Skip to comments.Fact Check: Obama's Platoon Story
Posted on 02/22/2008 5:40:57 PM PST by mdittmar
WASHINGTON (AP) Democrat Barack Obama says the war in Iraq, which he opposes, has pulled troops away from Afghanistan and left soldiers there without proper equipment.
He underscored his point in the Democratic debate Thursday by telling a story about a rifle platoon in Afghanistan that allegedly didn't have enough soldiers or weapons to do its job, leaving the platoon to scrounge for weapons from the Taliban.
His source was an anonymous Army captain, whom his campaign refused to identify Friday.
"You know, I've heard from an Army captain who was the head of a rifle platoon supposed to have 39 men in a rifle platoon," Obama said. "Ended up being sent to Afghanistan with 24 because 15 of those soldiers had been sent to Iraq,"
"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.
The Obama campaign offered no details to support the captain's story, making it impossible to verify. A spokesman did not immediately respond to questions about who the captain was and when and how the candidate learned about the allegation.
ABC News said it talked to the unidentified captain, whose account of shortages in Afghanistan was for the most part accurately summarized by Obama, although not verified.
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.
The Pentagon has acknowledged forces are stretched, but spokesman Bryan Whitman said that without knowing more, he could not comment on the veracity of Obama's claim, except to say: "I find that account pretty hard to imagine."
Whitman contended "all of our units and service members that go into harm's way are properly trained, equipped and with the leadership to be successful for the mission that they've been given."
Obama said the platoon was supposed to have 39 soldiers. A platoon does not have to consist of 39, but can have between 16 to 40 soldiers, according to standard Army unit organization. It is also commanded by a lieutenant and not a captain.
According to the ABC report, the captain was a lieutenant when he took command of the rifle platoon.
Sen. John Warner, a supporter of likely GOP presidential nominee John McCain, sent Obama a letter Friday asking for details about the platoon and the name and whereabouts of the captain, so he can tell military officials about it at an upcoming hearing. Warner is ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Sources at TNR.
Have they changed my Army? I have never seen a Captain in charge of a platoon. It is the job of the Captain to be the Company Commander not a platoon leader. Platoon Leaders are LTs. Or am I wrong after serving over 25 years?
Actually, the story has a verifiable aspect: Obama gave a specific number of soldiers from the platoon who were assigned to Iraq, while the platoon was in Afghanistan.
It should be possible to find out whether there were ever any rifle platoons in Afghanistan with that number of soldiers normally attached to the platoon reassigned to units in Iraq.
I’m not military myself, but the whole thing seems implausible. Does the army ever reassign significant numbers of soliders from a unit that small, rather than reassigning the whole unit? I could see one or two with special competencies (oops, the Arabic speaker shouldn’t be sent to Afghanistan, or something like that), but I recall Obama asserted that something like 14 out of the supposed complement of 39 soliders were in Iraq, rather than Afghanistan with the unit.
I think you meant that from 8 to 12 can be in a SQUAD.
Otherwise, good post.
Well ABC says the Captain in question had been promoted, but was reporting on the condition of the platoon he had commanded when a Lieutenant.
Of course the story is BS—thanks for confirming my intuition (based on no military experience whatsoever) that the notion of dividing a platoon to deploy part to one theater and part to another was absolute rot.
GET THE STRAIGHT SCOOP FROM GATEWAY PUNDIT:
“MISTAKEN MESSIAH!!... Taliban Story An Obamination! ...Update: Pentagon Refutes Obama ...Update 2: Conclusion: ITS A LIE.
** Uses story from 2003 to slam military!”
Read all about it here:
The new campaign hamburger for our guy Barack, “The ObamaWhopperBurger”. It looks as big as a US platoon in Afghanistan, but is short a few pieces of lettuce and tomato.
Exactly. This babe in the woods will believe and repeat anything...Obama won't make it to November. This is gonna be a hoot.
Interesting to note that after the story broke ABC Snooze BLOG magical found the Captain, who of course refused to be named, and suddenly what the Captain said to Obama has been changed to magically fit military facts. Doesn’t change the fact there are gaping holes between what the Captain supposedly said and what Obama claims he said.
Bo Snerdley says, "Obama, prove it!"
Is this Russ Limbaugh’s Mr. Snerdley, or are there two people with the same name who are equally intelligence on politics?
Yes, that is the Limbaugh Bo Snerdley, aka James Golden.
Here’s what he said about Oprahbama:
“This is Bo Snerdley, African-American in good standing and certified black enough to criticize Obama guy. Mr. Obama, the claims you raise are quite serious. The allegations are so incredulous, that, quite frankly, they are difficult to believe, and I want to believe. I want to hope for change. So, with all due respect, Senator Obama, I demand you prove it. Tell America the name of the military official you spoke with and allow an independent investigation to verify these serious allegations you raise. On behalf of our EIB brothers and sisters in the hood, we’re asking you, Mr. Obama, what’s up with that, yo? You got proof? On behalf of our Hispanic brothers and sisters, we’re asking, Señor Obama, es verdad? Okay, that’s it, Mr. Limbaugh, finally somebody might be able to make Jimmy Carter look competent.”
Obama only reveals his own naivity saying what he said.
First, the President of the United States isn’t involved in the manning, equiping and supplying of units down to the level of platoon. What the President of the United States does, as Commander in Chief, is give his commanding officers orders and the support needed to carry out those orders. Between the President and the platoons of our ground forces are various levels of subordinate commanders and staff officers.
Second, if the resources provided by the President are insufficient, this is a matter not only for the President but also for our U.S. Congress. Presumably, if there is some problem with under-manning or under-equiping or under-supplying our units in the field, a whole lot of people should be involved; including the chain of command, inspectors general, and various ways for people in or around the military to communicate concerns to the American people and our elected officials. For a U.S. Senator to not be part of the solution for an alleged problem like this is pathetic.
Third, the only reason Barak Obama would repeat a story like this is because it confirms his ignorance, prejudice and hatred of the United States. The truth is our military achieved spectacular victories in both Afghanistan and Iraq, overthrowing two despotic regimes in lightning quick strikes, operating very, very far from our shores.
Subsequent to these victories, our military has supported the reconstruction of these two countries in the midst of armed insurgencies supported by safe havens, fresh recruits, money and weapons from the outside. This, we didn’t anticipate, and we were caught off-guard. But, after regrouping, our military responded to the challenge magnificently. I do believe our response will be studied in military academies for centuries, as exemplary of how to deal with such situations.
There is a lot of credit to go around, President Bush and General Petraus for sure, but also Senator McCain, and all our heroes in the army and the marines who are getting the job done.
Judging from what is now attributed by ABC to the unnamed Captain, one of the two critical claims made by Obama Hussein has been totally refuted by the anonymous Captain himself:
Obama Hussein claims that the platoon had such a shortage of weapons and ammo that they had to go after Taliban weapons and ammo to get more. ABC reports that this Captain refutes Obama Hussein on this point, and says that they did not need to seek out Taliban equipment, simply that they did sometimes makes some use of it when it came their way. The difference is night and day. Many former soldiers have reported firing AK47s on training ranges andd even using some in combat due to dusty conditions etc. — that’s a far cry from claiming that this mystery platoon was desperately under-equipped and trying to capture weapons and supplies from the Tal-EE-ban to make up for a glaring shortfall. Obama Hussein has misrepresented the facts on that key point.
The only other point of interest is whether the unnamed platoon really was 33% below normal strength when sent to Afghanistan, although I have seen a number of statements from former Army folks that actual platoon size can vary considerably. It would still be important to learn whether Obama Hussein had any of the story right, or whether he is just doing the usual leftist fear-and-smear attack on the CinC in time of war.
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