Something quite unusual happened yesterday, at least in my recollection and experience, that might have a significant bearing on what happens next month during or immediately after the Iraq Veterans Against the War planned Winter Soldier Investigation (WSI) – Iraq and Afghanistan.
During the Democratic Presidential debate between Senators Obama and Clinton last Thursday night (Feb 21), Senator Obama made a claim, quoted in the CNN transcript as follows:
"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. 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.
Now, that's a consequence of bad judgment."
Set aside for a moment the questions and observations about that claim. Other sites and news agencies are dealing with that. Simply look at what followed. The very next day, Senator John Warner, as Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee sent this letter (pdf) to Senator Obama.
In the letter, Senator Warner comes very close to covering the D.U.P.E.S. theme developed here for the media in regards to the March WSI, of Date(s), Unit(s), Personnel, Event and Signatures/Statement.
Senator Warner's letter reads as follows:
"...I, and I believe other members of SASC, have a responsibility to establish where in the military chain of command rests the 'accountability,' depending of course, on the accuracy of the facts.
I am endeavoring to determine this now and have tasked the Chairman of The Joint Staff, through his J-3, and other entities in the Department of Defense to assist me. Moreover, it is my intent to raise this issue with Secretary Geren and General Casey when they testify before the Armed Services Committee next Tuesday.
What I need from you are the essential facts of when- the dates- the unit was deployed, to which brigade combat team, or other unit it was assigned, the name and current location of the captain, or other military personnel who shared the alleged facts with you, so that committee staff can debrief them."
That was an amazingly fast responce to such a claim or almost any claim! Further, the responsibility Warner cites for the SASC would also apply to many if not most or even all of the claims made at WSI! I've talked for quite some time about signed affidavits and depositions and how the 1971 testifiers at the first WSI would not execute them. There has been discussion of what can or might be done to next month's WSI testifiers if they make charges but do not cooperate with investigators following up on those charges. For many, if they are no longer active or reserve, the military would have no method to compel cooperation with an investigation.
But the United States Senate has wide ranging subpoena power, and the ability to enforce its disregard as well as legal recourse to compel cooperation and testimony.
Senator Warner is retiring, after a long career that has included service in the Marine Corps during the Korean War, Undersecretary and then Secretary of the Navy and Chairman of the SASC. He has spend most of his adult life concerned and involved with things related to the military. He is also of an age to know what happened to the reputations and honor of the Vietnam veterans.
It just might be that Warner would not like his valediction to be seen as his retiring from service as another generation of warriors find themsleves tarnished and worse by unsubstantiated charges.
In 1971, the Vietnam Veterans Against the War were fortunate that Republican anti-war Senator Mark Hatfield had their WSI testimony entered into the Congressional Record without any of their testifiers having been sworn in. In 2008, others might just find an invitation in the form of a subpoena from the U.S. Senate "requesting" that they show up, take a legally binding oath, and now tell the elected officials charged with oversight - their Winter Soldier stories!
Then too, there is always the option of making the request of Senator Warner and the SASC to investigate those things, as his letter indicates, that are that Committee's responsibility.
It really isn't 1971!
This could be an interesting and timely story and exercise. According to the AP, ABC News claims to know and have spoken to the Captain who was a Lieutenant at the time of the supposed events, and further says that Obama's recitation "was for the most part accurately summarized by Obama".
But Obama's staff also claimed that the soldier never spoke directly to Obama, but told the story to a staffer, who passed it on to the Senator.
Putting those together, we might find out something and incidently have a timely example of what happens to such stories as they are passed on it such fashion, or maybe "for the most part"!