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February 23, 2008

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"A number of bloggers on the right went ballistic."

Why, exactly, should anyone care?

*sigh* Afghanistan.

Sarah Chayes appeared on Bill Moyers' Journal tonight.

If you want to know what's going on there, just watch.

Who knows about the men being pulled from the platoon part; for the reasons cited it's likely it wouldn't be happening constantly, but that sure doesn't mean it wouldn't happen occasionally.

The soldiers using Taliban weapons is completely in line with hundreds if not thousands of years of military history, though, including in the US Army. Whenever soldiers feel undersupplied or that the weapons they're given are bad, they scavenge. There are some issues here - if the sound of a particular weapon shooting (an AK 47) draws US fire, for instance - but as I recall from reading a lot of transcribed oral military histories, it's not at all uncommon.

She's accurate with her in country knowledge, but anybody there can do that; she is also pretty selective when it comes to the Taliban and all that money she had.

Canadian soldiers shooting her employee's families. Maybe it's best if she ran Afghanistan and everybody else left. She could skim more of that USAID money her dad got her from Harvard and PC.

Maybe the farmers should be paid for food crops like wheat or something instead of exotic soaps and dope.

"In light of this, the best response would seem to be Tom Maguire's: 'As a proud member of the Right Wing Noise Machine (or are we now the Freak Show?) I can only say
'Ouch'."

It's cheap bottom-feeding to look at his commenters, but still.

Who is this jackass and what unit was he assigned to? Did he inform his commander before he puked his guts out to a politico. We need to know more about this guy and his unit. I spent 35 years as a soldier and from time-to-time I experienced some serious logistical problems but never did I let it effect the welfare of my troops or my mission, nor did I whine to the media. I think what we have here is a young captain that really needs attention.
Or:
[...] Wonder if this guy got on the Winter Soldier II panel and has dreams of becoming the Lt (jg) Kerry II for this war?
And so on.

"It's not exactly clear why they think the Captain lied"

Ha, I claim better understanding of the wacko mind!

It's one word: Beauchampbeauchampbeauchamp.

These guys imprint after one experience that gives them joy. They thereafter seek replication, and to stick round objects in familiar square pegs, because it was so good last time they found a peg they think the new one looks like.

No chance that that Pentagon spokesman would be saying that in order to out the Captain and effectively destroy his career, huh? No one would politicize the military like that would they? Especially not one with such a stellar record of supporting the troops. (I threw that last one in there just in case people weren't catching the sarcasm.)

In fairness, it needs to be mentioned that Obama got a detail slightly wrong here: "Ended up being sent to Afghanistan with 24, because 15 of those soldiers had been sent to Iraq. And as a consequence, they didn't have enough ammunition; they didn't have enough humvees."

According to the NBC story, and Tapper, the captain clarified that the not enough ammo and humvees was during training, not when sent to Afghanistan. This is bad, but it is a slightly less bad than the way Obama stated it; it's unfortunate to make any errors of this sort, and leave an opening for criticism.

I also wonder if the campaign fully realized the pressures this may subject the captain to, or to the campaign itself to produce the captain.

Jake Tapper is a known idiot. Whomever he talked to we have no idea what that person really said. That Jake Tapper finds 'it' plausible is, when you think about it, reason to suspect 'it'.

I wish he weren't involved. It makes the whole thing stink.

Troops in the field running short of equipment? Impossible! You go to war with the army you want, not just the army you have.

Equipment/ammo shortage in training is not that uncommon. I remember the Bundeswehr making the headlines with "Foot soldiers: shout 'bang', Tankers: shout 'BOOM'"

As for lying, the first comments clearly implied a lie on Obama's not the captain's side.

Agreed that this is Beauchamp Redux (as far as the noisemakers are concerned, no judgement on content).

Not that long ago the right wing would have seen that story as a proof that the Dem obstructionism has led to shortages in the field.

Btw, during the Iraq invasion at least one National Guard unit had to steal* ammo from Marine supply dumps. The same unit also had partially to buy their own boots because they got a shipment that contained boots of all possible sizes in equal numbers but only one pair for each soldier. As a result a lot of them did not find anything roughly fitting.

*possibly with inofficial consent by either the depot personnel or the marines.

As someone on the inside of the big green machine. I can state a few things:

1. Soldiers do get tasked out to go to war with other units on a fairly regular basis. I have friends that this has happened to. It is a result of the unit that they are being drawn to being in worse condition then the unit they are pulled from.

2. Shortage of training dollars is a fact of life in the military. "Training as we fight" is very expensive, not because of waste or abuse but we do some pretty unique things and that makes the prices higher.

3. The sound you hear, is the sound of your military breaking.

If you look at
http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/agency/army/10mtn.htm

The 10th Mountain Division was in Iraq and Afghanistan at the same time. The units in Iraq were considered a higher priority and thus, would have been getting personnel and supplies.

The bad part of the point that Obama's staff wrote for him is not realizing that a Captain would not serve as a platoon leader. If Senator Obama's staff knows so little about the military, then what else are they short of knowledge and experience about?

Just looking at how things are going in Afghanistan and how the number of troops has grown its clear things are not going well there. Afghanistan has been such a quagmire for any foreign country to be involved with i still cant believe they had things wrapped up well enough to take on Iraq.

As ex-military I know that things get screwed up a lot sometimes in the best of circumstances. I suspect this Captain is telling the truth and is just mad as heck. I doubt that this a system wide common event. I do know that there is a consistent undercurrent of sentiment from those serving in Afghanistan that it is the "forgotten" war.

Steve

Didn't any of those conservative bloggers ever watch Saving Private Ryan? Didn't Captain Miller TAKE soldiers out of this or that platoon to go on a separate mission? Didn't they run out of ammo and had to use whatever they could? Is it really that hard for them to comprehend that it could very well happen that in today's time a platoon gets stripped because we have TOO FEW TROOPS? Jeez, these conservative bloggers are whacked!

I do, however, care a lot about the idea that we should not impugn someone's honor absent a good reason to do so.

I agree, absolutely. However I’d also prefer if politicians did not exaggerate (real) problems to score political points.

40 mm automatic grenade launcher ammunition for the MK-19, and ammunition for the .50 caliber M-2 machine gun ("50 cal.")

At Fort Drum, in training, "we didn't have access to heavy weapons or the ammunition for the weapons, or humvees to train before we deployed."

Training. Guess what? You end up firing .22 rounds (with a muzzle adapter) from an M16 because M16 ammo is damned expensive. You fire 100 banks for every real round you ever fire. You even play Laser Tag. (Safer but also cheaper.) You might fire a grenade launcher or a .50 cal exactly one time in training. You want soldiers to train more with real ammo you better increase the Pentagon’s budget by a fair amount.

"It was very difficult to get any parts in theater," he says, "because parts are prioritized to the theater where they were needed most -- so they were going to Iraq not Afghanistan."

The Army supply system is notorious for being a day late and a dollar short. See for example WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, etc.

They were actually capturing Taliban weapons, because it was easier to get Taliban weapons than it was for them to get properly equipped by our current commander in chief.

Bull:

“The purpose of going after the Taliban was not to get their weapons,” he said, but on occasion they used Taliban weapons. Sometimes AK-47s, and they also mounted a Soviet-model DShK (or “Dishka”) on one of their humvees instead of their 50 cal.

I was taught decades ago how to maintain and fire an AK-47. It’s just common sense. You only carry so much ammo with you. It’s not unexpected that you may run out of ammo. If you do and there are enemy weapons lying around, guess what? You pick them up and use them…

You have a valid point about RW blogs jumping the gun and freaking out. At the same time however, Obama exaggerated to score a point.

"The bad part of the point that Obama's staff wrote for him is not realizing that a Captain would not serve as a platoon leader."

Number one, this is wrong. Frequently a company will get split up and be sent to different locales and the Captain is with one of them.

Secondly, this is a current Captain, although he may have been a Lt at the time.

I can verify if not the details of this story the fact that many things, both men and equipment, originally meant for Afghanistan, even before the Invasion of Iraq, were pulled out of the Afghan stream and placed in the Iraq one.

They are willing to trash someone's good name because what he says doesn't fit their political narrative.

Well, you can't really say they're "trashing someone's good name" when the guy has remained anonymous. At the same time, their batshit-crazy reaction shows why he might not want to share his name.

At the same time however, Obama exaggerated to score a point.

I think Obama's point is fair as a response to the administration's overly fine assertion that no troops were literally pulled from Afghanistan and sent to Iraq. The (now) captain's story shows how, even if that's true, the Iraq offensive came partly at the expense of the forces in Afghanistan. That matters, and people need to understand it, so it's not just about "scoring" a point. In that context, relatively minor inaccuracies--and that's what they are--seem trivial.

FearItself: I think Obama's point is fair as a response to the administration's overly fine assertion that no troops were literally pulled from Afghanistan and sent to Iraq.

I didn’t dispute troops being pulled from Afghanistan. If he had stuck to that I would agree. But his main point seemed to be this:

And as a consequence, they didn't have enough ammunition; they didn't have enough humvees. They were actually capturing Taliban weapons because it was easier to get Taliban weapons than it was for them to get properly equipped by our current commander in chief.

That has a big impact as a sound bite – American troops have to capture Taliban weapons to get by due to being screwed over by the CiC… “…easier to get Taliban weapons than it was for them to get properly equipped by our current commander in chief”.

Forget about the fact that Bush does not oversee Army logistics, or how lame it is to make this point when Democrats constantly call to cut funding for the war (not that I disagree with that)…

The Captain was mainly talking about training. If you read his follow up with Tapper, a lot of it centers on pre-deployment training. Once they were in theatre he only says they had 2-3 humvees rather than 4, and they had trouble getting parts for their “MK-19s and their 50-cals” but that “Getting parts or ammunition for their standard rifles was not a problem”.

You don’t go after the Taliban to acquire AK-47’s when you have no problem getting parts or ammunition for your standard rifles. And he specifically says “The purpose of going after the Taliban was not to get their weapons”.

But the big O’s sound bite was: “They were actually capturing Taliban weapons because it was easier to get Taliban weapons than it was for them to get properly equipped by our current commander in chief.” So I call BS.

On the training angle – that is normal. Ammo is expensive and even in peacetime you don’t get to train with the real stuff very often. With a two front war going on I imagine that gets even worse.

I can only relate an anecdote from the cold war. The main threat we were expected to face was Soviet armor pouring through the Fulda Gap. The main infantry weapon to face that threat (at the time) was the LAW (Light Armor Weapon). Those rounds were darned expensive. In training we didn’t get to fire the real thing. They had an adapter that fired a smoke rocket, essentially a fancy bottle rocket. And we only got to fire one of those. That was in no way effective training to prepare you to fire the real McCoy. In Basic you got to fire a couple hundred rounds of real M16 ammo, a few M-60 rounds, and you threw one live hand-grenade. Everything else was dummied up. That was in peacetime without a two front war that really needs to have priority on ammo.

John,

the media has reported that the anonymous Captain experienced the problems with his deployment to Afghanistan five years ago when he was an LT.

It looks like the Obama staff pulled the classic activist stunt of telling a lie by stringing together a set of truths.

Of course, if anybody of Obama's staff had been in the military, he quote would have been written much better. However, since almost no Ivy leaguer serves in the military these days, it is no wonder that no one on Senator Obama's staff knew what they were talking about.

Also, does the quote indicate a problem with Senator Obama's staff understanding time frame. Five years ago the situation was different than today. However, when you staff is full of 25 y/o Ivy Leaguers, it is easy to understand their temporal problems.

Ranting bloggers, of whatever stripe, deserve no attention. Life is too short.

The level of military knowledge of Sen. Obama's campaign staff means less than nothing. Once in office, he'll have a new group of guys, known as the Joint Chiefs, to advise him on military stuff. Along with civilians in the various relevant places.

People who want to argue that commencing the Iraq war in 2003, without UN backing, didn't have a serious negative impact in nearly every aspect on the then (and now) unfinished war against AQ in Afghanistan can be considered, imo, completely hopeless. The decision to start one war before the end of the other was a strategic blunder at the epic level.

shorter nutshpere: my anecdotes are law.

I couldn't resist.

(Customized motivational poster = WIN.)

At the same time however, Obama exaggerated to score a point.

Could be, but I think more likely we have an example that demonstrates why we have the hearsay rule. Captain reports his story to Obama's staff, Obama's staff reports it to Obama, Obama brings up the story at the debate. There's about eight places there where a detail can get misremembered, misreported, or misspoke.

Forget about the fact that Bush does not oversee Army logistics,

True enough. But Bush does make decisions about which wars to fight (with a cowed congress going along, of course), and I think that was Obama's larger point - Iraq had negative consequences for Afghanistan, which can be laid at Bush's feet.

A Pentagon spokesman later said that he found the Captain's story implausible

I don't believe that propaganda factory anymore.

Ugh: Iraq had negative consequences for Afghanistan, which can be laid at Bush's feet.

True enough. And he can say that without the “Army raiding Taliban for arms” line, which just calls his whole statement into question.

Of course, it's the lead story on foxRNCNews.com right now.

Great, now we have the Pentagon openly taking sides against the likely Democratic nominee. Like having the Bush and Clinton ruling families wasn't banana republic-ish enough.

Of course, it's the lead story on foxRNCNews.com right now.

I want Obama to be President for many good, substantive, even highminded reasons.

I have to admit, though, the prospect of an Obama Administration refusing to have anything to do with Faux News also makes me smile.

I bothered with this because it's the thing that actually gets to me about some (note: some) of the blogs on the right: their willingness to impugn the honor, and in some cases really disrupt the lives, of people who just happen to get caught in their crossfire, and to do that for no good reason.

I mean, I can speculate about all kinds of things here in the privacy of my own home. I could say: gosh, I know that Andy's MiTT was specially constituted for the occasion, and it included not just specialists but also sergeants and privates; where did they come from, exactly, if the Army never ever ever strips people from a platoon? But the thing is: that's just me speculating. I would never call someone a liar, when that person was talking about stuff he had actually experienced, on that basis. I wouldn't do so even if I were ex-military, but had served mostly in peacetime: it would seem obvious to me that war strains an army, and that things that were "never" done before might well be done now.

This captain will probably be outed, and if he is, his career will probably be badly damaged. Even if he isn't, these people have been calling him a liar for no reason at all. It makes me mad.

OCSteve's comment at 6:58 a.m. reflects my views as well. I'll add:

1. Even if this incident did not occur exactly as related in Obama's speech -- which seems likely ('tho not certain) -- there are myriad signs that George Bush and Donald Rumseld mismanaged their commands in Afghanistan and Iraq.

2. Obviously, I agree with Hilzoy regarding the pernicious nature of impugning someone's honor with thin, nonexistent, or misapplied evidence.

von

Could be, but I think more likely we have an example that demonstrates why we have the hearsay rule.

Which, unfortunately, has been nearly swallowed by the exceptions.

I can think of a myriad of ways to get the Capt's statement in. Here are two, applying the Federal Rules of Evidence: (1) it's nonhearsay as an admission of a party-opponent (statement clearly within scope of Capt's agency); (2) it's not being used for the truth of the matter asserted, but for a nonhearsay purpose: to show that military officers have complaints and thus is probitive of morale independent of truth.

[/FRE blogging]

Also, too many Judges of all political stripes have a Marxist view of the rules of evidence: "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need." This privileges folks who don't know or want to abide by the rules, and lets a bunch of crap in that no one can cross examine (or, even, effectively examine). I'm fairly convinced that the most effective form of tort reform would be to enforce the rules as written and go back to pre-1993 Rule 11.

[OK, failure to abide by the rules of evidence really get me fired up. This is my last OT post.]

Gary Farber: According to the NBC story, and Tapper, the captain clarified that the not enough ammo and humvees was during training, not when sent to Afghanistan.

This was only the case for the ammunition, not the humvees. According to Tapper:

They also didn't have the humvees they were supposed to have both before deployment and once they were in Afghanistan, the Captain says.

"We should have had 4 up-armored humvees," he said. "We were supposed to. But at most we had three operable humvees, and it was usually just two."

Emphasis mine, I should have added.

Wingnuts thhink that they own soldiers, body, mind and doul. SOldiers exist to seve tham. Soldiers are only allowed to do sy or think in a way thhat serve the wingnnuts. If the soldier deviates from the wing nut party line then the soldier is betraying them.

May be that's why there were so many liberal Iraq vets running for office in 04 and why Obama is the second largest recipient of donations from people in the military serviices. I know I wouuldnn't like being treated like someone's house slave.

wonkie: with the stipulation that I'm talking only about parts of the right blogosphere, not about it as a whole, still less about conservatives as a whole:

I don't think they think they own soldiers. I think that they do have a story in their minds about how the Left slimed soldiers during and after Vietnam, which they are determined not to let happen again. It's a part of this story that there were some actual soldiers who were willing to help the Left vilify their comrades, for the sake of adulation or whatever. (John Kerry.)

I suspect that what happens is that whenever (what they think of as) The Left does anything they take to be the 60s all over again, and some soldier seems to be helping them, then that soldier has, according to them, revealed himself not to be a real soldier, but a dishonorable one like Kerry. So going after him or her is fair game, not going after a real soldier for political purposes.

That this makes it psychologically possible for them to hound soldiers who never asked to be part of any big controversy in the name of defending the troops is the least of its peculiarities.

I like Rusty Shackleford:

"No one is accusing Obama of making the story up."

That's exactly what they were doing. And if that is no longer an issue, why is this worth any time? We're talking fairly ancient history here. It has no immediate relevance to operations in Iraq or Afganistan, there is no reason for the bloggers or the Pentagon to need to verify it. It's pure character assasination, done to silence dissent. Ugly.

Captains complain, bloggers get stuff wrong and exaggerate, and politicians pander.

Honor in this case is reserved for those who walk the streets with an M-16; that may include the Captain.

Bring them home or put them in an isolated base to keep the Russians away from the oil. Let the Iraqis get on with their lives however they choose.

von,

Your comments on rules of evidence and abuses therein sound fascinating. Would you consider writing them up in more detail with some examples as a front page post?

As for this from OCSteve:

[Quoting Obama:] "They were actually capturing Taliban weapons, because it was easier to get Taliban weapons than it was for them to get properly equipped by our current commander in chief."

Bull:

[Tapper quoting the anonymous captain:] “The purpose of going after the Taliban was not to get their weapons,” he said, but on occasion they used Taliban weapons. Sometimes AK-47s, and they also mounted a Soviet-model DShK (or “Dishka”) on one of their humvees instead of their 50 cal.

It sounds like the captain is answering a follow-up question, not contradicting Obama's account. Obama made no mention of the platoon going after the Taliban for the express purpose of capturing those weapons.

Gromit : Maybe its just this wording: “capturing Taliban weapons”. I take that to mean that the point of the action was to capture weapons. Something like “using captured Taliban weapons” would not have that same meaning to me.

Note that I’m not disbelieving the Captain in any way – his statements are far too plausible unfortunately. I just think that O cranked it up a notch in the retelling.

Obama made no mention of the platoon going after the Taliban for the express purpose of capturing those weapons.

That's not true at all, Gromit. Obama claimed "they were actually capturing Taliban weapons, because it was easier to get Taliban weapons than it was for them to get properly equipped by our current commander in chief." That is exactly "going after the Taliban for the express purpose of capturing those weapons". According to Obama, Bush didn't equip our fighting mean properly so they had to go after the Taliban to get their weapons.

The story here is primarily that right-wing bloggers behaved badly in slandering someone who's putting his life on the line for them, but it is also about how such bloggers were so blinded by pettiness that they missed an opportunity to ding Obama for exaggerating and playing politics with the military. (Well, most rw bloggers, that is: Redstate has a much saavier take.)

OCSteve:

"You want soldiers to train more with real ammo you better increase the Pentagon's budget by a fair amount."

Sorry, no can do. The economy would collapse because the napkin says so. We pledged to not raise taxes for at least 100 years, which oddly enough is exactly the amount of time President John McCain plans on being at war. Raising taxes and buying a few more bullets would cause conservatives to quit their jobs and limit their efforts in all other spheres, except dressing up like Indians and tossing weak tea into various bodies of water because their principles have been violated and they are deeply afraid that they might like being violated.

That's why all of you guys have to share a bullet, which Andy keeps in his top desk drawer, because those suckers don't come cheap.

Better idea. Behave as our Army captain has and make do with what's within ready reach. Borrow the money for the bullets from the Chinese at market rates, requisition the bullets from your chosen defense contractor, stopping momentarily to purchase stock in the defense contractor, because after all if the stock doesn't go up, what's all the fighting about anyway, load those bullets into whatever cool weapons we can think up, place those weapons on pallets for airlift into Iraq and Afghanistan, distribute said weapons and ammo to newly trained in-country nationals, who sell the weapons to their brothers-in-law in the militias or in the caves, who then fire our precious ammo, which last we saw was in short supply at Camp Pendleton, at our guys and then in the heat of the moment drop a weapon or two and skedaddle, where finally, our bemused Captain picks up the weapon and finds out there is no ammo in the accursed thing because most of it has been shot into the poorly armored troop carrier the Captain and his exposed ass rode in on.

superdestroyer:

"However, since almost no Ivy Leaguer serves in the military these days, it is no wonder that no one on Senator Obama's staff knew what they were talking about."

First of all, the shitheads running the Green Zone over the past 5 years could have used an Ivy Leaguer or two to show them how to reach around and grab their butts, instead of earning young republican extra credit at their elite religious 2-year colleges.

After Commander-in-Chief George W. Pattonlyridiculous bullshit his way into the Presidency in 2000, there was video at nine of said leader and his cast of big swinging dicks, Rove, Powell, Rumsfeld, Rice, probably two more military experts (the Magnificent Seven) from Focus On the Family and Bob Jones University, striding like gunfighters down from the ranch and telling us that the men were now in charge.

$3.6 trillion dollars later (an estimate of the eventual cost of our wars, which included the cost to the economy in higher oil prices and continued occupation) and we now know the cost of a rolled up pair of socks stuffed down the front of a flight suit.

More video. Every time I've turned on FOX over the past seven years I see video of the same seven unidentified stinking bedraggled Middle Eastern enemy trainees practicing their Jungle Jim and tumbling skills.

It was just shown again last week during some patriotic business scare show, probably on Neil Cavuto, who could use a bullet.

These seven guys, who practice on the Jungle Jim every week on FOX, have kicked the butts of the big swinging community college-graduated swinging dicks previously mentioned.

Let's say the Captain is lying and Obama is lying too. Good for them.

I say its time and hooray for some fresh lies because if we had as many bullets as we have had old lies over the past seven years, we'd be Masters of the Universe.


Here is an on the record example of a similar phenomenon, in the NYT magazine's long article about a forgotten American outpost in the Korangal Valley of Afghanistan:

As Sgt. Erick Gallardo put it: “We don’t get supplies, assets. We scrounge for everything and live a lot more rugged. But we know the war is here. We got unfinished business.”

It's absolutely astonishing that these right-wing blowhards really, truly care more about smearing a member of the "Democrat Party" (can someone please explain where this phrase came from, and why?!) than about the reality of "supporting the troops." It's sickening.

That's not an unreasonable inference, OCSteve, but I don't think ambiguity equals exaggeration.

Same reply to von. Obama isn't responsible for your jumping to conclusions. That's what follow-up is for, and it looks like that's what Tapper did (in this case).

Von:

Redstate has a savvier take?

Yes, Publius99 on one of the threads said that if the story is true, he/she would shoot him/herself (after being sexed by Erick Erickson).

Savviest thing I've read at Redstate since johnt. came over here and did a poor impression of a funny person.

The rest of what you say is in fact savvy. Because you are savvy. Don't ruin it by mentioning Redstate. Savvy? ;)

The number of comments to this post are astounding.

It is fair,however, to consider: was the anecdote Obama depicted unrepresentative? Was it a normal occurrence, was it symptomatic of a larger family of issues? Or was this an anomaly that would mislead? I have no idea, but it is what I would want to find out.

Same reply to von. Obama isn't responsible for your jumping to conclusions. That's what follow-up is for, and it looks like that's what Tapper did (in this case).

Huh? What conclusion did I jump to? That Obama said "they were actually capturing Taliban weapons, because it was easier to get Taliban weapons than it was for them to get properly equipped by our current commander in chief" and the "because" part of his statement doesn't reflect what his source actually said?

You do understand that Obama is a politician, and not the messiah, right? You can accept that he exaggerated here and still think that he's the best guy for the job.

Thullen, I was thinking of these stories, which rightly focus on Obama and don't make the colossally stupid mistake (intellectual, moral, and political) of blaming the captain:

http://www.redstate.com/stories/elections/2008/obamas_platoon

http://www.redstate.com/stories/war/barack_obama_is_either_stupid_ignorant_or_an_absolutely_pathetic_liar_or_all_three

that first RS link is yet another "i talked with someone who says Obama's story is 'just not plausible' " post. and then the commenters call Obama a flat-out liar. pretty savvy stuff.

the second link doesn't work.

von, you are jumping to the conclusion that "capturing Taliban weapons [for their own use*]" = "going after Taliban for the express purpose of capturing weapons for their own use". Presumably these soldiers are over there to go after the Taliban, right? And doing so successfully would presumably afford them the opportunity to capture weapons to replace their own broken equipment, without that being the primary mission, yes?

* This is clearly implied and, AFAIK, universally inferred.

They are willing to trash someone's good name because what he says doesn't fit their political narrative. And that's despicable.

Query: how do you trash someone's good name when he hasn't even given it? Some of the credibility issues arise precisely because the good captain hasn't given his name. I understand why he would not want to give it, but I don't see calling bs as despicable given the facts as presented.

I didn't read everything (who could possibly endure) but the general tone of the milbloggers was "bs without verification beyond asking the same source to repeat his story". They didn't appear to say the Captain was lying, but that the whole story sounded fishy. In other words, someone is not telling the truth here (Obama or the Captain).

And the milbloggers were at least partially right: Tapper's "verification" proved that Obama had a basic fact entirely wrong.

In short, I fail to see how this impugned the honor of the good captain. If anyone's to blame, it's Obama.

Why Obama's campaign wouldn't get the story straight is beyond me.

Saying "I picked up a copy of the newspaper in the grocery store, because that was easier than making a separate trip to the newsstand" is not "exactly 'going to the grocery store for the express purpose of buying a newspaper'" (paraphrasing von at 12:41 quoting Gromit at 12:17).

It is far more likely that it means "I picked up a copy of the newspaper in the grocery store [while I was there shopping for groceries], because that was easier than making a separate trip to the newsstand."

Excellent analogy, JanieM.

That's not true at all, Gromit. Obama claimed "they were actually capturing Taliban weapons, because it was easier to get Taliban weapons than it was for them to get properly equipped by our current commander in chief." That is exactly "going after the Taliban for the express purpose of capturing those weapons".
No, it isn't. It just isn't. You're reading "express purpose" into it, and it isn't there.

Read more slowly, Von. You have a record here of quite consistently misreading through haste, and you're doing it again. This is a matter of simple English.

To say one is engaging in Act A for purpose 1 is not to say that pupose 1 is the sole or primary reason for engaging in Act A unless one specifically adds something to the sentence that adds that limitation.

My purpose in writing this comment may be to correct you, but it's not the sole reason and may not be the primary reason; the primary reason may be to address all the lurkers.

If it makes you feel better, I do agree that the sentence can be read as implying the meaning you insist is the only one, and I think that's poor phrasing in this context. (And I pointed out the distinction between training shortages and field shortages in the first place.)

But your insistence that your reading is the correct one is not supportable. Please reread the sentence in question and observe that the sentence doesn't, in fact, specify an "express purpose." There was no statement about what the mission was when the platoon used captured weapons (which is a perfectly plausible and common practice, and thus not as damning as implied).

It's not like it's news that at no point in the war and occupation did Bush ever ask for the money to bring troops and equipment to a verifiable standard of readiness. War supporters have always had to attack examples of inadequate preparedness, because there's no room to say anything like "But we know this is unrepresentative, thanks to budget allocation Y and preparedness review X". The administration has never really cared about the well-being of the individuals and units its leaders claim are defending civilization, but war supporters can't be honest about that and still support anything at all like the war we actually got. So, projection comes into play.

It takes a peculiar mindset to insist that a mission is truly essential to the survival of our society, to refuse to fund it to even basic standards of general readiness, and to attack those who propose not risking forces whose readiness we can't verify as unserious. But this administration has given us all lots of chances to see just how deep cognitive dissonance can go.

What Gary and JanieM said.

I would add that I try, with all politicians, whatever I think of them, to bear in mind that when they are not reading from prepared texts, one can expect some points to be less clear than they would be if someone had written them. (In my experience, Obama requires this sort of interpretive charity less than a lot of people, but less does not mean not at all.)

Thus, for instance, a lot of bloggers made a lot of the fact that (according to them) CPTs do not command platoons. (I gather this isn't true, but that's irrelevant to this case, as it turns out.) Before anyone did any fact-checking, I thought: well, what Obama actually said ("I heard from a Army captain, who was the head of a rifle platoon...") could mean: I heard from someone who commanded a rifle platoon while a CPT. But it could also mean: I spoke to a CPT who had, at some point, commanded a rifle platoon.

Compare: "I spoke to the President, who was a student at X High School" -- no one would take this to mean that the person who said this was under the misapprehension that someone could be President while still in high school. It would be obvious that they meant: I spoke to (the person who is now, or was at the time of the conversation) the President, and who (at some earlier time) was a student at X High School.

Had I written what Obama said, I would (I hope) have recast it to remove the ambiguity. But this is a totally comprehensible thing for him to have meant, I think.

I try to do this for everyone, whatever I think of them. I don't see any real point to pouncing on what people say when it's obvious that they could have meant something different, or (alternately) expecting people to speak in carefully crafted prose.

I don't see any real point to pouncing on what people say when it's obvious that they could have meant something different, or (alternately) expecting people to speak in carefully crafted prose.

really?

the point, clearly, is to try to make Obama seem like an unacceptable candidate.

the criticism is coming from the same people who think (or at least say) that Obama is a secret Muslim and a Manchurian-style 60's radical who, when he can't turn the US into a communist hell, will unleash race wars as his presidency fails; and as one last shout out to his (not-so-)secret hatred of America, he'll turn the Democratic party into the party of black people, and black people only, forever.

you can't really expect people who believe (or repeat) any of that crap to give Obama's words a good-faith reading. right ? they are partisan hacks, trying to save themselves from what could be a historic electoral blow-out.

Cleek, I think you're providing an example of unreasonably uncharitable interpretation (of Hilzoy) right there.

Gromit and Gary, respectfully, y'all miss my point (and Hilzoy half-misses it to the extent she adopts Gary's words):

Me: That's not true at all, Gromit. Obama claimed "they were actually capturing Taliban weapons, because it was easier to get Taliban weapons than it was for them to get properly equipped by our current commander in chief." That is exactly "going after the Taliban for the express purpose of capturing those weapons".

Gromit: von, you are jumping to the conclusion that "capturing Taliban weapons [for their own use*]" = "going after Taliban for the express purpose of capturing weapons for their own use".

Gary [adopted by Hilzoy]: No, it isn't. It just isn't. You're reading "express purpose" into it, and it isn't there.

Read more slowly, Von. You have a record here of quite consistently misreading through haste, and you're doing it again.

This is a matter of simple English.

Gromit and Gary do not address the part of Obama's statement that I am. Here is the statement again. I will again put in boldface the part of it that I'm referencing:

[U.S. soldiers under the Captain's command] were actually capturing Taliban weapons,* because it was easier to get Taliban weapons than it was for them to get properly equipped by our current commander in chief."

Gromit and Gary stop at the *, ignoring Obama's causal claim, which is the focus of my comment [i.e., solders are capturing Taliban weapons because they have not been properly equiped]. Gary, in his charming style, even manages to laud himself (for educating lurkers) (how lucky they are) while insulting (for failing to understand "simple English").

In contrast, JanieM [also adopted by Hilzoy, appropriately covering her bases] does address the relevant point:

JanieM: Saying "I picked up a copy of the newspaper in the grocery store, because that was easier than making a separate trip to the newsstand" is not "exactly 'going to the grocery store for the express purpose of buying a newspaper'"

Well, no, it's not in hac verba the same -- the verbae be different. Obama's meaning, however, is plain. Weapons are necessary for a soldier to fight a war. They're not the equivalent of the "sunday paper" used in your example. Obama's claim is that soldiers are being forced to go after Taliban weapons because, allegedly, Bush and the DoD haven't provided them with weapons (or enough weapons, or appropriate weapons, or weapons when the soldiers need them -- I don't know what Obama means by claiming that it is "easier to get Taliban weapons [than weapons from the DoD]," and it doesn't really matter for my purposes).

So: Soldiers, who need weapons, are actually going after Taliban weapons because they can't get weapons from the DoD. How does this not "exactly" mean "'going after the Taliban for the express purpose of capturing those weapons'" (My claim). Other than the fact that Obama uses different words?

More to the point: even if you think that Obama's meaning is not as clear as I think it is, (1) what is your alternative, generous reading of Obama's causal claim (again, the "because" clause) and (2) how is that alternative reading in any way supported by what the good Captain actually said?

End blockquote

Well, von, an alternative would be to destroy captured weapons. It's not a good idea to just leave them lying around, after all, and I believe that troops often do exactly that.

Ral, I'm asking for alternative readings of Obama's claim, not alternative explanations in general ('tho yours is a fair one).

(By "exactly that" I mean destroy, not leave lying around. drat! this ambiguous language, English.)

This testimony about National Guard readiness lays out the same problem shown by the anecdote in gory detail. The testimony is by that well-known left-winger Michael Gilmore, Assistant Director for National Security in the Congressional Budget Office, in May 2007.

See in particular the section "Overstructure and Cross-leveling" and "Equipment".

BTW, so we're clear: I'm not saying that this statement by Obama is or is not a reason to vote for him, or that will affect my personal voting preference in any way (although I'm still leaning McCain at the moment). People exaggerate in conversation all the time, and politicians more than most. But this is an exaggeration -- and a politically significant exageration given the subject matter.

I read it the same way you do von. So my reading comprehension is at least as bad as yours. But in watching the clip, I hear it the same way.

They were actually capturing [watch the hand motion] Tall-e-bon weapons because it was easier to get Tall-e-bon weapons than it was for them to get properly equipped by our current commander in chief.

Again, I’m sure there are shortages at the end of a 7,000 mile supply chain. And I don’t dispute what the Captain says. I just think Obama exaggerated what the Captain told him.

This is all forest for trees. It was widely publicized at the time that a significant portion of the funding for our mission in Afghanistan that was specifically legislated for that purpose was diverted into funding for the Iraq invasion without such legislative approval. That is, the executive branch breached the Constitution, by this action, something far more egregious than one isolated incident. The example is merely an apocraphal illustration of the far greater betrayal of the American people at large perpetrated by the Bush Administration and the Rumsfield Department of Defense. The grandiosity of such a betrayal is beyond the ability of our populace to wrap their minds around, but the anecdote with its human face brings the betrayal home in a way that people can make sense of and feel it.

von: when I first heard what Obama said, I assumed he meant: the soldiers were sometimes short of weapons or parts, so they scavenged from the Taliban, not: they raided the Taliban just for the weapons, or: they had to do this *all the time*, because they were *never* supplied. And I assumed that the "because" could have meant: they took Taliban weapons for use, rather than destroying them.

It wasn't until I started reading around that I discovered that a lot of people took Obama to have meant that this whole platoon was sent into battle without *any weapons at all*, or that they had engaged the Taliban *for the sole purpose of getting weapons.* That reading hadn't occurred to me, and it still seems pretty farfetched.

I don't understand what all the uproar is about.

If this happened, it's anecdotal - certainly embarassing and detrimental to the particular captain's unit, but hardly an indictment of the entire military. If it were symptomatic of a larger problem, we would be hearing story after story like this every day.

Obama used it to illustrate a point - our military is the best in the world, but under Bush it has been so strained, stressed, and mismanaged that this anecdote - which should be impossible - actually happened. I don't think Obama means our military is done, he's pointing to coughing canary.

Wow, between this and the plagiarism charge we literally have the two silliest tempests in a teapot I've seen in a while.

This is what the Right wing is going to do during the election season. See, there are people out there who are psychologically addicted to outrage. Now Obama hasn't given them much, so they are just going to dig deeper and deeper to get their fix.

Earlier von:

That's not true at all, Gromit. Obama claimed "they were actually capturing Taliban weapons, because it was easier to get Taliban weapons than it was for them to get properly equipped by our current commander in chief." That is exactly "going after the Taliban for the express purpose of capturing those weapons". According to Obama, Bush didn't equip our fighting mean properly so they had to go after the Taliban to get their weapons.

Later von:

More to the point: even if you think that Obama's meaning is not as clear as I think it is, (1) what is your alternative, generous reading of Obama's causal claim (again, the "because" clause) and (2) how is that alternative reading in any way supported by what the good Captain actually said?

There are 2 causal questions that have gotten entangled:

1) Why did the soldiers need/want/take weapons from the Taliban for their own use?

2) Why did they go after the Taliban?

Obama is quoted in Hilzoy's post as saying: They were actually capturing Taliban weapons because it was easier to get Taliban weapons than it was for them to get properly equipped by our current commander in chief.

To me, this speaks unambiguously to the first causal question: Why did the soldiers take weapons from the Taliban? "Because it was easier...etc."

This doesn't say anything one way or the other about what their "express purpose" was in going after the Taliban in the first place. But von, you said that it says "exactly" that.

My grocery store/newspaper analogy could also be read in more than one way; the interpretation I added in square brackets the second time around is probably the mostly likely (especially since I designed it that way), but I would agree that it might be read in other ways, especially if you took out the word "separate" from the original phrasing. (I might just live closer to the grocery store than the newsstand.)

It's possible, I suppose, that Obama meant, "Our soldiers are pursuing the Taliban to get weapons, because that's easier than getting them through our military channels." But that’s not what he said, and that’s certainly not the only reading of what he said..

Also, since our soldiers are over there to (among other things) pursue the Taliban in the first place, it seems more than a little bizarre to me to assert that getting weapons would be their express purpose in pursuing them, or to assert that anyone else would be asserting that. So to speak.

Trying another approach: If Obama had said, "Our soldiers are pursuing the Taliban because they need the Taliban's weapons" -- that would speak directly to their purpose in pursuing the Taliban. That's not what he said.

And yet another, since you (von) think the "because" is so important: the "because" in the Obama quote is explicitly about why they took the Taliban's weapons. It doesn’t say anything one way or the other about why they pursued the Taliban in the first place.

Or rather: it's not that it's farfetched to think that someone could have meant that they raided the Taliban just to get weapons; what seems to me farfetched is the idea that that's the only reasonable interpretation.

BTW Hilzoy: I'm surprised no top level post on the plagiarism thing. I mean, you might think it is silly, but a lot of people seem to have been offended by it, even among Democrats.

And it's right up your alley in terms of things well-elucidated by Hilzoy.

(My last comment was meant to clarify my next-to-last, not any of the comments that were posted while I was writing it.)

Yet another way: If Obama had said, "Our soldiers are pursuing the Taliban to get weapons," I think that would mean what von and OCSteve seem to think he meant in his actual quote.

Or he could have said "Our soldiers are pursuing the Taliban because they want the Taliban's weapons."

But he didn't say that.

He actually said nothing about why they were pursuing the Taliban. He only said something about why they were taking the Taliban's weapons.

Again, I’m sure there are shortages at the end of a 7,000 mile supply chain. And I don’t dispute what the Captain says. I just think Obama exaggerated what the Captain told him.

So, OCSteve, you'd agree that there's a significant gap between interpretations: "Obama exaggerated" vs. "Enemy propagandist"?

So, OCSteve, you'd agree that there's a significant gap between interpretations: "Obama exaggerated" vs. "Enemy propagandist"?

Well sure. All I’ve accused Obama of is exaggerating to score a political point. Given that is what politicians do, I don’t actually hold it against him in any significant way.

Ara: I got tired of Obama accusations du jour, and this one seemed to me less substantive than most. On the one hand, is it news that politicians have speechwriters? On the other, is Hillary Clinton, of all people, trying to say that she does better at writing her own stuff than Obama? (See e.g. here.)

The thing is: I am normally happy to skewer my own candidate. As it happens, I just don't think the Obama campaign is making a lot of mistakes right now, and the ones they are making are the kind about which I generally want to say: oh, give me a break, whoever makes them. (Michelle Obama and her pride in her country, for instance: I mean, if I actually thought she had been bitterly ashamed of the US until this very moment, that would be one thing, but I think she just said something wrong, the way people do in long grueling campaigns. Same reason I haven't gone on at great length about McCain's 'Bomb bomb Iran' moment: I don't like it, but I can absolutely see how it would happen if one had to talk to voters, donors, etc. nonstop for months.)

Anyways: so I find myself in this position in which, if I wanted to truly go to town on stuff like this, it would, as it happens, shake out in such a way that I was writing consistently for Obama or anti-Clinton, just because Clinton is screwing up a lot more these days. I know there are posts I have not written because I don't want that to be more true than it has to. It doesn't help that whenever I explicitly try to just find out the answer to some question, not knowing who the answer will favor, it comes out favoring Obama. (Leg. records, transgender positions...)

This link from early 2007 showing undermanned units and equipment transfer resulting from the surge.

Another link showing undermanned units in the regular army leading to call-up of the IRR, in 2004-2005.

Von, you wrote:

That's not true at all, Gromit. Obama claimed "they were actually capturing Taliban weapons, because it was easier to get Taliban weapons than it was for them to get properly equipped by our current commander in chief." That is exactly "going after the Taliban for the express purpose of capturing those weapons".
Von writes: "Gromit and Gary do not address the part of Obama's statement that I am."

Yeah, I did. I addressed what you wrote.

Now you've written a new statement, and object that I didn't address it.

Alternately, you are objecting to my having addressed what you actually wrote, rather than what you thought, which you now put forward.

If you simply said "I'm sorry, I wasn't clear as to what I meant; here's what I meant," I could say "fine, thanks for clarifying."

As it is, this is not a reasonable response on your part, Von. You keep doing this, too. Just as yesterday you made a bunch of objections to what Obama should be given credit for as regards the specific claim of a completely original idea, never before voiced by any other Senator, and, per Hilzoy's criteria, being an originating sponsor, not co-sponsor of a bill passed into law; I turned that around and asked you to point out which laws McCain had gotten passed under the same criteria, and you chose to answer an entirely different question that you preferred to answer.

You can take back, modify, or offer new versions that more clearly state what you actually meant, to your heart's content. But you don't get to claim that's what you wrote in the first place, and it's not a grand idea for you to scold other people for responding to what you did write, rather than what you meant.

"In contrast, JanieM [also adopted by Hilzoy, appropriately covering her bases] does address the relevant point"

It's the same darn point.

As I said, I do agree with you that the the overall implication of Obama's comments, in context, about scavenging weapons, was a bit misleading, but the statement that you previously singled out nonetheless didn't carry, in itself, the meaning you claimed it did.

The problematic aspect of Obama's two sentences is that the second directly follows the first, which structurally strongly implies that it logically follows from the first, and is part of the same argument. That's a problem, because it's not supportable that way.

As a separate observation, that doesn't logically or structurally follow the first observation, it's reasonable and doesn't carry the same argument any longer.

"And as a consequence, they didn't have enough ammunition; they didn't have enough humvees."

The "as a consequence" has the same problem, because it's saying that the state lack of ammunition and humvees were a consequence of the soldiers being reassigned, and that doesn't seem to follow at all.

But absent that "as a consequence," it's apparently a correct statement, and otherwise unobjectionable.

Then comes: "They were actually capturing Taliban weapons because it was easier to get Taliban weapons than it was for them to get properly equipped by our current commander in chief."

That's semi-true. When you pick up an AK or other weapon on the field, whether because you've been in the field fighting a while, and have burned through your ammo -- which doesn't indicate any kind of supply problem in the slightest, it's just inevitable at a certain point if you're out and distant from resupply long enough -- it's not a matter of not not being resupplied, let alone the president having anything to do with it.

It still doesn't in the least say anything about what their mission was when they happened to pick up enemy weapons. It just doesn't.

But more structural problems like not having enough up-armored Humvees, because the priority was to ship them to Afghanistan, or not having enough .50 cal, or a better heavier weapons, for the same reason (if so), are appropriate and legitimate complaints.

So with your rephrasing, I'm in partial agreement with you, Von. But I seriously wish you'd ease up on having such trouble with ever just saying "huh, I wrote that in over-rushed fashion; what I meant to write was...," rather than insisting that X is what you wrote all along, and anyone who doesn't see it, particularly me, is a big rude doody head. It would be more pleasant to not have to go through that sort of thing over and over, or even at all.

ral:

Well, von, an alternative would be to destroy captured weapons. It's not a good idea to just leave them lying around, after all, and I believe that troops often do exactly that.
Von:
Ral, I'm asking for alternative readings of Obama's claim, not alternative explanations in general ('tho yours is a fair one).
Not to pick on ral here, a generally sensible and worthy contributor, but von is exactly right here about what he wrote, and this is a prime example of someone blatantly misreading.

I only point this out to note it as an example of the sort of careless misreading that a lot of people frequently engage in around here.

Including me, from time to time, of course; I'm human, too, and we all are vulnerable to making mistakes out of tiredness, distraction, haste, being over-emotional, having low blood sugar, being ill, being on medication, having other things in our lives distract us, or simply because now and again we all make mistakes.

That's fine.

But a lot of misreading is just through avoidable haste and misreading (lack of charity is another huge reason, but I don't mean to write an essay here on all the multitudinous ways communication can go bad), and I'm just pausing to encourage people to try to, sometimes, slow down a bit, reread what the other person said, and consider whether there might be another interpretation, as well as to be sure that you've correctly understood the precise meaning of their phrasing, if they seem to be writing with enough care that precision matters.

(That a lot of people write very clumsily, confusingly, or unclearly -- including myself at times, of course -- is another problem, but not easily or quickly curable, though taking a bit of time and care, and making a bit of effort to write clearly, is also something all of us usually wouldn't be hurt by trying a touch harder.)

Sorry for the pompous lecturing; I just think that a little improvement in reading and writing carefully can save everyone a lot of wasted time and pointless emotional drayma. I know urging this sort of thing does little, but coming to everyone's homes and offices, and whapping you with a newspaper each time you misread (and hiring someone to do this for me) isn't in my budget.

Feel free to have a dog treat on me each time you write an elegant sentence, though. I sure do!

Given that is what politicians do

Just to expand on this, not because you want to hear this, but because I just took the dog for a walk and it occurred to me…

I’d no sooner expect a politician to give up exaggerating than I would expect my dog to quit licking herself that way after we go out.


hilzoy: I just don't think the Obama campaign is making a lot of mistakes right now

They need to take Michelle off the campaign trail. She is (lately) a great source of material for the VRWC.

Er... ah... ahem.

Gary, see hilzoy above at 03:29 PM on this topic.

I disagree with you and von as to misreading. I believe my interpretation is a valid one, though not the only possible one. To wit,

... the "because" could have meant: they took Taliban weapons for use, rather than destroying them.

"They need to take Michelle off the campaign trail. She is (lately) a great source of material for the VRWC."

One stupid line. What else? Please don't tell me you're joining in the pile on about her thesis, which is: (1) the stupidest thing I've seen this campaign season, (2) in many cases, racist.

I am really utterly sick of the double standards people apply to left- & right-of center politicians. You & von still do it. I am so sick of it.

If anyone is wondering what I'm talking about re: Michelle Obama's undergraduate thesis: see, e.g.

To wit,

... the "because" could have meant: they took Taliban weapons for use, rather than destroying them.

Hilzoy is referring to what Obama said, not what von wrote.

What von wrote: "1) what is your alternative, generous reading [...] and (2) how is that alternative reading in any way supported by what the good Captain actually said?"

He didn't ask about weapons, or Afghanistan, or something about the captain; he asked for an alternative reading.

Your response was "Well, von, an alternative would be to destroy captured weapons...."

Your response is a non-sequitur to being asked for a reading. One doesn't perform or put forth a reading by destroying weapons. Destroying weapons doesn't produce a new reading of what Obama said.

Cleek, I think you're providing an example of unreasonably uncharitable interpretation (of Hilzoy) right there.

really? because i didn't intend to criticize her, not even a little bit. she simply left a good hook on which i could hang my gripe.

i have no doubt Hilzoy (and probably every one else here) knows many of the skreeching ninnies on the right aren't arguing about this in good faith - i just thought i'd make it explicit.

von: So: Soldiers, who need weapons, are actually going after Taliban weapons because they can't get weapons from the DoD. How does this not "exactly" mean "'going after the Taliban for the express purpose of capturing those weapons'" (My claim). Other than the fact that Obama uses different words?

In your addition of the words "for the express purpose of". It's that simple.

Now I first read the quote as you did, and I agree that Obama could have expressed himself better. But you're wrong -- simply, flat-out wrong -- when you declare that this

[U.S. soldiers under the Captain's command] were actually capturing Taliban weapons,* because it was easier to get Taliban weapons than it was for them to get properly equipped by our current commander in chief."

denotes a causal relationship -- let alone an "express purpose" -- between the pursuit of the Taliban and the capturing of Taliban weapons. It's simply not there. The capturing of the Taliban weapons could have been incidental to the mission parameters; it could have been an added goal; it could have been one of many different objectives; it could have been the express purpose of the mission. You don't know, because Obama didn't say.

Like I said, I got it wrong too and I would have preferred Obama had been more careful in his phrasing, but this insistence that there is only One True Interpretation of his comments is doing no-one any favors. Leave it at "his comments were potentially misleading" and move on.

Gary, my answer to (1) is my alternative reading of Obama's causal claim, as von, I believe, requested. That is, my interpretation (noted above) of what "because" meant in context.

Now perhaps I was not as explicit in my comment as I might have been but what I wrote was not a non-sequitur.

Katherine: One stupid line. What else? Please don't tell me you're joining in the pile on about her thesis...

Not at all. I made fun of folks who were right here the other day.

After the “one stupid line” you mentioned:

Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.

How do you figure that went over with the VRWC?

I am really utterly sick of the double standards people apply to left- & right-of center politicians. You & von still do it. I am so sick of it.

You’ll have to give me an example if you want me to respond as I don’t have a clue what you mean.

"You’ll have to give me an example if you want me to respond as I don’t have a clue what you mean."

I'm not Katherine, but I'll offer an example.

The day before yesterday you wrote wrote:

[...] I think that the most disgusting part of this is that McCain met with Keller and the reporters personally and answered their questions. The Times spiked the story. But now they went ahead with it because someone else was going to break it?"
I responded:
You're inserting some of your own assumptions there.

"The Times spiked the story."

That's incorrect. "Spiked" means killed, ceased working on. They merely kept working on it. So, yeah, there's nothing surprising about their going ahead with it.

Now, it's a perfectly legitimate question to ask if they had sufficient knowledge to justify the story as published, and to otherwise question it, but your implication that the story was killed as worthless, and then resurrected in an improper way, doesn't seem to be supported, at least yet, by anything actually known, as opposed to made as a j'accuse!

Your response to that wasn't along the lines of "hmm, perhaps you have a point," but was instead:
Gary: Almost anything I write contains my own assumptions, and my bias, and passes through my various filters.

I am not a professional reporter after all. ;)

Now I have to say that I'm actually pretty unsure what the heck your point was here. Obviously you have your own assumptions, etc. It couldn't be otherwise. But you seemed to be presenting that as some sort of defense for being illogical, as if somehow because you have assumptions, like any human, therefore being illogical and making no sense made sense.

Since that makes no sense, it perhaps wasn't your point. But if not, I have no idea at all what your point was. But it seems to be some sort of defense of your assumptions about McCain, if I get anything out of it at all.

But maybe it's not the best example, since I'm so unclear what you meant.

Another example would be how you still go on and on about how you could never, under any circumstances, vote for the evil Hillary Clinton. You don't make any attempts to claim it's rational, because apparently it isn't. If that's not an example of an irrational double-standard, what is?

It's my impression I could name a dozen leftward Democratic politicians, and ask you to write a couple of sentences of your opinion about them, and then if I asked you to justify it rationally, you'd be quite likely to respond that your response wasn't rational.

That's fine, but it's not terribly compatible with then expressing puzzlement as to when you do you ever engage in an irrational double-standard about rightish and leftish politicans.

Gary: On assumptions: you accused me of having assumptions. I said, yeah, I do.

If the only appropriate response from me is “perhaps you have a point” you are going to be disappointed. ;)

But you seemed to be presenting that as some sort of defense for being illogical, as if somehow because you have assumptions, like any human, therefore being illogical and making no sense made sense.

Sorry if it was illogical to you. It made perfect sense to me. ;) Given your definition of “spiked”, I was wrong. (Perhaps you have a point.) The overall context of my comments in that thread was media bias. I was disgusted because the “paper of record” ran this crap. McCain went to them and answered their questions. Keller apparently decided what they had was too weak and decided not to run it. There is no evidence that something new suddenly came to light – no “Ah Ha” – now we can run it. They ran crap because they were worried about someone else breaking it (still crap). And for the record I hate McCain and would not vote for him. This was just plain old shoddy journalist, hell; it was not journalism at all…

If that's not an example of an irrational double-standard, what is?

I hate brussel sprouts. I can not for the life of me give you a rational reason why. I mean they’re good for you. Still, they gag me. Can’t swallow one. Purely irrational.

I hate McCain only slightly less than HRC. Why? Dude is a genuine gold-plated military hero. You know how I am about that! Irrational support for anything military. I should love him. POW, etc. Right up my ally. I would not vote for him if I was subjected to all the torture he experienced. Does it make it more palatable if I have irrational hatred for a Republican?

That's fine, but it's not terribly compatible with then expressing puzzlement as to when you do you ever engage in an irrational double-standard about rightish and leftish politicans.

I’ve been typing this for some time so I haven’t seen if Katherine responded yet – but to her, and you, I am leaning towards voting for Obama. That has been obvious for a while. In large part, that is because Katherine (and Hilzoy) told me I should give him a closer look. Equally obvious is that I have given Republicans plenty of crap. These days I am an equal opportunity crap flinger. So show me where I have a double standard. In general I dislike politicians these days. I specifically hate some of them. Totally irrationally…

Katherine:

It is peculiar, is it not, that the punkish sorts at NRO can protest the "political correctness" of Michelle Obama when she claims in an undergraduate thesis that Princeton was not academically designed for blacks, when the founder of the publication believed at one time that blacks were not academically designed for Yale (I think he wrote a book that was originally some sort of undergraduate thesis, called "God and White Men, and certainly not Clarence Thomas, at Yale"), not to mention any old public high school south of the Mason-Dixon?

What an odd beast this thing is called the Republican Party: embittered old neo-conservatives who cut their teeth on Marxist-Leninist gruel, southern white Democrats who couldn't hack the updating of their quaint social order, California car dealership owners who view the selling of overpriced undercoating on a new Buick as the pinnacle of American exceptionalism, and judging from later developments, a group of snotty, young Indian Brahmins who enunciate their objections to anything but free-market capitalism and small to disappearing government in highly annoying mincing English, vicious, cap-toothed bleached blondes who would sooner sleep with Roger Ailes than pay their taxes, big-haired, prancing evangelists who fake their way to tax-free millions, and other freaks.

It's like cutting open a stale fruitcake and looking at all the odd, inedible ingredients studding the inside.

von: when I first heard what Obama said, I assumed he meant: the soldiers were sometimes short of weapons or parts, so they scavenged from the Taliban

Sure, Hilzoy, he may have meant this. That's not what the Captain told Obama's staff, but it is a much more reasonable thing to say. But more in my response to JanieM.

There are 2 causal questions that have gotten entangled:

1) Why did the soldiers need/want/take weapons from the Taliban for their own use?

2) Why did they go after the Taliban?

In fact, these are related questions because of the underlying premise: soldiers need adequate weaponry. Obama makes the charge that our soldiers have been so mistreated by the administration that they are reduced to arming themselves by taking weapons from the enemy, Red Dawn style, because it's "easier" (his word) to get weapons fro the Taliban than it is to get them from the DoD. Moreover, your gracious response to my question, points to the circularity of Obama's logic:

And yet another, since you (von) think the "because" is so important: the "because" in the Obama quote is explicitly about why they took the Taliban's weapons. It doesn’t say anything one way or the other about why they pursued the Taliban in the first place.

OK, so: (1) Soldiers need weapons; (2) soldiers aren't getting adequate weaponry from George Bush's DoD; (3) it's easier for soldiers to get weapons from the Taliban (per Obama's literal statement, which is surely an exageration); and (4) soldiers attack the Taliban, and take their weapons because they need their weapons due to points 1-3. But soldiers don't actually attack the Taliban for their weapons. The weapons, which are critical and allegedly easier to get weapons from the Taliban than from George Bush's DoD, are simply a side effect of attacking the Taliban and taking their weapons. In other news, eggs always come before chickens, but chickens are needed to lay eggs.

And whether you are a Chicken partisan or egg-firster, Obama's statement isn't supported by the Captain's statement.

Look, this subject is played out. I happen to think it's clear that Obama exagerated to make a point and said something silly in the process. It seems that a lot of Obama supporters are saying things like, well, I didn't hear it that way and/or there's no way he said something that stupid so he must not have meant it quite that way. And that's fine -- even expected.

And just when I think OCSteve is an exception to the freak rule, he goes and admits to not liking brussel sprouts.

I think Obama, in addition to mandating an end to cynicism, uninvolvement, and uninformednessnness, is going to cram brussel sprouts down all of our throats, and not a moment too soon.

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Whatnot


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