Pentagon Rebuts Editorial In 'Military Newspapers' Calling For Rumsfeld Resignation

The MSM has had a field day trumpeting an impending editorial in "military newspapers" calling for Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's resignation. But as NewsBusters John Stephenson and Michael Bates have documented here and here, here's what the liberal media didn't disclose:

  • Despite the official-sounding ring of "military newspapers," these are commercial, private-sector operations owned by Gannett, the chain whose leading outlet is the left-leaning USA Today. The editorial is roughly as representative of the official military view of the Secretary as an anti-Rumsfeld rant by the New York Times.
  • While the MSM tried to multiply the significance of the editorial by mentioning that it was carried in four separate papers, representing the various branches of the military, again they are all just fellow members of the Gannett stable. It's as misleading as claiming that an article published in the various regional editions of TV Guide appeared in "hundreds of magazines."

Now the Pentagon has weighed in. Staying above the fray as to just what those "military newspapers" are - and are not - the DoD has offered a systematic rebuttal of the various allegations contained in the editorial. Highlights:

Editorial Claim: Secretary Rumsfeld has been presenting "rosy scenarios" on the situation in Iraq.

Pentagon Response: The DoD denies it and challenges those who have so claimed to cite chapter and verse.

Editorial Claim: “Rumsfeld has lost credibility with the uniformed leadership, with the troops, with Congress and with the public at large. His strategy has failed, and his ability to lead is compromised. And although the blame for our failures in Iraq rests with the secretary, it will be the troops who bear its brunt.”

Pentagon Response: "Defense Secretaries in times of war are always subject to sometimes harsh criticism. The Secretary has helped oversee two conflicts while also transforming a mammoth bureaucracy, overseeing sweeping humanitarian missions across the globe, and helping to protect the American people at home."

Editorial Claim: “Active-duty military leaders are starting to voice misgivings about the war’s planning, execution and dimming prospects for success. Army Gen. John Abizaid, chief of U.S. Central Command, told a Senate Armed Services Committee in September: ‘I believe that the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I’ve seen it ... and that if not stopped, it is possible that Iraq could move towards civil war.’”

Pentagon Response: "Not only have military commanders involved in Operation Iraqi Freedom continually expressed their belief in the importance of the mission in Iraq," says the Pentagon, but General Abizaid’s quote was used selectively and omitted this part of his statement:

“This is a hard thing. And it’s going to take a long time. And it’s going to take a lot of courage and a lot of perseverance and unfortunately more blood, and it’s going to take more treasure. But there are more people in Iraq that are working with us to try to make their country a better place than are trying to tear it apart. . . .The people that are trying to tear it apart are ruthless. They are pulling out everything that they can to make it fail. . . .And it’s hard. That’s why we kept extra forces there. And it’s hard and it’s tough and it’s difficult, but we will prevail. . . But I can tell you, people have a right to express their opinion. There’s political activity. There’s freedom of the press. There are things that are happening in Iraq that don’t happen anywhere else in the Middle East. And we ought to be proud of it.”

Editorial Claim: “Last week, someone leaked to the New York Times a Central Command briefing slide showing an assessment that the civil conflict in Iraq now borders on ‘critical’ and has been sliding toward "chaos" for most of the past year.”

Pentagon response: "It is foolish to try to draw conclusions from one piece of classified information leaked to the New York Times. What that page referred to was a snapshot in time. Military and civilian leaders have repeatedly said Iraq is facing difficult challenges, and that as long as the enemy is determined to thwart a free and democratic Iraq the stability throughout the country will fluctuate. The security situation, however, is not monolithic across the country. Many parts of Iraq are relatively peaceful."

The full text of the Pentagon's response is available here.

Bottom line: The MSM had a fun 15 minutes with the "big news" of the editorial in the "military newspapers." But on examination, the episode turns out to be little more than a rehash of questionable assertions by a gold-plated member of the MSM.

Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.