October 28, 2006
Rep. Murtha Draws Fire From Defense
In "Confessions of a 'Defeatocrat' " [Outlook, Oct. 15], Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) made a number of inaccurate claims about Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and the Defense Department.
By selectively quoting from the secretary's recent address to the American Legion, Murtha claimed that Rumsfeld has faulted Democrats "for believing that 'vicious extremists can be appeased.' " Yet Rumsfeld did not mention congressional Democrats in his remarks -- in fact he didn't mention any critics of the Iraq war. His remarks were an effort to remind people of the similarities between past and current periods in U.S. history, so that a mentality of dismissing real and gathering threats does not undermine our nation's ability to prevail in the war on terror.
Murtha's claim that the Defense Department has "a new military blueprint to keep 140,000 troops in Iraq through 2010" is a mischaracterization of comments made by Gen. Pete Schoomaker, Army chief of staff. The Army plans for a variety of contingencies. Schoomaker's comments on the Army planning for potential scenarios in Iraqis are one example of this. None of this should be understood as a forecast for the commitment of U.S. forces.
Murtha claimed that Gen. Eric Shinseki's recommendation for "several hundred thousand troops . . . was ignored." As Gen. Richard Myers, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, noted in congressional testimony in June 2004, Shinseki provided no recommendation on troop levels to the Joint Chiefs. Despite Shinseki's public comments, there was thus no recommendation to ignore.
Finally, Murtha claimed that the "Iraqi army was disbanded," a decision he blames for subsequent violence. Although officially disbanded by Coalition Provisional Authority officials, the Iraqi military largely disbanded itself. As the commander of the best-equipped division in the Iraqi military, the Republican Guard's armored al-Nida Division, explained:
"I started the war with 13,000 soldiers. By the time we had orders to pull back to Baghdad, I had less than 2,000; by the time we were in position in Baghdad, I had less than 1,000. Every day the desertions increased. We had no engagements with American forces."
Dorrance Smith, Washington
The writer is assistant secretary for public affairs in the Defense Department.