Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Word Unheard: NY Times Publishes Classified Military Report The Word Unheard: NY Times Publishes Classified Military Report

The Word Unheard: NY Times Publishes Classified Military Report titled "Pentagon Says Iraq Effort Limits Ability to Fight Other Conflicts" My view is that this should be investigated agressively, with, hopefully some hefty fines and jail time for those involved.

First, let's start with what we know from the NYT article. Apparently, General Myers wrote (or more likely distributed) a classified memo to Congress that pointed out that our military is stretched from its work in Iraq and Afghanistan. This was apparently a more pessimestic view than given by the President. The NYT was pointing out this discrepancy.
The officer, Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, informed Congress in a classified report that major combat operations elsewhere in the world, should they be necessary, would probably be more protracted and produce higher American and foreign civilian casualties because of the commitment of Pentagon resources in Iraq and Afghanistan.

General Myers cited reduced stockpiles of precision weapons, which were depleted during the invasion of Iraq, and the stress on reserve units, which fulfill the bulk of combat support duties in Iraq, as among the factors that would limit the Pentagon's ability to prevail as quickly as war planners once predicted in other potential conflicts.

The report this year acknowledges that the nation's armed forces are operating under a higher level of risk than cited in the report last year, said Pentagon and military officials who have read both documents.

The general's report appears to provide a slightly different assessment than President Bush offered at a news conference last week when he said the number of American troops in Iraq would not limit Washington military options elsewhere.

Mr. Bush said he had asked General Myers, "Do you feel that we've limited our capacity to deal with other problems because of our troop levels in Iraq?" "And the answer is no, he didn't feel a bit limited," Mr. Bush said. "It feels like we got plenty of capacity."

In other words, the NYT caught the President in a little lie. Or did it? Obviously, this is a question of degree, but arguably, the President made a more optimistic portrayal of our military's preparedness to fight other wars than was found in this, presumably more candid, but classified, portrayal.

The reason that I think that jail time and hefty fines are more than likely appropriate here is that this is, in my estimation, a question of national security.

We have a long history of our government issuing what can best be described as White Lies for strategic reasons. Probably the best know was the huge deception we played on the Germans on the run-up to our D-Day invasion of Normandy. It went so far that Gen. Patton was running a dummy army, complete with fake tanks, etc. In short, we convinced the Germans that the invasion would be at Calais, instead of Normandy. Not only were they Germans somewhat unprepared when we did land at the later, but Hitler was apparently so convinced that Normandy was a feint, that he refused to release the Panzer reserves until too late. This "lie" ended up saving numerous American (and other Allied) lives, and probably shortened the war a bit.

Was it a deception? Yes. A lie? Maybe. Was it justified? Definitely.

This brings us to the present situation. The NYT seems to be implying that President Bush was lying to the American people about our ability to fight another war right now. But the reality is that he was probably attempting to mislead our enemies into believing that we are better able to respond to any threats that they might pose to us than we probably really are. And why would he do that? Obviously, because his administration believed that that minor deception might just reduce the chance that one of the remaining Axis-of-Evil countries might just call our bluff right now - esp. since both are verging on joining the Nuclear Club.

So, by exposing our bluff, the NYT has effectively reduced our leverage on these two rogue states, even if by a small amount, and thus probably increased the chances that one or both of them is going to call our bluff, and, in particular, go nuclear.

I have said elsewhere that a newspaper runs a risk when it knowingly discloses classified information. (And it was "knowingly" as they pointed out that the memo was classified). If the public comes to believe that it was jusified, such as in the case of the Pentagon Papers, then it will become politically difficult to prosecute either the newspaper or the person disclosing the classified information to the newspaper. But if they can't convince the public that the importance of what they disclosed outweighs the fact that they broke the law, then they should, and presumably will, face the legal consequences of their actions.

The person who gave the NYT the classified document is, hopefully, in even more jepardy than the newspaper is. He deserves to go to jail for this. He committed a crime, and should pay for it.

Obviously, in most such cases, the person disclosing classified information to a newspaper has an axe to grind. Most likely, he is a fellow traveler, not happy with the Administration that he works for. But that is no excuse. Dr. Rice was tasked to the State Department to clean up just this sort of thing - clamping down (and hopefully firing or prosecuting) those who disclose information to discredit the Administration. In this case, the information was classified, its release possibly jepardized the United States, and the release was a crime.

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