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Leopold: Murtha Lays the Dead at Rumsfeld's Door

Murtha Lays the Dead at Rumsfeld's Door

By Jason Leopold
t r u t h o u t | Report

Friday 15 September 2006

Democratic congressman John Murtha released a 12-page report outlining severe shortfalls plaguing the US Army as thousands of troops prepare to be deployed to Iraq.

Murtha, a 37-year Marine Corps veteran who entered the political arena in 1990, said Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld bears full responsibility for the military's consistent readiness failures and demanded that the Defense Secretary resign.

"Many Army combat and support units scheduled to deploy to Iraq in 2007 will have less than the required one year period for rest and re-training," the report says. "This is one of the key indicators that lead many Army officials to conclude that current deployment rates cannot be sustained without breaking the force."

Murtha publicized the report at a news conference Wednesday where he was joined by Congressman David Obey, D-Wisconsin. Murtha read the most explosive parts of the report, much of which is based on detailed, internal Army documents his staff requested over the past few months.

The findings are damning.

"In effect, the Army has become a 'hand-to-mouth' organization," Murtha said, reading from the report. "Its inability to get ahead of the deployment and training curves is rooted in the Secretary's miscalculations and blind optimism about troop and industrial surge requirements for the US occupation of Iraq."

Murtha added that "thousands of key Army weapons platforms - such as tanks, Humvees, Bradley Fighting Vehicles - sit in disuse at Army maintenance depots for lack of funding ... there are over 600 tanks - enough for one full Army division - sitting at Anniston Army Depot."

An Army spokesman said Murtha's report is wildly overblown, and released a statement in response to the congressman's charges.

"Today's Army is the highest quality Army this Nation has ever produced - it has not 'gone south,'" a statement released by the Army says. "To imply otherwise is an insult to the young men and women who have volunteered to protect our nation's freedoms."

But Murtha refuses to back down. Frustrated by the White House's refusal to hold Rumsfeld accountable for failing to prepare for a lengthy ground war in Iraq, which, according to career military officials have led to thousands of US casualties, Murtha released a resolution calling for Rumsfeld to immediately step down.

"For the good of the country, the United States of America must restore credibility both at home and abroad and the first step toward restoring that credibility must be to demonstrate accountability for the mistakes that have been made in prosecuting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq by
immediately effecting the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and replacing him with someone capable of leading the nation's military in a strategy to resolve our deployment in Iraq," Murtha's resolution says.

Megan Grote, a spokeswoman for Murtha, said the resolution has five co-sponsors and is gaining support among House Democrats. However, she cautioned not to read too much into that, since the resolution is just starting to make the rounds among Murtha's colleagues in the House.

"It's still too early to know, because it's only been a day since the resolution was released," Grote said. "There are other members who've called for [Rumsfeld] to resign in the past whose offices may not have heard about the resolution yet."

Career military officials have long believed the reason the Iraq war hasn't been a "cakewalk," as Bush administration officials described it prior to the March 2003 US-led attack, is because of the flawed war plan Rumsfeld designed in 2002.

In October 2002, Rumsfeld ordered the military's regional commanders to rewrite all of their war plans to capitalize on precision weapons, better intelligence, and speedier deployment in the event the United States decided to invade Iraq.

The goal was to use fewer ground troops, a move that caused dismay among some in the military who said concern for the troops requires overwhelming numerical superiority to assure victory.

Rumsfeld refused to listen to his military commanders, saying that his plan would allow the military "to begin combat operations on less notice and with far fewer troops than thought possible - or thought wise - before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks," the New York Times reported in its October 13, 2002, edition.

Military officials viewed Rumsfeld's approach as injecting too much risk into war planning and said it could result in US casualties that might be prevented by amassing larger forces, according to published reports.

Those predictions have been borne out over the past 41 months, and that is of grave concern to Murtha, who spent most of his life in the military. Murtha said during Wednesday's news conference that issues plaguing today's military are so severe that "of the 16 active-duty, non-deployed combat brigades in the United States managed by the Army's Forces Command, the vast majority of them are rated at the lowest readiness ratings."

"The situation facing the Army Guard and Reserve is comparatively worse," Murtha added. "Of all the Guard units not currently mobilized, about four-fifths received the lowest readiness rating. Personnel shortages are the major reason behind the decline in Guard and Reserve readiness-shortages created for the most part by mobilizations having lapsed or personnel having been pulled from units to augment others. Perhaps most troubling to many of the Army's senior uniformed leaders is the lack of national attention to the Army's plight."


Jason Leopold is a former Los Angeles bureau chief for Dow Jones Newswire. He has written over 2,000 stories on the California energy crisis and received the Dow Jones Journalist of the Year Award in 2001 for his coverage on the issue as well as a Project Censored award in 2004. Leopold also reported extensively on Enron's downfall and was the first journalist to land an interview with former Enron president Jeffrey Skilling following Enron's bankruptcy filing in December 2001. Leopold has appeared on CNBC and National Public Radio as an expert on energy policy and has also been the keynote speaker at more than two dozen energy industry conferences around the country.

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