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The Pentagon's War on the Facts Is Anyone Telling the Truth?

Is Anyone Telling the Truth in the Bush Administration?

by BRIAN CLOUGHLEY

Has Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez resigned yet? If not, why not? It is astonishing that he remains in his position as commander of occupation forces in Iraq.

Why astonishing? Why resign?

Because the Secretary of Defense of the United States of America has declared that General Sanchez might not be telling him the truth. The general should have resigned at once and without seeking ‘clarification’ or asking what Rumsfeld intended when he publicly disparaged him, and thus the entire US Army.

What Rumsfeld said in an interview with the CBS News ‘Early Show’ on Veterans’ Day, November 11, was clear and unambiguous. He "noted that the number of Iraqis serving in security forces is rising steadily and may soon exceed the number of US troops on the ground. Asked if US commanders might be sugar-coating their reports, the defense secretary insisted ‘What I want to hear is the truth. And I hope they’re telling the truth and you believe they’re telling the truth and if they’re not, they’re not serving their country very well because I have no bias one way or the other’."

Rumsfeld ‘hopes’ that the most senior generals in the US Army are telling the truth. But he considers it possible they might NOT be telling the truth, because he used the words "if they’re not". And if they are not telling the truth, then he states flatly that "they’re not serving their country very well". He must have meant what he said, otherwise why would he phrase his reply like that? We keep being told he is very clever and bright. And a main characteristic of people who are clever and bright is the ability to state precisely what they wish to convey in terms understandable to everyone. He also said he hopes that "you [that is all of us who don't inhabit Rummyworld] believe they’re telling the truth". This is defamatory. The fact that Rumsfeld says we should all hope that American generals are telling the truth is, let us say, a trifle unsupportive of his military commanders. As a former soldier I go further and state bluntly that it is downright bloody disloyal and insulting. It is a disgrace that the Secretary of Defense should even hint that US Army generals are telling lies. Unless they are telling lies, of course.

So on the matter of hoping that the defense secretary and generals and others are telling us the truth, let’s examine a few statistics provided by prominent Washington people in the past few weeks concerning the supposed numbers of Iraqis possibly enlisted in various security forces within that blitzed, crippled and now occupied country that never at any time presented the slightest threat to the security of the United States.

On October 21 Rumsfeld told the American Forces Press Service that "In the past five months, roughly 85,000 Iraqis have been trained to take up arms." According to the Washington Times on October 30 "Mr. Rumsfeld praised the number of armed Iraqi security forces being trained and organized by some 130,000 US troops occupying Iraq. ‘In less than six months, we’ve gone from zero Iraqis providing security to their country to close to 100,000 Iraqis currently under arms,’ he said, adding armed Iraqis soon will outnumber US forces and eventually all coalition forces in Iraq."

On November 3 the Washington Post recorded that "On October 9, Iraq administrator L. Paul Bremer told a news conference in Baghdad there were 60,000 Iraqis providing security to their country . . . about three weeks later, Rice told foreign reporters the overall number was over 85,000 and growing. That same day [October 30], Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D Wolfowitz told an audience at Georgetown University the figure was ‘some 80,000 to 90,000′. On Saturday, the day before Rumsfeld said [on November 2] there were more than 100,000, a senior official in the occupation authority provided a figure of nearly 85,000 which included 50,000 police, 20,000 in the facility protection service, 7,800 in the civil defense corps, 5,000 border guards and 1,400 in a new Iraqi army."

Then on November 11 we heard on NBC’s ‘Today’ program from General Richard B Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that "the number of Iraqis serving in police forces, the civil defense corps, site protection services, border guard units and the nascent Iraqi military has reached 131,000 . . . today there are more Iraqis in the coalition, if you will, than any other force." By any interpretation this means that the number of Iraqi armed forces is greater than the number of American troops occupying Iraq.

Here are quoted numbers of Iraqi forces, by dates.

October 9 : 60,000 (Bremer) ;
October 21 : roughly 85,000 (Rumsfeld) ;
October 30 : over 80,000 (Rice) ;
same date : 80 to 90 thousand (Wolfowitz) ;
same date : close to 100,000 (Rumsfeld) ;
November 1 : nearly 85,000 (Occupation Authority); November 2 : more than 100,000 (Rumsfeld) ;
November 11 : 131,000 (Myers).

In one month the official number of Iraqi police and para-militaries seems to have more than doubled. (The army has 1400 under training. That is one fact that can’t be disguised or manipulated.) But somebody is telling lies. In fact it seems lots of people are telling lies.

So let’s look again at Rumsfeld himself, the loyal superior who publicly belittles his generals by saying "I hope they’re telling the truth". He forgets that some of us keep records of what he says, mainly because we suspect he might not be telling the truth but also because we think he might have a few problems with reality. Like imagining the number of Iraqi security forces increased by 15,000 in twenty-four hours on 1 and 2 November. This is amazing, really, and reflects much credit on those who enlisted, trained and deployed all these police and para-militaries in such a short period. It works out at 625 an hour, which must be a world record.

It was a ‘senior official in the Occupation Authority’ who said there were 85,000 Iraqi security forces in existence on November 1. Yet the defense secretary declared there were "more than 100,000" a day later. (Two days before, he said "close to 100,000", and a week before that, "roughly 85,000" but let’s not confuse the issue.) Where did Rumsfeld get that figure from? Obviously not Bremer’s people, because they would have told him 85,000 which is what they told reporters. So how did he arrive at the number of 100,000? Is anyone going to query him? Don’t count on it, because the Rumsfeld reaction is to deny he ever said what he said if he thinks he didn’t say it or imagines we’ve forgotten it. Or something.

But then, wonder of wonders, over a further nine days another 30,000 dedicated armed Iraqi defenders of liberation appeared, like uniformed rabbits out of a hat. If they exist they will be about as much use as rabbits, of course, but how did the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs conjure them up? Who gave him the figure of 131,000? What was the breakdown of "police forces, the civil defense corps, site protection services, border guard units" that he so confidently trotted out to the world? Of course his figure would have nothing to do with the prediction by Rumsfeld on October 30 that in some miraculous fashion "armed Iraqis soon will outnumber U.S. forces and eventually all coalition forces in Iraq".

We remember Rumsfeld saying before his war that Iraqis would welcome US troops after being invaded. His exact words to Jim Lehrer on PBS’s ‘The News Hour’ on February 20 were "There is no question but that they [US troops] would be welcomed [by Iraqis]". We remember his testimony to the House Armed Services Committee on September 18 last year when he stated categorically that Iraq possessed "large clandestine stockpiles of biological weapons" and "large clandestine stocks of chemical weapons". He repeated his statements next day to the Senate Committee. All this is on record. These are facts that cannot be contradicted.

Oh yes they can. When Rumsfeld was asked about these statements last week by Morris Jones of Sinclair Broadcasting he said "Never said that. Never did. You may remember it well, but you’re thinking of somebody else. You can’t find, anywhere, me saying anything like either of those two things you just said I said."

The Secretary of Defense of the United States of America is a proven liar. But is there anyone in the Bush administration who is capable of telling the truth?

BRIAN CLOUGHLEY writes about defense issues for CounterPunch, the Nation (Pakistan), the Daily Times of Pakistan and other international publications. His writings are collected on his website: www.briancloughley.com.

He can be reached at: beecluff@aol.com