The New York Times (unpublished)
October 25, 2006
Letter RE: “Trying to Contain the Iraq Disaster”
The New York Times has once again repeated a popular myth to mislead its readers about Secretary Rumsfeld. We ask for an immediate correction.
Today's editorial claims: "There have never been enough troops, the result of Mr. Rumsfeld’s negligent decision to use Iraq as a proving ground for his pet military theories, rather than listen to his generals." Whether or not the Times believes there were enough troops in Iraq, the claim that any troop level in Iraq is the result of Secretary Rumsfeld "not listening to his generals" is demonstrably untrue.
Generals involved in troop level decisions have been abundantly clear on this matter:
- General Tommy Franks, Commander, U.S. Central Command during the opening of Operation Iraqi Freedom: "Don Rumsfeld was a hard task master -- but he never tried to control the tactics of our war-fight [Franks, "American Soldier, " pg 313]
Rather than advancing Secretary Rumsfeld's alleged "pet theories," General Franks wrote that he based his troop level recommendations on the following: "Building up a Desert Storm-size force in Kuwait would have taken months of effort - very visible effort - and would have sacrificed the crucial element of operational surprise we now enjoyed. . . . And if operational surprise had been sacrificed, I suspected that the Iraqis would have repositioned their Republican Guard and regular army units, making for an attrition slugfest that would cost thousands of lives.”
On page 333 of his memoirs, General Franks added: "As I concluded my summary of the existing 1003 plan, I noted that we’d trimmed planned force levels from 500,000 troops to around 400,000. But even that was still way too large, I told the Secretary." General Franks also notes on a number of occasions that rather than “rejecting” military advice, Secretary Rumsfeld repeatedly listened to commanders’ advice in designing a plan for Iraq.
- General George Casey, Commander of Multi-National Force - Iraq: "I just want to assure you and the American people that if we need more troops we'll ask for them. Right now, we don't." [CBS News, June 27, 2005]
- General John Abizaid, Commander, U.S. Central Command: "... this notion that troop levels are static is not true, never has been true, and it won't be true. We’ll ask for what we need when we need them.” [CNN, September 18, 2006]
- Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Pete Pace: “We have done more than honor the request of the commanders. . . . As Joint Chiefs, we have validated that; we have looked at that; we have analyzed it. We decided for ourselves, and I as an individual have agreed with the size force that's there. So we should take on the responsibility that we own." [Pace Confirmation Hearings, Transcript, July 10, 2005]
- Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers: "But in the plan going in there, the best military judgment, the judgment we got from academia, from anybody that wanted to make inputs to include the National Security Council was that we had the right number of troops. And so you can always look back and say, should we had something different? I personally don't believe - we didn't want to turn Iraq into a police state." [ABC News, April 16, 2006]
These statements are not new, nor difficult to find in public sources. So the implication is that either the New York Times believes these generals are not being truthful, or that they are too intimidated to tell the truth. If the Times feels this way, way not say so? For our part, we vigorously dispute either assertion about these distinguished military leaders.
The Times claims to correct "all errors of fact." Please correct this at once or provide us with demonstrable facts that support your assertion.
Dorrance Smith, Washington
The writer is assistant secretary for public affairs in the Defense Department.