One line in President Obama’s orgy of blame-Bush-for-everything speech last night has prompted former Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld, who managed the Afghan war for five years, to call for the President to back up his assertions. Secretary Rumsfeld’s statement, issued in a press release this morning, called for an investigation of a certain 21 words in Obama’s speech:
“In his speech to the nation last night, President Obama claimed that ‘Commanders in Afghanistan repeatedly asked for support to deal with the reemergence of the Taliban, but these reinforcements did not arrive.’ Such a bald misstatement, at least as it pertains to the period I served as Secretary of Defense, deserves a response.”
“I am not aware of a single request of that nature between 2001 and 2006. If any such requests occurred, ‘repeated’ or not, the White House should promptly make them public. The President’s assertion does a disservice to the truth and, in particular, to the thousands of men and women in uniform who have fought, served and sacrificed in Afghanistan.”
“In the interest of better understanding the President’s announcement last night, I suggest that the Congress review the President’s assertion in the forthcoming debate and determine exactly what requests were made, who made them, and where and why in the chain of command they were denied.”
Robert Gibbs cheerfully responded to Donald Rumsfeld’s denial that he’d denied troops to Afghanistan with, first, a clarification that Obama had been talking about the post-Rumsfeld era of 2008.
…”I will let Secretary Rumsfeld explain” whether the war in Afghanistan “was sufficiently resourced during his tenure” … and how he thinks “history will judge whether they were or were not sufficient,” Gibbs said.
Gibbs quipped: “You go to war with the secretary of Defense that you have.”
Or, in the case of the Obama Administration, you go to war with the very same secretary of Defense – Robert Gates, the man who held the job in 2008 – that you just threw under the Obamabus. If you recall, Gates himself had testified in November 2008 (after the election) that he expected an additional 30,000 troops to be sent, but the incoming Administration put off its follow-through on that promise until March, and cut Gates’ proposal nearly in half.
21 words don’t say what they used to, do they?
Gibbs’ back-and-forth with Jake Tapper below the fold.
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.