- Published: Sunday, 14 May 2006 00:00
they selectively excerpted an email exchange between Larry DiRita and Joe Galloway. After cutting and pasting the first two of five increasingly lethal exchanges, they summarized and characterized the results as a “draw.”
I’d previously gotten Joe’s permission to excerpt a piece of the exchange for a dispatch I published entitled “Why We Write.” I did so because his words eloquently expressed what I was trying to say in some painfully awkward phrasing. So I quoted Joe who was saying it better than I was. I’ve quoted Mark Twain and Winston Churchill and cartoon characters like Pogo and Homer Simpson. So Joe was among good company, but I wasn’t writing about that email exchange. I was not cutting sections then characterizing his exchange with DiRita dismissively.
I believe anyone who has had the opportunity to read the entire exchange, as I had and as Joe informs me Scarborough had, would agree that the subject matter is vitally important. I also believe that anyone who reads it through, no matter what scale they use to judge the competition would not consider the outcome a “draw.” Whether we consider writing skills, debating skills, command of the facts, the ability to use specifics all while maintaining a clear sense of the big picture–no matter the scale, Galloway slaughtered DiRita. I’ve written before that Joe is a mean man. He truly is. Not the kind of man folks should throw stones at just for kicks. Yet before the slaughtering, it is clear that DiRita had picked and picked and picked on Joe, and Joe tried to walk away, but by the time it was over, there was a body on the floor. A draw? Hardly.
I have reprinted the entire exchange below:
Your column about gen van riper is just silly, joe. To tag the secretary of defense with being responsible for every sparrow that falls out of every tree is just ludicrous.
General Kernan, who was commander of the Joint Forces Command when van riper’s wargame occurred, had very pointed things to say about van riper when van riper made his first notoriety on this whole thing.
To tag rumsfeld with a wargame when there were about three or four layers of the chain of command between rumsfeld and the wargamers just misunderstands the way the world works.
Let’s at least be honest about this: there is a lot of change taking place, and that change forces people to re-examine the way we have always done things. That is bumpy, and that can make people anxious.
I don’t have any idea what might have happened in van riper’s experience with this wargame, but to blame the secretary of defense for it just sounds crazy.
You talk about “rumsfeld’s fondest ideas and theories” as if you have the first clue as to what those are. I have worked with him side-by-side for five years, and I wouldn’t even try to divine what his fondest ideas and theories are.
The debate about defense transformation was going on long before rumsfeld showed up at the pentagon. I’d wager that the war game van riper was so offended by probably began in planning before rumsfeld showed up.
Van riper has never even met the secretary to my knowledge. For him to make such sweeping comments as he did in your piece is just irresponsible.
As a journalist, don’t you think you owe it to your readers to challenge when people say things like that as though they have firsthand knowledge.
Also, you ought to talk with Buck Kernan, who commanded JFCOM at the time.
You’re just becoming a johnny one-note and it’s only a couple of steps from that to curmudgeon!!
i am delighted that folks over in OSD continue to read my columns with great attention. Who knows, it might make a difference one day.
i’ve always understood that the guy in charge takes the fall for everything that goes wrong on his watch. this is why the u.s. navy court martials the captain of any ship that is involved in an accident or is sunk for whatever reason.
this is why a President, Harry Truman, always kept a sign on his
desk in the oval office that said simply: The Buck Stops Here.
trouble with this administration is the buck never stops anywhere, on
“victory has many fathers; defeat is an orphan”
–Count Ciano, Mussolini’s son-in-law in 1945
Last I knew Mr. Rumsfeld was the Secretary of Defense. His is the ultimate responsibility. And I am damned if I can understand how you could work for the man for as long as you have without knowing what he likes and doesn’t like in the way of strategy and tactics and fighting wars.
In the meantime, I hope you will take note of the fact that throughout the discussion of this and other columns with you I have never once implied that you were “silly” or “crazy” or “ludicrous” or even a “johnny one-note.”
I will be leaving this town in three weeks, Larry, and there’s a lot of
people and places I will miss. You aren’t exactly at the top of that list….
That’s not what you’re describing, though, in your van riper piece.
I also served long enough to know that officers who hide behind anonymity and complain to you and other journalists about what they don’t like are causing great harm to the institutions they serve and to the country.
Anyway, I think your columns have been representative of a school of thought within military circles that I don’t believe is particularly widespread.
The army is so much more capable and suitable for the nation’s needs that it was 5 or 10 years ago. To my mind, the voices your columns represent missed the forest for the trees.
I regret you took offense at our exchanges. Apparently people can tell a journalist the most damnable things about rumsfeld or myers or franks or the president and it’s okay, but a little feisty email exchange in response you find offensive!!
the army you describe as “so much more capable” than it was 5 or 10 years ago is, in fact, very nearly broken. another three years of the careful attention of your boss ought to just about finish it off.
this is not the word from your anonymous officers; this is from my own observations in the field in iraq and at home on our bases and in the military schools and colleges.
you can sit there all day telling me that pigs can fly, with or without lipstick, and i am not going to believe it.
seemingly the reverse is also true.
one of us is dead wrong and i have a good hunch that it would be you. you go flying blind through that forest and you are going to find those trees for sure.
whether or not paul van riper has ever met Secretary Rumsfeld is not at issue. one does not have to be a personal acquaintance to find that a public figure’s policies and conduct of his office are wanting.
Secretary Rumsfeld spent a good number of years as the CEO of various large corporations. He knows about being responsible for the bottom line in that line of work. So too is he responsible in his current line of work; actually even more so given the stakes involved.
So grasp that concept harder, friend Larry. Urge your boss to step up to the plate and admit it when he’s gotten it wrong at least as quickly as he steps up to run those famous victory laps with Gen Meyer back in the spring of ‘03.
Time will tell. The army is faster, more agile, more deployable, more
lethals. At least that’s what schoomaker thinks.
The army of 2000 could not have sustained rotational deployments
Retention is above 100 percent in units that have frequently deployed.
Would all those soldiers be rushing to join a “broken” army.
Do you really believe we were better off with tens of thousands of soldiers in fixed garrisons, essentially non-deployable, in germany and korea?
I appreciate your depth of feeling. What bugs me though is your implication that rumsfeld doesn’t care about it as much as you do.
Also, if van riper et al confined their “analysis” to the issue at hand, your comment would be valid. Their comments were ad hominem, and that is a neat trick for someone they never met.
Anyway, time will tell. Best..
[You say] <the army of 2000 could not have sustained indefinite deployments>
my response: neither can the army of 2003 or the army of 2005 or 2006. it is grinding up the equipment and the troops inexorably.
recruiting can barely, or hardly, or not, bring in the 80,000 a year needed to maintain a steady state in the active army enlisted ranks….and that is WITH the high retention rates in the brigades.
and neither figure addresses the hemorraging of captains and majors who are voting with their feet in order to maintain some semblance of a family life and a future without war in it. and what do we do about a year when average 93 percent of majors are selected for Lt Col in all MOSs….and 100 plus percent in critical MOSs.
the army is scraping the barrel.
then there is the matter of 14 pc Cat IV recruits admitted in Oct 05 and 19pc in Nov….against an annual ceiling of 4 percent???
the returning divisions, which leave all their equipment behind in iraq, come home and almost immediately lose 2,000 to 3,000 stop-loss personnel. then tradoc goes in and cherry picks the best NCOs for DI and schoolhouse jobs. leaving a division with about 65 percent of authorized strength, no equipment to train on, sitting around for eight or nine months painting rocks. if they are lucky 90 days before re-deploying the army begins to refill them with green kids straight out of AIT or advanced armor training. if they are even luckier they have time to get in a rotation to JROTC or NTC and get some realistic training for those new arrivals. if not so lucky they just take them off to combat and let em sink or swim.
this is not healthy. this is not an army on the way up but one on the way to a disaster.
we need more and smarter soldiers. not more Cat IVs.
so far it is the willingness of these young men and women to serve, and to deploy multiple times, and to work grueling and dangerous 18 hour days 7 days a week that is the glue holding things together.
all the cheap fixes have been used; all the one-time-only gains so beloved of legislators trying to balance a budget and get out of town.
the question is what sort of an army are your bosses going to leave behind as their legacy in 2009? one that is trained, ready and well equipped to fight the hundred-year war with islam that seems to have begun with a vengeance on your watch? or will they leave town and head into a golden retirement as that army collapses for lack of manpower, lack of money to repair and replace all the equipment chewed up by iraq and afghanistan, lack of money to apply to fixing those problems because billions were squandered on weapons systems that are a ridiculous legacy of a Cold War era long gone (viz. the f/22, the osprey, the navy’s gold plated destroyers and aircraft carriers and, yes, nuclear submarines whose seeming future purpose is to replace rubber zodiac boats as the favorite landing craft of Spec Ops teams, at a cost of billions)
meanwhile the pentagon, at the direction of your boss, marches rapidly ahead with deployment of an anti-missile system whose rockets have yet to actually get out of the launch tubes. at a cost of yet more multiple billions.
you say i blame your boss for things 3 or 4 levels below him that he can’t possibly be controlling and quote accusations from present and former flag officers who he has never eyeballed personally.
well the above items are things that he directly controls, or should; things he came into office vowing he was going to fix or change drastically. and in the latest QDR, his last, he made none of the hard choices about wasted money on high dollar weapons systems that make no sense in the real world today. the same QDR quite correctly identifies an urgent need for MORE psyops and civil affairs and military police and far more troops who have foreign language training appropriate to where we fight. and we budget a paltry 191 million, i say MILLION, bucks to do all that. not even the cost of the periscopes on those oh-so-necessary submarines, or the instruments on one of those f22s.
this is what has my attention; this is what has me in a mood to question over and over and over, waiting for answers that never come, change that never comes, course corrections that never come.
you wanted some specifics. there are some specifics.
PS: those <tens of thousands of soldiers in fixed garrisons in germany who could not deploy> were called VII Corps in the Persian Gulf War. they deployed. they formed the armored spear that penetrated kuwait and broke the republican guard. the garrisons were guarded, while they were gone, by the german army and police. they would have been so guarded in OIF too had we tried a bit of diplomacy instead of bitch-slapping Old Europe as your boss did at a crucial moment.
those bases in germany were paid for by germany; still are. and they are a good deal closer to the action at present and in the foreseeable future than fort riley, kansas. now we envision counting on rough and crude forward bases, occupied only occasionally, in places where we have such good friends and allies like the fellow who just ordered us to get out because we harumphed when he slaughtered a few hundred or thousand peaceful demonstrators against his theft of yet another democratic election.
you say that by doing this we are positioning ourselves better for the wars of the future. but what if, once again, a curtain of iron descends across Europe and once again the Fulda Gap must be guarded against the new Red Army of our good friend and ally Putin.
your boss is fond of saying that this or that thing is “unknowable.” the most unknowable thing of all is who your enemy is going to be next time and where you are going to need allies and bases from which to attack or defend.
pulling out of europe and south korea may be one of the larger mistakes charged off against your boss five years from now or ten, if we are lucky enough to have a whole decade to repair some of the damage he has done while congress turned a blind eye, too busy doing earmarks for flea circus museums in dubuque and bridges to nowhere, alaska, to do the necessary oversight and questioning of cockamamy ideas with even more dubious estimates of future savings of billions that begin dropping like a rock before the ink is even dry on the report.
all i can say is what the hell are you doing questioning my columns when you ought to be in there at the elbow of your boss reading those columns aloud to him every wednesday afternoon and urging him to pay attention to them.
Thanks for these insights, joe. none of this is easy. Your perspective seems pretty fixed but I do appreciate the experience you bring to it.
Again, what bothers me most about your coverage is your implication that the people involved in all of this are dumb or have ill-intent or are so sure of what they know that they don’t brook discussion. That’s the part you’re just way off on, friend.
This is tough stuff, and we’re all hard at it, trying to do what’s best for the country.
I like to think that is what i am doing also, and it is a struggle that grows out of my obligation to and love for america’s warriors going back 41 years as of last month.
there are many things we all could wish had happened.
i can wish that your boss had surrounded himself with close advisers who had, once at least, held a dying boy in their arms and watched the life run out of his eyes while they lied to him and told him, over and over, “You are going to be all right. Hang on! Help is coming. Don’t quit now…”
Such men in place of those who had never known service or combat or the true cost of war, and who pays that price, and had never sent their children off to do that hard and unending duty.
i could wish for so much.
i could wish that in january of this year i had not stood in a garbage-strewn pit, in deep mud, and watched soldiers tear apart the wreckage of a kiowa warrior shot down just minutes before and tenderly remove the barely alive body of WO Kyle Jackson and the lifeless body of his fellow pilot. they died flying overhead cover for a little three-vehicle Stryker patrol with which i was riding at the time.
i could wish that Jackson’s widow Betsy had not found, among the possessions of her late husband, a copy of my book, carefully earmarked at a chapter titled Brave Aviators, which Kyle was reading at the time of his death. That she had not enclosed a photo of her husband, herself and a 3 year old baby girl.
those things i received in the mail yesterday and they brought back the tears that i wept standing there in that pit, feeling the same shards in my heart that i felt the first time i looked into the face of a fallen american soldier 41 years ago on a barren hill in Quang Ngai Province in another time, another war.
someone once asked me if i had learned anything from going to war so many times. my reply: yes, i learned how to cry.
DiRita, as an official spokesman for the Secretary of Defense — meaning he represents all Americans — should be one of the most articulate, level-headed and courteous people in our country. Joe Galloway is not the only person in the capital who can write. If the information war is the new battlefield, then our best communicators should be staffing PAO positions. The DOD should never look like it’s thugging around looking for someone to beat on. Yet DiRita didn’t know when to quit and just let the man retire back to Texas in peace. Powerful PAOs can bully around and beat the hell out of most writers. But not Joe Galloway.
The only way this exchange could be considered a draw is if it stopped where the columnists stopped quoting it. That’s like saying Ali didn’t beat Foreman because your tape ran out at Round 3. The Washington Times should print DiRita’s eulogy.