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Iraq Update Nature of the Enemy Letters to the Editor Heroes Special Reports

Response to Army Times Editorial

Nov. 5, 2006 – UPDATED

On Saturday, Nov. 4, the Army Times released an editorial titled, "Time for Rumsfeld to go." It is important to first note that the "military papers" that have run this editorial are not owned, managed, or controlled by the U.S. military. They are privately held newspapers forming part of the Arlington, Va.-based Gannett publishing chain.

The editorial included a number of inaccurate and misleading statements.


  • THE ADMINISTRATION HAS PROVIDED A BALANCED PICTURE: Despite what the editorial claims, the Department has always attempted to clearly and accurately describe the challenges our forces face in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Secretary above all has always been very measured in describing the progress U.S forces are making in what will undoubtedly be a long struggle in the War on Terror.

  • CHALLENGE THOSE WHO CLAIM ADMINISTRATION OFFERED A ROSY SCENARIO: 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.

  • THIS IS OLD NEWS MASKED AS NEW NEWS: The new “chorus of criticism” noted by the editorials is actually old news and does not include commanders in the field, who remain committed to the mission. 

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

  • IRAQIS ARE RISKING THEIR LIVES FOR THEIR COUNTRY: Iraqi security forces are making slow but measurable progress. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have made themselves and their families targets and put their lives at risk for their new country. They are increasingly taking the lead in operations. The disparagement of these forces is completely unfounded.

  • CHALLENGE POSED BY ENEMY IS TOUGH: As long as the enemy is determined to thwart a free and democratic Iraq the stability throughout the country will fluctuate. However, the security situation is not monolithic across the country. Many parts of Iraq are relatively peaceful. 

  • 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.


“Rosy Scenarios”

CLAIM: “The ‘hard bruising’ truth about the Iraq war has been difficult to come by from leaders in Washington. One rosy reassurance after another has been handed down by President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.”

FACTS: The President, Vice President, the Secretary of Defense, and others have from the outset of Operation Iraqi Freedom warned the American people that the fight in Iraq could be long and difficult, but ultimately worth the costs. To cite one of a multitude of examples, President Bush said on March 19, 2003 in his address to the nation at the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom: “A campaign on the harsh terrain of a nation as large as California could be longer and more difficult than some predict. And helping Iraqis achieve a united, stable and free country will require our sustained commitment.”

Abizaid taken out of context

CLAIM: “Active-duty military leaders are starting to voice misgivings about the war’s planning, execution and dimming prospects for success. Army Gen. John Abizaid, chief of U.S. Central Command, told a Senate Armed Services Committee in September: ‘I believe that the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I’ve seen it ... and that if not stopped, it is possible that Iraq could move towards civil war.’”

FACTS: Military commanders involved in Operation Iraqi Freedom have continually expressed their belief in the importance of the mission in Iraq. The selective use of General Abizaid’s quote from September ignores other things that General Abizaid said at that hearing. For example, he also said:

“This is a hard thing. And it’s going to take a long time. And it’s going to take a lot of courage and a lot of perseverance and unfortunately more blood, and it’s going to take more treasure. But there are more people in Iraq that are working with us to try to make their country a better place than are trying to tear it apart. . . .The people that are trying to tear it apart are ruthless. They are pulling out everything that they can to make it fail. . . .And it’s hard. That’s why we kept extra forces there. And it’s hard and it’s tough and it’s difficult, but we will prevail. . . But I can tell you, people have a right to express their opinion. There’s political activity. There’s freedom of the press. There are things that are happening in Iraq that don’t happen anywhere else in the Middle East. And we ought to be proud of it.”

Selected Leaking to the New York Times

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.

Military and civilian leaders have repeatedly said Iraq is facing difficult challenges, and that as long as the enemy is determined to thwart a free and democratic Iraq the stability throughout the country will fluctuate. The security situation, however, is not monolithic across the country. Many parts of Iraq are relatively peaceful. 

The challenge remains to help the Iraqi government develop a relatively stable country with security forces available to take on the fight against the enemy. This is what commanders are working to do, making adjustments and changes along the way.

Iraqi Security Forces

CLAIM: “For two years, American sergeants, captains and majors training the Iraqis have told their bosses that Iraqi troops have no sense of national identity, are only in it for the money, don’t show up for duty and cannot sustain themselves.”

FACTS: Some 300,000 Iraqi Security Forces are risking their lives for their new country.  Polls of Iraqis show consistent support among the populations for members of the Iraqi Security Forces.  Iraqi forces are increasingly taking the lead in operations against the enemy. On August 31, 2006, General George Casey, Commander, MultiNational Force- Iraq, said the following:

“I can see the Iraqi security forces progressing to a point where they can take on the security responsibilities for the country with very little coalition support.

“We have been on a three-step process to help build the Iraqi security forces. The first step was the training and equipping; to organize them, put them through a training program -- army and police -- and to give them the appropriate weapons and equipment they need. The second step was to put them into the lead still with our support, and when they’re in the lead, they’re responsible for the area, and we still help them. That process is almost 75 percent complete. The last step, as you suggest, is to get them to the stage where they can independently provide security in Iraq. That step becomes primarily building institutional capacity, building ministerial capacity and building the key enabling systems -- logistics, intelligence, medial support; those kinds of things -- that can support and sustain the armed forces in place for a longer period of time. And so we’re making good progress along those steps right now.”

Troop Levels

CLAIM: “Meanwhile, colonels and generals have asked their bosses for more troops. Service chiefs have asked for more money.”

FACTS: Commanders in the field have repeatedly been assured by the President and the Secretary of Defense that they will be given whatever resources they need to complete the mission in Iraq.

On July 9, 2003, Gen. Franks testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee. He said: “There has been [the] suggestion that perhaps there should be more troops. And in fact, I can tell you, in the presence of [Secretary Rumsfeld], that if more troops are necessary, this secretary’s going to say ‘yes.’ I mean, we have talked about this on a number of occasions. And when the tactical commanders on the ground determine that they need to raise force levels, then those forces in fact will be provided.”

  • On September 20, 2006, General Abizaid, the current Commander of U.S. Central Command, explained: “[T]he tension in this mission has always been between how much we do and how much we ask the Iraqis to do. The longer we stay, the more we must ask the Iraqis to do. Putting another 100,000 American troops in Iraq is something that I don’t think would be good for the mission overall, because it would certainly cause Americans to go to the front, [cause] Americans to take responsibility. And we’re at the point in the mission where it’s got to fall upon the Iraqis. They know that; they want responsibility. The key question is having the right balance, and I believe we’re maintaining the right balance.”

  • On Oct. 11, 2006, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commander of Multi-National Force-Iraq, was asked whether he needed more troops in Iraq. He responded: “I don’t – right now, my answer is no. … [I]f I think I need more, I’ll ask for more and bring more in.”

Attack on Secretary Rumsfeld

CLAIM: “Rumsfeld has lost credibility with the uniformed leadership, with the troops, with Congress and with the public at large. His strategy has failed, and his ability to lead is compromised. And although the blame for our failures in Iraq rests with the secretary, it will be the troops who bear its brunt.”

FACTS: Defense Secretaries in times of war are always subject to sometimes harsh criticism. The Secretary has helped oversee two conflicts while also transforming a mammoth bureaucracy, overseeing sweeping humanitarian missions across the globe, and helping to protect the American people at home.

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