Abu Muqawama famously stays out of U.S. presidential politics most days, but he needs to add a little belated clarification for his bi-partisan readership, who had probably just recovered from the appalling New York Times hatchet job on John McCain when the right-wing blogs went to work on Barack Obama for this comment he made during the debate a few nights ago (in reference to whether or not Iraq has taken away from the efforts in Afghanistan):
"You know, I've heard from an Army captain who was the head of a rifle platoon -- supposed to have 39 men in a rifle platoon," he said. "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. 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."
Okay, now the right-wing blogs went crazy about this, which they shouldn't have done because this anecdote Sen. Obama told basically checks out. ABC's Jake Tapper did us all a favor and actually spoke to the platoon leader in question. (And the great Phil Carter -- who has advised the Obama campaign, we feel obligated to disclose -- has more here.)
But Abu Muqawama read the following post on the National Review's blog, and it bothered him because no one out there has really said that this, too, is false:
the Obama military anecdote was absolute rubbish on so many levels. First, on his understanding of the military: Captains don’t command platoons, Second, we don’t split platoons between Iraq and Afghanistan, not even companies, battalions, or brigades. Sometimes divisions but by then you’re talking about a 12-15,000 man organization so splits make sense. Done it since WWI at that level and even below. The idea that one of the lowest level organizations in the army (a 40 person platoon) is split between a war with 40,000 troops in it and another war with 120,000 is beyond silly. If Clinton knew better herself, she could have slammed him for knowing nothing about the military, but she’s not in much better shape there herself.
As for the substance, absolute crap. Lots of things happen in a complex theater like Afghanistan but I don’t know anybody who has heard anything even close to that story in 6.5 years military involvement there.
Alright, leaving out the fact that, once again, the anecdote Obama offered was sadly true, someone needs to point out that while this guy is correct in theory -- captains do not lead platoons and units below division-level don't get split up -- he's not correct in practice. First off, a lot of infantry platoon leaders leading their second platoons -- whether in the Ranger battalions or in specialty platoons in their infantry battalions -- get promoted to captain while still platoon leaders. (Abu Muqawama Personal Biography Fun Fact: He has lead platoons in combat three times and twice while a captain. Abu Muqawama spent a ridiculous and glorious two-and-a-half years as a platoon leader. Born under a lucky star, he was.) Second, because so many captains are leaving the Army, officers are getting promoted from lieutenant to captain at ridiculous speed. So officers leading even their first platoons might get promoted to captain while leading them. And finally, this guy was a captain when the Obama campaign spoke to him, sure, but he might have been a lieutenant when he was a platoon leader after all.
As for the rest of this guy's comment, Abu Muqawama would like to point out that in the five months following the September 11th attacks, his infantry battalion was split between Kuwait, Qatar, Fort Drum (NY), Uzbekistan and Afghanistan at the same time. It was a nightmare, yes, but it happened as sure as God created the heavens.
Folks, we know you're on your own out there with no Abu Muqawama, Kip or Charlie by your side to call bull**** when the crazies on both the right and left start slinging mud. All we can say is do your best to think critically over the next few months. Sens. Obama and McCain both strike Abu Muqawama as pretty worthy individuals, but as usual, the nuts on the fringes aren't worthy of either of them.* November cannot come soon enough.
*Does anyone still think HRC has a shot at winning the nomination? Us neither.