Pat Lang at Sic Semper Tyrannis has a terrific posting that features a recent exchange of emails between combat correspondent Joe Galloway and Larry Dirita, Rummy’s press spokesman. As Pat notes, “Joe Galloway is the “Ernie Pyle” of my generation and one of the greatest friends the American soldier ever had. He is the reporter who went to LZ X-Ray in 1965 with the First Battalion, Seventh Cavalry Regiment. Yes. He is the reporter in the film “We Were Soldiers.”
Joe sent the exchange to General Barry McCaffrey in the following email:
—– Original Message —–
To: b.r.mccaffrey@xxxxxxnet ; xxxxx
Sent: Thursday, May 04, 2006 5:20 PM
Subject: a little exchange of email
barry & jill: yesterday i had a lengthy exchange of messages with rummy’s mouthpiece, larry darita, over my column last week about paul van riper and the rigged war game in 2002. thought you might find it of interest:
General Barry McCaffrey read the exchange and encouraged Joe to allow it to be disseminated far and wide:
Subj: Re: a little exchange of email
Date: 5/4/2006 10:50:30 P.M. Eastern Standard Time
This is the most powerful stuff hands down I have ever read about this war. You need to put the grammar right with capitals, etc and the PUBLISH IT ON LINE IMMEDIATELY JUST AS IS…BOTH SIDES.
This exchange ought to be your going away gift to the capital. Thanks for your ferocious protection of our soldiers and marines, thanks for your dedication to the truth, thanks for your enormous moral courage.
Joe Galloway got the ball rolling with his newspaper column taking Rumsfeld to task for ignoring the war game lose inflicted on his planner by retired Lt. General Paul Van Riper. It appeared on Wed, Apr. 26, 2006:
After losing war game, Rumsfeld packed up his military and went to war
By JOSEPH L. GALLOWAY
Knight Ridder Newspapers
WASHINGTON – Of those generals who have stepped forward to
criticize Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and his conduct of the
Iraq War, none has pointed out the mistakes of a man who admits no error
with more specificity than retired Marine Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper.
Van Riper is widely respected as a military thinker who emerged
from combat in Vietnam determined to help get to the bottom of what went
wrong there and why and how it should be fixed.
Van Riper, who commanded both the Marine War College at Quantico,
Va., and the prestigious National War College in Washington before
retiring in 1997, told an interviewer in October 2004 that the military
got the lessons all wrong after World War II and that mistake resulted
in two disasters – Korea and Vietnam.
“My great fear is we’re off to something very similar to what
happened after World War II, that is getting it completely wrong again,”
the general said of the course in Iraq.
The general made it clear he is no anti-war crusader. “We have to
stay,” he said of Iraq this week. “We have to finish it, but let’s do it
Van Riper told Knight Ridder that in looking at Rumsfeld’s
leadership he found three particular areas of inability and
First, he said, if any battalion commander under him had created
so “poor a climate of leadership” and the “bullying” that goes on in the
Pentagon under Rumsfeld he would order an investigation and relieve that
“Even more than that I focus on (his) incompetence when it comes
to preparing American military forces for the future,” Van Riper said.
“His idea of transformation turns on empty buzz words. There’s none of
the scholarship and doctrinal examination that has to go on before you
begin changing the force.”
Third, he said, under Rumsfeld there’s been no oversight of
“Mr. Rumsfeld has failed 360 degrees in the job. He is
incompetent,” Van Riper concluded. “Any military man who made the
mistakes he has made, tactically and strategically, would be relieved on
One event that shocked Van Riper occurred in 2002 when he was
asked, as he had been before, to play the commander of an enemy Red
Force in a huge $250 million three-week war game titled Millennium
Challenge 2002. It was widely advertised as the best kind of such
exercises – a free-play unscripted test of some of the Pentagon’s and
Rumsfeld’s fondest ideas and theories.
Though fictional names were applied, it involved a crisis moving
toward war in the Persian Gulf and in actuality was a barely veiled test
of an invasion of Iran.
In the computer-controlled game, a flotilla of Navy warships and
Marine amphibious warfare ships steamed into the Persian Gulf for what
Van Riper assumed would be a pre-emptive strike against the country he
Van Riper resolved to strike first and unconventionally using fast
patrol boats and converted pleasure boats fitted with ship-to-ship
missiles as well as first generation shore-launched anti-ship cruise
missiles. He packed small boats and small propeller aircraft with
explosives for one mass wave of suicide attacks against the Blue fleet.
Last, the general shut down all radio traffic and sent commands by
motorcycle messengers, beyond the reach of the code-breakers.
At the appointed hour he sent hundreds of missiles screaming into
the fleet, and dozens of kamikaze boats and planes plunging into the
Navy ships in a simultaneous sneak attack that overwhelmed the Navy’s
much-vaunted defenses based on its Aegis cruisers and their radar
controlled Gatling guns.
When the figurative smoke cleared it was found that the Red Forces
had sunk 16 Navy ships, including an aircraft carrier. Thousands of
Marines and sailors were dead.
The referees stopped the game, which is normal when a victory is
won so early. Van Riper assumed that the Blue Force would draw new,
better plans and the free play war games would resume.
Instead he learned that the war game was now following a script
drafted to ensure a Blue Force victory: He was ordered to turn on all
his anti-aircraft radar so it could be destroyed and he was told his
forces would not be allowed to shoot down any of the aircraft bringing
Blue Force troops ashore.
The Pentagon has never explained. It classified Van Riper’s
21-page report criticizing the results and conduct of the rest of the
exercise, along with the report of another DOD observer. Pentagon
officials have not released Joint Forces Command’s own report on the
Van Riper walked out and didn’t come back. He was furious that the
war game had turned from an honest, open free play test of America’s
war-fighting capabilities into a rigidly controlled and scripted
exercise meant to end in an overwhelming American victory.
From: Di Rita, Larry, CIV, OSD
Sent: Friday, April 28, 2006 6:58 AM
To: Galloway, Joe
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
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
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
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!!
From galloway in response to DaRita No. 1:
larry: 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 anybody’s desk. “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..
Darita No. 2:
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!!
Galloway Response to DaRita No. 2:
Subj: Re: Date: 5/3/2006 4:56:42 PM Eastern Daylight Time
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.
DaRita No. 3:
Subj: Re: Date: 5/3/2006 5:09:59 PM Eastern Daylight Time
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 indefinitely. 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..
Galloway response to DaRita No. 3:
larry: [You say]
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 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.
DaRita No. 4:
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.
Galloway response to DaRita No. 4:
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.
DaRita No. 5:
I appreciate what you are saying but your continued implication that rumsfeld does not understand all that is at stake is wrong and offensive.
—— End of Forwarded Message
And, with the number of daily bombings in Iraq doubling since January and the so-called “new” government in Iraq has not appointed either a Minister of Defense or a Minister of Interior, the horror fantasy continues and Rummy still has not come to grips with reality.
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