For years, the Bush Administration was denounced for the false statements and intelligence that led to the Iraq invasion. Even after it was shown that there were no weapons of mass destruction, many Americans continued to believe that Iraq was being invaded as a response to the 9-11 attacks. Now, in the latest morphing of the Bush and Obama Administration, our new Defense Secretary Leon Panetta wasted no time in re-casting Iraq in the same flawed image. In a public appearance, Panetta told troops that they were in Iraq because of the attack on 9-11.
At Camp Victory, Panetta told troops that “[t]he reason you guys are here is because of 9/11. The US got attacked and 3,000 human beings got killed because of Al-Qaeda. We’ve been fighting as a result of that.” As his boss transformed into Donald Rumsfeld before his eyes, Doug Wilson, Panetta’s spokesman, ran forward to tell reporters that “I don’t think he’s getting into the argument of 2002-2003.” Instead, he insisted that statement was just one more example of “a plain-spoken secretary.” The last time I heard “plain-speaking” as an excuse for chronic misstatements was a guy named Donald Rumsfeld, the “plain-speaking” Defense Secretary under George Bush. Of course, Rumsfeld was an award-winning plain speaker.
Panetta also later said that we were close to the final destruction of Al Qaeda. Presumably he meant in Afghanistan. However, his aides had to retract a statement by Panetta that the U.S. would keep 70,000 troops in Afghanistan until 2014 — in contradiction to statements by the President.
One could actually hope that our Secretary of Defense would be at least up to speed on the reason for one of our current wars as well as the previously announced plans for the withdrawal of thousands of troops from another war under his administration. Of course, there are so many of them, it may be difficult to keep track.