DiRita’s Deceitful Reponse to American Progress

American Progress fellow Larry Korb recently published an op-ed that drew a response this past weekend from Pentagon spokesman Larry DiRita.

Korb had argued that the Bush administration’s repeated failure to heed the advice of top military commanders about troop levels in Iraq had not only undercut the mission, but severely weakened our military. “Gen. Maxwell Taylor, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for President Lyndon Johnson, said that while we sent the Army to Vietnam to save Vietnam, we had to withdraw to save the Army,” Korb wrote. “This is where we are today.”

DiRita was incredulous:

Korb is looking for something that doesn’t exist: a difference in views between civilian leaders and military commanders regarding force levels in Iraq. The President, Secretary (Donald) Rumsfeld and military commanders have all consistently said “” and believed “” that the conflict against extremists in Iraq will ultimately have to be fought and won by Iraqis.

One doesn’t have to look far to discredit DiRita’s argument — examples of U.S. forces on the ground disagreeing with current troop levels are numerous.

But it’s notable that DiRita wants to shift the focus to the number of Iraqi troops, rather than the number of U.S. forces. Just a few months ago, we learned that one of the military commanders who apparently disagreed with U.S. troop levels was none other than Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, who oversees the training of Iraqi security forces.

At a House Armed Services Committee hearing this February, Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) told Donald Rumsfeld of a recent conversation she had with Gen. Petraeus, during which she asked whether additional troops would have prevented many of the failures of Iraq’s security forces. Petraeus responded, “It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it, Ms. Sanchez?”

And contrary to DiRita’s claim that U.S. commanders and the Pentagon were all on the same page regarding force levels, Rumsfeld even acknowledged the disagreement:

RUMSFELD: … General Petreaus is in charge of the training and equipping of Iraqi security forces. And General Casey and General Abizaid are the ones who advice us as to what the force levels ought to be in the country.

And it appears that General Petreaus doesn’t agree with them and that’s fine. I’m sure other people don’t agree with General Casey or General Abizaid.

DiRita finishes off his letter with an attack on Larry Korb’s patriotism, claiming “Korb’s warnings about a ‘broken Army’ are just wrong and disrespectful of an institution that is the best ever fielded.” Considering Larry Korb spent a good portion of his career addressing this very issue — as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower under President Reagan — we’ll dismiss DiRita’s claim for what it is: a poor attempt to cover up for policies that have weakened our nation’s defenses.