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Iraq Update Nature of the Enemy Letters to the Editor Heroes Special Reports

The Best Led, Trained, and Equipped Army

Nov. 21, 2006 In a November 19 editorial (“The Army We Need”), the New York Times makes a number of statements that merit responses:

TIMES CLAIM: The Army’s end strength “needs to be increased by some 75,000 to 100,000 troops.”

FACTS: The Army’s active force has increased by some 20,000 soldiers in the last six years. The “Operational Army”—those who deploy and fight—has been significantly increased by internal restructuring, which will add some 40,000 additional soldiers to the operational side by 2008.

TIMES CLAIM: A higher end strength would enable “a doubling of special operations forces.”

FACTS: Since Fiscal Year 2001 the budget for special operations forces has more than doubled. By 2011, the Special Operations Forces will be the largest they have been in more than 30 years, which will be a 50 percent increase in personnel from 2001.

TIMES CLAIM: The “morale and confidence of America’s serving men and women” needs to be restored.

FACTS: The Army successfully met its recruiting goal of 80,000 individuals this year, the second highest goal since 1990. Reenlistment rates remain high, especially among troops who have served in Afghanistan or Iraq.

TIMES CLAIM: Work needs to be done in order to “repair[] the damage done to America’s military capacities and credibility.”

FACTS: The average soldier and Army unit today has far more and better equipment, and has received far more training than in the past—not to mention sweeping transformations of technology and organization. General Schoomaker has called this Army the “the best led, trained and equipped Army that I’ve ever seen in the field.”

Number Confusion

Nov. 16, 2006 This page is dedicated to correcting and clarifying errors of fact and perception about Department activities—which includes errors of our own.

We would therefore like to extend our appreciation to the Washington Post and particularly columnist Al Kamen for alerting us to an issue related to “Six Years of Accomplishments with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.”

In that compilation, which reflects on the Department’s accomplishments over the past six years, it is noted that the U.S. military has liberated 50 million people in Iraq and Afghanistan. It then stated that 31 million Afghans and 27 million Iraqis were liberated. Adding those two numbers together yields 58 million.

This was obviously confusing. The original 50 million was based on approximate estimates of the populations of Iraq and Afghanistan at the time of their respective liberations. The latter numbers referred to estimates of those populations today.

The document has been updated to reflect this clarification.

The Real Record on Transformation

Times editorial gets it wrong

Nov. 9, 2006 The Pentagon has again requested a correction for a New York Times editorial. On November 8th, the New York Times wrote that “Truly transforming the military would have meant trading in expensive cold war weaponry, like attack submarines and stealth fighters, for pilotless drones, swifter ships and lighter, more mobile ground forces. Mr. Rumsfeld never had the interest—or the political will—to take on that fight.”

Secretary Rumsfeld has in fact worked hard to do precisely what the Times accuses him of not doing, in order to transform the military to address the threats of the 21st century. This transformation has included, among many other things: the massive increase of unmanned aerial vehicles—there were 132 in 2001, as compared to over 3,400 today; the design and development of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS)—part of a new class of warship designed for speed (up to 40 knots) and inland operations in shallow water; and the shift from a division-based to a brigade-based Army—which has created autonomous units that are more agile, lethal, and deployable on shorter notice. Special Operations forces have received significant increases in manpower, funding, and responsibilities.

As the letter notes: “Editorial pages are obviously forums for opinions. But those opinions should be based on facts. In this instance, your editorial is factually incorrect, and I believe you owe it to the public to be honest about the facts and correct the record.”

Read the full letter here.

Response to Army Times Editorial

Nov. 5, 2006 – UPDATED

On Saturday, Nov. 4, the Army Times released an editorial titled, "Time for Rumsfeld to go." It is important to first note that the "military papers" that have run this editorial are not owned, managed, or controlled by the U.S. military. They are privately held newspapers forming part of the Arlington, Va.-based Gannett publishing chain.

The editorial included a number of inaccurate and misleading statements.

Click here to read the Pentagon’s detailed response.

New Feature

Letters to the Editor

Nov. 03, 2006 A new Letters to the Editor archive can be found here.

Five Myths About the War on Terror

Not everything you hear is true

Oct. 31, 2006 There are a number of prevalent myths about the War on Terror. Over the next few weeks, the Pentagon will highlight some of the more prominent ones in the public dialogue—and explain why they are nothing more than myths.

See the first five myths here.

Rumsfeld Comments Mischaracterized

Oct. 27, 2006 Several news outlets, including the AP and Washington Post, reported or headlined incorrectly that Secretary Rumsfeld told “critics” to “back off” during yesterday’s press briefing. In fact, the Secretary was referring specifically to journalists who were seeking to create a perception of major divisions between the positions of the U.S. and Iraqi governments. He was not referring to critics of the administration’s Iraq policy.

Read the DOD letter to the Washington Post.

Read the transcript of Secretary Rumsfeld’s press conference.

The New York Times on “Real Terrorists”

A “lighthearted” matter?

Image:  Book - American Soldier, General Tommy FranksOct. 27, 2006This week’s exchange with the New York Times isn’t the first time the Department of Defense has expressed concern about inaccuracies in a Times editorial. A September 7 editorial (“A Sudden Sense of Urgency”) asserted that, with the transfer of 14 high-value terrorist suspects to Cuba, “President Bush finally has some real terrorists in Guantánamo Bay.” In fact, those held prior to the transfer included personal bodyguards of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda recruiters, trainers, and facilitators. Another individual held at Guantánamo was Mohamed al-Kahtani, believed to be the intended 20th hijacker on September 11th.

The Times declined to issue a correction, noting that “the phrase in question was meant to be somewhat lighthearted in tone and not literal.”

Read the full exchange here.

New York Times
Involved in Mythmaking

DOD asks editorial page to correct error

Image:  Book - American Soldier, General Tommy FranksOct. 24, 2006The Pentagon today asked the New York Times to correct an editorial, which claimed that “There have never been enough troops, the result of Mr. Rumsfeld’s negligent decision to use Iraq as a proving ground for his pet military theories, rather than listen to his generals.”  Whether the Times believes there were (or are) enough troops in Iraq, it is demonstrably untrue that troop levels in Iraq are the result of Secretary Rumsfeld’s “not listening to his generals.”

Generals involved in troop-level decisions have been very clear on this matter, making numerous statements that are not new—or difficult—to find, such as extensive commentary in General Franks’s book, American Soldier.  The implication is that the New York Times either believes these generals are not being truthful, or that they are too intimidated to tell the truth. The Pentagon would vigorously dispute both characterizations.

Read what generals themselves have to say about the subject, in a Pentagon letter to the editor.

UPDATE: The New York Times has declined the Pentagon’s request to correct its editorial.

Newsweek Declines Pentagon Request to Examine Reporting

DOD asks magazine to reconsider refusal

Oct. 20, 2006In response to a Newsweek article on Afghanistan (“The Rise of Jihadistan,” October 2, 2006), the Department of Defense sent Newsweek a lengthy rebuttal of points of fact and opinion, as well as a request for an “opportunity to submit a stand-alone column that not only rebuts some of the more sensational charges, but offers your readers a clearer view of the very real challenges we face in Afghanistan—as well as the many achievements of the past five years.”

Newsweek dismissed the rebuttal as the “government position,” as well as the request for a stand-alone column. The Pentagon’s response to that letter read in part: “First, a ‘concise’ letter to the editor, of say, 200 words, cannot adequately address an [sic] 2200-word article containing a series of false assertions. Second, the issue is not Newsweek’s position versus the ‘government position.’ The issue is that your readers were given a one-sided, opinion-laced article on Afghanistan based on falsehoods—which is something that journalists and editors are usually concerned about. Your dismissive reply is disappointing, to say the least.”

Read the whole exchange here
Various editions

DOD Disputes Weekly Standard Column

Oct. 18, 2006

The Weekly Standard.

To the Editor:

Bill Kristol’s recent article “No More Huffing and Puffing” manipulates Secretary of Defense Donald’s Rumsfeld’s comments at a recent press conference and misleads your readers.

Mr. Kristol’s article quotes at length from a recent press conference by Secretary Rumsfeld. The Secretary opened his remarks by noting the sixth anniversary of the terrorist attack on the USS Cole. The Secretary then moved into a discussion of the threat posed by North Korea.

Mr. Kristol interrupts Secretary Rumsfeld’s remarks by interjecting a question, asking, “But on the sixth anniversary of the attack on the USS Cole, what are we doing about these threats and trends?” He then proceeds to use the rest of the Secretary’s remarks—in which he discusses the need for cooperation of the international community on stopping North Korea—to answer a question the Secretary was never asked.

Mr. Kristol conducts this misleading parsing of Secretary Rumsfeld’s statement so that he can make his point that, in his words, “the lesson Rumsfeld takes from the USS Cole and all that has happened since, is this: We’re dependent on the ‘international community’ and we need to cooperate with others.” (emphasis added.)

Though it may strike some as odd that Mr. Kristol takes issue with the notion of the “need to cooperate with others,” Secretary Rumsfeld said nothing of the sort. His discussion of the international community pertained specifically to the President’s policy on North Korea, not our reaction to the Cole bombing or other terrorist attacks. If anything, in fact, the Secretary’s comments on the international community could be read as exactly the opposite of what Mr. Kristol implies. Indeed, a few days earlier, the Secretary noted at another press event the following: “The international community’s going to have to do a lot better or else face a world that will be quite different, with multiple nuclear nations and . . . the added risk of these very lethal weapons falling into the hands of non-state entities.”

A full transcript of the Secretary’s comments in both press conferences—absent Mr. Kristol’s commentary—is available at http://www.defenselink.mil/transcripts/.


Dorrance Smith

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs

Recent Entries
 • 11-21-06 – The Best Led, Trained, and Equipped Army
 • 11-09-06 – The Real Record on Transformation
 • 11-04-06 – Response to Army Times Editorial
 • 10-31-06 – Five Myths About the War
on Terror
 • 10-27-06 – Rumsfeld Comments Mischaracterized
 • 10-27-06 – The New York Times on "Real Terrorists"
 • 10-24-06 – New York Times Involved in Mythmaking
 • 10-20-06 – Newsweek Declines Pentagon Request to Examine Reporting
 • 10-18-06 – DOD Disputes Weekly Standard Column
News You Can Use
Nature of the Enemy
Nov. 15, 2006 Each week the Defense Dept. highlights the military men and women who have gone above and beyond in the global war on terror. | More |
Nov. 08, 2006 This latest edition of the Nature of the Enemy profiles one of the suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and discusses the importance extremists put on snipers. | More |
Click to go to Iraq Update
Read the latest news from the official website of the Multi-National Force – Iraq.
Click to go to "Letters to the Editor" page
Nov. 2, 2006 The Department of Defense firmly believes that it is the government’s responsibility to convey the truth to the public. These letters to the editor are examples of the Department’s effort to correct inaccuracies or misunderstandings about the Department and what it does. | More |
Special Reports
Oct. 24, 2006 – In Case You Missed It U.S. Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commanding general of Multi-National Force-Iraq, joins U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad at a briefing to press in Baghdad on developments in Iraq. | More |
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