O’Hanlon: Soldiers Of The 82nd Airborne ‘May Have Been Taking A Slight Poke’ At Me

mohIn his New York Times op-ed, co-authored with Ken Pollack, Michael O’Hanlon wrote in support of the escalation:

Viewed from Iraq, where we just spent eight days meeting with American and Iraqi military and civilian personnel, the political debate in Washington is surreal. The Bush administration has over four years lost essentially all credibility. Yet now the administration’s critics, in part as a result, seem unaware of the significant changes taking place.

This weekend, seven soldiers of the 82nd Airborne responded in kind:

Viewed from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal. … As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day.

This morning, O’Hanlon appeared on The Diane Rehm Show to discuss the situation in Iraq. Asked to comment on the op-ed written by the soldiers, O’Hanlon said, “They may have even been taking a slight poke at us as we used a similar term in an op-ed three weeks earlier.” Indeed.

O’Hanlon went on to argue that, while he “read that op-ed very carefully” and has “great respect” for the soldiers, he had to “get a few simple facts on the table” that suggested the soldiers didn’t understand the full picture. O’Hanlon claimed “civilian fatalities are down by a third,” and “we’re on the tactical offensive.”

Listen to a portion of the interview here:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/08/wamu.320.40.flv]

Here’s a “simple fact” O’Hanlon neglected. Statistics compiled by O’Hanlon’s Brookings Institution Iraq index (see p. 18) demonstrate this summer is the bloodiest summer of the entire Iraq war:

June-July-August 2003: 113 Americans killed
June-July-August 2004: 162 Americans killed
June-July-August 2005: 217 Americans killed
June-July-August 2006: 169 Americans killed
June-July-August 2007: 229 Americans killed so far

Center for American Progress military analyst Lawrence Korb — who also appeared on the Rehm show — cautioned O’Hanlon against dismissing the soldiers’ arguments. “Let me tell you something,” he said. “From my own days in the military, pay attention to the enlisted people. The officers — and I was an officer and I went through Vietnam — would always try to put out a rosy scenario to please the political masses. What these young people are saying is look, you can’t win no matter what you do.”

UPDATE: McClatchy reported recently that its statistics don’t support the claim that Iraqi civilian casualties have fallen dramatically.