Obama's Soldier Story Confirmed

By Big Tent Democrat

So it turns out there was this big to do on the Right blogs about something Obama said in the debate last night about a soldier in Afghanistan. Obama was accused of making it up. Jake Tapper says he did not:

I called the Obama campaign this morning to chat about this story, and was put in touch with the Army captain in question. He told me his story, which I found quite credible, though for obvious reasons he asked that I not mention his name or certain identifying information. Short answer: He backs up Obama's story.

Who would have thunk it, blogs got something wrong.

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    This nails it (1.00 / 0) (#38)
    by jimakaPPJ on Fri Feb 22, 2008 at 10:39:18 PM EST
    Nothing the captain said supports Obama's accusation that soldiers in Afghanistan faced a shortage of ammunition. Nothing the captain said supports the (ridiculous) claim that American soldiers were capturing Taliban weapons "because it was easier to get Taliban weapons" than American ones.

    What the captain said was that it was sometimes difficult to get parts in theater, and on occasion his soldiers used captured weapons. If Obama were running to be quartermaster in chief, this story might have some relevance. But Obama hasn't unveiled his plan to streamline the Army's logistics in Afghanistan. And his basic narrative of the commander in chief neglecting equipment needs in Afghanistan isn't supported by this one account. Moreover, does Obama think (a distortion of) one captain's anecdote is an appropriate basis for making broad claims about military matters in a campaign to become commander in chief?

    The captain's name is withheld in Tapper's piece, but we have submitted a request to the Obama campaign for an interview. More on Tapper's report at Hot Air and Ace.

    By the way, an astute journalist pointed out that captains don't command platoons, but companies.  Anyone who's ever read minimal material on the U.S. military knows that.


    I love partial quotes, don't you? (none / 0) (#39)
    by jdmccuistion on Sat Feb 23, 2008 at 01:29:54 AM EST
    He was a lieutenant at the time, but a captain when the story was told.  This is one hell of a non-issue.

    The Army captain, a West Point graduate, did a tour in a hot area of eastern Afghanistan from the Summer of 2003 through Spring 2004.

    Prior to deployment the Captain -- then a Lieutenant -- took command of a rifle platoon at Fort Drum. When he took command, the platoon had 39 members, but -- in ones and twos -- 15 members of the platoon were re-assigned to other units. He knows of 10 of those 15 for sure who went to Iraq, and he suspects the other five did as well.

    The platoon was sent to Afghanistan with 24 men."We should have deployed with 39," he told me, "we should have gotten replacements. But we didn't. And that was pretty consistent across the battalion."



    Hope Tapper protect the name well (none / 0) (#1)
    by Socraticsilence on Fri Feb 22, 2008 at 03:59:08 PM EST
    I feel sorry for this guy, the Right Wing Blogs have been vicious on Soldiers who have been critical in the least.

    I don't know... (none / 0) (#2)
    by americanincanada on Fri Feb 22, 2008 at 04:00:32 PM EST
    If you read some of the comments or talk to other soldiers it still seems a bit fishy.

    I am not sure that confirming with the same anon source is really confirming.

    Either way I don't think it is an issue as the story is many years old anyway. the coldier was talking about training in 2003.

    Let's ask Military Tracy. (none / 0) (#3)
    by oculus on Fri Feb 22, 2008 at 04:03:21 PM EST

    Subject: blogs getting something wrong (none / 0) (#4)
    by oculus on Fri Feb 22, 2008 at 04:06:50 PM EST
    FYI:  No corrections in today's NYT re McCain/lobbyist story.  NYT did print Senator McCain's statement at the end of the story on Thurs.

    Have you seen Newsweek? (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by Molly Bloom on Fri Feb 22, 2008 at 05:01:50 PM EST
    Now I have. (5.00 / 1) (#31)
    by oculus on Fri Feb 22, 2008 at 06:37:58 PM EST
    Wonder who forwarded the depo transcript?

    Given everything we've heard (none / 0) (#5)
    by Edgar08 on Fri Feb 22, 2008 at 04:08:23 PM EST
    About military preparedness under Donald Rumsfeld, this didn't even need to be confirmed, it could have gone without saying.

    Fine.  Confirmed.

    Jake Tapper (none / 0) (#6)
    by squeaky on Fri Feb 22, 2008 at 04:11:38 PM EST
    Has no love for Obama. If the story passed his smell test, it is believable.

    At least (none / 0) (#7)
    by Wile ECoyote on Fri Feb 22, 2008 at 04:15:06 PM EST
    he should have said it was 3-4 years ago.  

    Some people (none / 0) (#13)
    by cannondaddy on Fri Feb 22, 2008 at 04:33:49 PM EST
    also thought he implied the platoon was trained and then seperated in two differnt deployments.  I thought he meantit was just deployed without being fully manned.

    I agree... (none / 0) (#8)
    by americanincanada on Fri Feb 22, 2008 at 04:20:35 PM EST
    he made it sound recent. He also confused some of the facts. Didn't the soldier say that they were shorted the weapons in training? Not in the field? There were other parts that don't add up.

    I am just wondering why it is bad to question it just because it is something bad about the Bush admin?

    Did the captain happen to mention (none / 0) (#9)
    by RalphB on Fri Feb 22, 2008 at 04:22:11 PM EST
    how well the Taliban's AK-47 ammo worked in their M16's?

    Well it wouldn't (none / 0) (#12)
    by cannondaddy on Fri Feb 22, 2008 at 04:29:13 PM EST
    which is why no one is saying it does.  The story is that weapons and ammo were used.

    Of course (none / 0) (#21)
    by Wile ECoyote on Fri Feb 22, 2008 at 05:14:03 PM EST
    AK-47 ammo is 7.65x39

    M-16 is 5.56  not interchangeable.


    I know, I've been shot at by AK-47s (none / 0) (#30)
    by RalphB on Fri Feb 22, 2008 at 06:33:57 PM EST
    umm yes he did (none / 0) (#33)
    by sef on Fri Feb 22, 2008 at 08:27:41 PM EST
    They didn't use M-16s, they "acquired" CommBloc ak-47 (and more likely AKMs & AK-74s) the story notes, as well as at least one crew served weapon.  This is unexceptional, that is field units acquiring enemy wpns because their T/E isn't full or as full as they would like.  

    I should note that even today units are routinely stripped of their men and to fill up billets in combat deploying units. E.g., a close friend is a guardsman who was just stripped out of a nondeploying unit to get stuck in to a unit scheduled to deploy later this year.  It will be his third deployment since 2002 as a reservist.

    Finally, I should note, that there is some AK ammo made (if memory holds) that can be used in M-16s.  Remember the CAK-47 is 5.56 mm.


    umm small typo (none / 0) (#35)
    by sef on Fri Feb 22, 2008 at 08:44:18 PM EST
    the line "It will be his third deployment since 2002 as a reservist." should have read "It will be his third deployment since 2002 as a reservist or guardsman."

    Like I said... (none / 0) (#10)
    by americanincanada on Fri Feb 22, 2008 at 04:23:37 PM EST
    still seems fishy t me. Tapper shouldhave sought out a different source to confirm, not the very same, anonymous, one.

    why? (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by txpublicdefender on Fri Feb 22, 2008 at 04:38:13 PM EST
    If the issue is whether Obama made the story up, then it seems that what Tapper did was sufficient and correct.  He found the soldier who Obama's camp said gave him the story, and said soldier confirmed that he had in fact told Obama the story.

    Candidates talk all the time about the "grandmother who told me about having to go on food stamps" or the "teacher who has to spend her own money for school supplies for her class," etc.  I don't consider it the candidate's job to factcheck all this stuff.  


    That wasn't the issue. (none / 0) (#27)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Fri Feb 22, 2008 at 05:52:48 PM EST

    If the issue is whether Obama made the story up, then it seems that what Tapper did was sufficient and correct.

    The issue is passing on fables that makes our troops look bad.

    And as a consequence, they didn't have enough ammunition, they didn't have enough humvees. They were actually capturing Taliban weapons, because it was easier to get Taliban weapons than it was for them to get properly equipped by our current commander in chief.

    There has been no confirmation that that ststement reflects the truth.  


    Obama's Soldier Story (none / 0) (#28)
    by PennProgressive on Fri Feb 22, 2008 at 06:11:23 PM EST
    However, a key point remains unresolved. The most shocking part of Senator Obama's statement was that our soldiers were capturing Taliban's weapons because it was easier to get the weapons that way. Ann Sanner of AP reports the following:
    "The captain said, however, that the unit did not go after the Taliban for the purpose of getting their weapons, but sometimes used those weapons when some were captured." AA Amir has pointed this out here ---I thought you would like to see the quote.

    Captains (none / 0) (#32)
    by Wile ECoyote on Fri Feb 22, 2008 at 08:22:19 PM EST
    are not in charge of rifle platoons.  A First Lieutenant would be in charge of those.  A Captain is in charge of a company.  That is three platoons.  

    The only US soldiers that may, may use Non-US weapons occasionally are SPEC OP troops as they would get dropped way behind the lines and out of the way of supply.  When they find a cache.  The normal mark one mod zero soldier has to use the the weapons they train with.  They know the weapon, how it fires, how to care for it and most importantly now a days- the optics.  


    What tx... said (none / 0) (#24)
    by seand on Fri Feb 22, 2008 at 05:27:19 PM EST
    Right: all Obama said is that he heard the story. He didn't say the story was true; if it's not, that's on the soldier that told it to him.

    Repeatng rumors (1.00 / 0) (#36)
    by jimakaPPJ on Fri Feb 22, 2008 at 10:37:26 PM EST
    is not a characteristic I would treasure in a CIC.

    You mean like (5.00 / 1) (#41)
    by Warren Terrer on Sat Feb 23, 2008 at 08:20:54 AM EST
    rumors of the existence of WMDs? Yeah I hate when CICs repeat those rumors, or even go to war based on them. Good to see you agreeing, jim.

    clarification (none / 0) (#11)
    by Jgarza on Fri Feb 22, 2008 at 04:27:25 PM EST
    Who would have thunk it, blogs got something wrong.

    Don't lump your self in with "the blogs,"  it was the right wing blogs!

    True. We all know left blogs (none / 0) (#15)
    by oculus on Fri Feb 22, 2008 at 04:39:40 PM EST
    never make mistakes.

    They make (none / 0) (#16)
    by Jgarza on Fri Feb 22, 2008 at 04:42:02 PM EST
    honest mistakes.  right wing ones just make things up till someone calls them on it.

    How about some (none / 0) (#40)
    by Wile ECoyote on Sat Feb 23, 2008 at 05:48:51 AM EST
    links to prove your hypothesis.

    Ummm (none / 0) (#18)
    by jarober on Fri Feb 22, 2008 at 05:12:18 PM EST
    For small values of correct, sure.

    tapper says "he talked to the guy".  Put the Captain on the record, and let's see the deployment records.  I foresee Beauchamp scale BS.

    Phil Carter says it rings true (none / 0) (#19)
    by fuzzyone on Fri Feb 22, 2008 at 05:13:14 PM EST
    at his blog intel dump.  If you have not read it he is an Iraq vet and attorney who often has some great insights.  I take his opinion seriously.  (Full Disclosure:  I believe he is an Obama supporter)

    If Obama opposed the war (none / 0) (#20)
    by Josey on Fri Feb 22, 2008 at 05:13:29 PM EST
    why did he vote to fund it and Blackwater until after he entered the presidential race?

    On the issue of inadequate equipment for troops (none / 0) (#22)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Feb 22, 2008 at 05:14:55 PM EST
    Hillary in Feb. 2007, speaking on the senate floor about a bill she introduced:

    Finally, I would prohibit any spending to increase troop levels unless, and until, the Secretary of Defense certifies that our American troops will have the proper training and equipment for whatever mission they are ordered to fulfill. Yesterday I read the classified report outlining the findings by the Department of Defense's Inspector General about the problems that have been faced by our troops getting the equipment they desperately need in combat areas like Iraq. The Inspector General did not have the full cooperation of the Department of Defense and it is heartbreaking that the Inspector General could conclude that the U.S. military still has failed to equip our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, especially for the kind of warfare that they are confronting with IEDs and insurgents who are attacking them in asymmetric, unconventional warfare.

    This report comes on the heals of an article in The Washington Post last week entitled, "Equipment for Troops is Lacking: Troops Must Make Do, Officials say." The Washington Post story raised serious questions about the adequacy of the supply of up-armored humvees and trucks. One of our Generals is quoted as saying that he doesn't have the equipment that our forces need and they will have to go into battle with what they have.

    On my way back from Iraq and Afghanistan, I stopped at Landstuhl Hospital in Germany to visit with some of our wounded soldiers. I met with one young man who was lying in his bed with his injuries that he had suffered from one of the shape charges, these new, more advanced, more sophisticated command-controlled IEDs, the Improvised Explosive Devices. He told me that the armored fully equipped humvee that saved his life and that of the life -- the lives of his buddies who were with him. But he also told me that not everybody that he served with had that kind of protection because there weren't enough of those armored vehicles to go around.

    Madam President, I do not believe that the Congress can shirk its responsibility. It is past time that we live up to our constitutional responsibility. If I had been President in October of 2002, I would have never asked for authority to divert our attention from Afghanistan to Iraq, and I certainly would never have started this war. But we are where we are, and this Congress must deliver a strategy to help us end this war in the right way and begin returning our troops home.

    CNN.. (none / 0) (#23)
    by americanincanada on Fri Feb 22, 2008 at 05:15:35 PM EST
    has a different take. They said Obama got the 'gist' of it right but was very off on some important details and nuance.

    Like the fact it happened almost 5 years ago and other various details.

    The reporter said they were not seperated solely by Iraq nor did they have to scrounge for weapons. FWIW.

    The Pentagon (none / 0) (#25)
    by glennmcgahee on Fri Feb 22, 2008 at 05:34:00 PM EST
    Has also chime din that it is unlikely that this was a typical case. But, unnamed sources say its true, so, once again, Senator Obama wins the election.

    not a "typical case" means (none / 0) (#34)
    by sef on Fri Feb 22, 2008 at 08:30:37 PM EST
    there were untypical cases where this was true.  BHO  didn't say it was a typical case, only that it happened.  As I previously noted, a close friend is a guardsman who will deploy later this year for the third time since GWoT began, twice as a reservist and now as a guardsman.

    NBC (none / 0) (#26)
    by Kathy on Fri Feb 22, 2008 at 05:42:08 PM EST
    says he got details wrong, but that didn't matter because he was just trying to make a point.

    Very strange--it was like watching a friend take up for him.

    as donald rumsfeld infamously said. (none / 0) (#29)
    by cpinva on Fri Feb 22, 2008 at 06:22:42 PM EST
    "you go to war with the incompetent, stumbling boobs you have in leadership positions, not the ones you wish you had."

    oh, wait, he didn't say that, we did! sorry.

    probably the reason this rings true is because, well, it most likely is, given the state of our military at the time. from g. bush on down, the bumbling of the administration, with regards to military readiness has been well documented: insufficient troops, material & supplies, after-planning; all have played their part in the clusterf*cks that are afghanistan and iraq.

    for anyone to claim otherwise is to display an intentional ignorance so sweeping, the guiness book of world records is calling on line 1.

    Did Obama care about it? (none / 0) (#37)
    by RalphB on Fri Feb 22, 2008 at 10:37:52 PM EST
    Why didn't Sen Obama take this up, if it was important to him?  Looks like John Warner will give it a try.

    Sen John Warner of Virginia, the ranking Republican and former chairman of the Armed Services Committee, wrote to Mr. Obama on Friday seeking more details. Sen Warner wants to find out of the story is true -- and, if so, who might be responsible for any lapses. He said that he will also raise the issue with Army Secretary Peter Geren and Army Chief of Staff William Casey when they testify next week before his committee.