnant, tip-offs to security forces have fallen by almost half, Iraqi public attitudes to US troops range from angry to violent, the health system has vanished, the government has almost no presence except death squads outside the Green Zone.

As a journalist, I find it infuriating that Rumsfeld, who has spent all this time calling journalists who were risking their lives liars and traitors, is now trying to save his bacon by claiming that he was saying the same things as them all along.

Surely no-one is dim enough to buy that. I know attention spans are short these days, but the Republicans ask the American people to forget too much too quickly. Bush actually said the other day: "We've never been 'Stay the Course'"!?!?!

It's actually embarrassing for America that its president should lie so openly and unconvincingly to his people.

OD briefed on November 5, 2006 08:48 PM

As for Rumsfeld, he can wriggle but his time has come. My prediction: Rumsfeld's tenure may last five days, or five weeks, or five months, but it won't last any longer than that.

He lost all interest in Iraq years ago anyway, and passes his days dreaming of other, bigger, future wars, and the Death-Star weapons he wants to fight them with. Rummy is planning to seize Outer Space and claim it for America. But he forgot about the war he's currently in, the one he did so much to help start. Iraq bores Rumsfeld. It's just not "transformational" enough.

What should infuriate Americans is that the Administration has known since at least 2004 that Rummy is bad news, but they chose to keep him rather than admit mistakes.

If (when) Rummy goes sometime after the election, it will be proof that GW kept on a bad SecDef in a time of war for party political reasons. Just one more example of playing politics with troops' lives.

Why was that Stryker Brigade in Baghdad given a last-minute 4 month tour extension (the news came three days before they were due to rotate out)? Because the Govt is waiting till the midterms are over to announce the coming giant reserve callups. Big, compulsory, politically unpopular callups.

They have all sorts of nasty designs on the Guard and especially the reserves, but for now they're holding off and extending tired active-duty troops. It may cost a few soldiers' lives, but the important thing is to save a few congressmen's asses.

OD briefed on November 5, 2006 09:36 PM

The Pentagon set-the-record-straight says this:

CLAIM: “Last week, someone leaked to The New York Times a Central Command briefing slide showing an assessment that the civil conflict in Iraq now borders on ‘critical’ and has been sliding toward "chaos" for most of the past year.”

FACT: It is foolish to try to draw conclusions from one piece of classified information leaked to the New York Times. What that page referred to was a snapshot in time.

Oh really? Here is that slide:
Index of Civil Conflict

As you can see, it's a bar ranging from "Peace" to "Chaos", and along this bar are very cleared marked not one but three points in time: "Pre-Samarra", by which they mean the Golden Dome bombing in February; "Last week"; and "Current".
During that time the arrows have moved very dramatically towards "Chaos" and are now about 80% of the way there from about 55% in February.

So when Army Times claims that that the slide says Iraq "has been sliding toward "chaos" for most of the past year", they are being 100% concise, precise, and correct.

And when Rumsfeld's "Set-the-record-straight" document claims the briefing slide represents "a snapshot in time", it is promulgating a direct and deliberate lie, in the hope and knowledge that most supporters will take their word for it without checking the slide themselves.

And just in case there were any doubt about the slide's meaning, the briefer has helpfully printed a summary across the bottom which reads: "Urban areas experiencing 'ethnic cleansing campaigns to consolidate control...violence at all-time high, spreading geographically."

That's the whole thing, by the way, I'm not quoting selectively or out of context.

When Rummy pitches his line about how most of the violence is confined to five provinces (didn't it used to be four?), does he add the rider: "but it's spreading geographically."

The hell he does.

J.M. Heinrichs briefed on November 5, 2006 09:53 PM

That's what I most admire about 'journalists'; they reiterate their apologue over and over because they're not sure if we comprehend the cogency of their fervid message.

Sometimes the message is doused by the errand-boy.

Cheers

OD briefed on November 5, 2006 10:41 PM

I'm not sure if I follow your insult JMH but never mind. I'm glad you're enjoying it cos I've got plenty more.

The thing is, the Pentagon has a webpage that says: 'We challenge those who say the Secretary has ever painted a "rosy picture" to provide his quotes as well as the full context of those remarks.'

But despite that challenge, they provide no way to comment. So I'm doing it here, which is the closest thing I know of to the Pentagon that allows unedited comment.

It's not a very difficult challenge. I just Googled "Defenselink Rumsfeld progress Iraq". Here's the very first hit:

American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Sept. 4, 2003 – The progress the coalition is making in Iraq is "amazing," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said here today.

The secretary compared the timeline for reconstituting Iraq with American experiences in other parts of the world. He said it is going better and, to his eyes, faster than other experiences.

...Rumsfeld spoke about the political progress made in the country since the end of major combat May 1. The Iraqis have put many city councils in place around the country. He said these councils and the standing up of the Iraqi Governing Council are political examples of progress being made.

It's a lie that the Iraqis had put city councils in place. In fact the US Marines, among other people, had organised city elections across the country, but these were suddenly cancelled after the campaigns were underway, by Bremer (Rumsfeld's appointee) when it became apparent that anti-American candidates were the most popular.

The cancellation of elections all across Iraq went little noticed by the US public. But the Iraqis never really trusted the Americans again. Lt Gen Mattis, now commanding 1MEF I believe, was furious about it.

The governing council is talking hold, he said, and has appointed ministers to run the ministries of the government. "They have made three or four steps along the road," Rumsfeld said. "There are still three or four to go."

Anybody listening to Rummy's rosy talk would conclude the govt was halfway to standing up. But three years later, many Iraqi ministers have literally not set foot outside the Green Zone since the day they were appointed.

...On the security side, Rumsfeld said the number of attacks is down somewhat from earlier reports, but that these fluctuate. Recent car bombings in Baghdad and Najaf are clearly aimed at the Iraqi people. The bombings were tragic, he said, but the emphasis on the attacks obscures the real progress being made in the country. "It tends to create an imbalance in public perception that is unfortunate," the secretary said.

Silly unbalanced public, worrying about a few bombs.

Rummy said this in September 2003, soon after the UN bombing, at a time when the Army was becoming truly worried, having realised it faced a genuine popular insurgency.

The rest of Rummy's speech touts reconstruction and repair of infrastructure, when in fact US soldiers and even former CPA officials say that summer had been remarkable for stagnation and inactivity and that nothing was working.

Of course only a tiny minority of the folks back home bother to check Rummy's facts. So this kind of happytalk held up Stateside for years.

But when he goes on to claim that electric power is flowing more freely, millions of Iraqis hear that too, and they know it's a direct lie.

It tells them the US has no real plans to fix the power, but merely intends to lie about it. That is very corrosive and ultimately comes back to bite you in the form of IEDs.

OD briefed on November 5, 2006 11:16 PM

Reading on, I see every one their fact bullets is factually incorrect.

They say the disparagement of Iraqi security forces is completely unfounded. Are we not, then, allowed to disparage death squads? A police brigade was just stood down and its commanders arrested by the Americans for death-squad complicity. Everyone in Iraq knows the police are militiamen, sectarian killers, kidnappers, hitmen for hire, even insurgents. In fact, upon days when Baghdad goes under curfew and only cops roam the streets, the next morning's sectarian body count is typically as high as ever.

They say many parts of the country are peaceful. But those are the empty parts. It's like the old four-province line, recently resurrected by Casey as five provinces responsible for 90% of the violence. Unfortunately these five provinces contain well over half of the Iraqis, including the capital which US commanders say is the decisive battleground.

And Casey's five provinces argument would describe Diwaniyah, capital of al Qadisiyah province, as a quiet area, even though the local Mahdi Army recently threw the Iraqi Army's best division out of town, executing 20 captured soldiers in the main square. It would also describe Amarah, capital of Maysan province, which the British recently abandoned under a daily hail of mortar fire, as a quiet area. Amarah was also taken over by the Mahdi Army just the other day, in fact they managed to get on American TV this time.

OD briefed on November 5, 2006 11:43 PM

But the silliest statement in the Response to the Army Times is this:

'WE WILL GIVE TROOPS WHAT THEY NEED TO WIN: This country and the leadership of the Defense Department are going to ensure that our military forces have the resources to successfully carry out their mission. To suggest otherwise is simply wrong.'

American troops have never had the tools to win in Iraq. I'm not talking about Humvees or body armour, I don't fault Rumsfeld for that.

We'll never know for sure if the Iraq project (post-WMD) was actually doable given a competent occupation.

But it certainly wasn't doable by the US Army and Marines. Military historians will look back in amazement at the Pentagon's insistence on trying to rebuild a foreign country without help.

Rumsfeld claims to have given the troops the tools to successfully carry out their mission. Their mission is now apparently to stand up an Iraqi government and a society with basic security including economic security and a bit of infrastructure.

What soldiers carry the tools to carry out these political tasks? At best they can manage a few Potemkin village projects. Only one part of the US government could even hope to take on the civil govt of Iraq: the State Dept. But Rummy hates the State Dept.

Rummy has spent his life fighting State. He fought Powell from day one, and won easily. He gathered all the threads of the Iraq operation into his own hands - and then stopped worrying about everything that would happen after the tanks reached Baghdad.

There was no serious planning for the aftermath because Rumsfeld was sure it would go swimmingly. At one point, according to Maj Gen Batiste, Rumsfeld "threatened to fire the next person who talked about the need for a post-war plan."

The US military can't be police, it can't speak Arabic, it can't be teachers or doctors or administrators, it can't fix dams and sewers, and above all it can't make Iraqis love each other or agree on matters of government. It lacks ALL of the tools necessary for victory.

The Administration has effectively put the Army and Marines' reputation in the hands of selfish Iraqi politicians. If those politicians keep fighting - and they will - nothing the soldiers can do will produce a victory. The US military will lose another war without ever losing a battle.

Marine6 briefed on November 6, 2006 10:04 AM

My complaint is simple. The Army Times Company maangement has chosen to issue this editorial with the sole purpose of impacting a national election, and they have clearly taken their position directly from the Democratic National Committee talking points.

This action has clearly violated their claim that they are a non-partisan spokesman for the military community, and has exposed them as an adjunct of the DNC, John Murtha, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, John Kerry Howard Dean, and all the other Surrender Monkeys. They have every right to do this if they wish.

On the other hand, enrty onto a military reservation is not a right. Entry is a privlege that can be rescinded at any time.

So, since Army Times seems far more interested in serving the interests of the DNC instead of the military community, why not rescind their privlege to come on base? Just think, no Army (Navy, Marine Corps, or Air Force)Times in the Exchange. A new policy that NO official DoD spokesmen will talk to Army Times reporters. How many papers would they sell then?

Steamer briefed on November 7, 2006 07:08 AM

I am late to this dog pile, but *finally* my subscription to Navy Times pays off...as a subscriber, I can vent to my heart's content! ;^]

The only reason I have maintained my scrip this rag is that my wife can read it, ask me questions, and then I can tell her what the *real* story is.

A recent case in point involved Office of Naval Research's work in counter-IED technology, a story they utterly flubbed. My wife was incredulous that the Navy would cease funding counter-IED work, which is what NT stated. They even misquoted senior leadership at ONR to bolster their illegitimate story.

Dunces and simpletons that they are, I am not surprised they are calling for Rumsfeld's resignation.