Obama’s platoon-leading captain: yes, he exists

… much to the wingnuts’ discomfiture.

When I head Barack Obama’s remark last night about the Army captain in Afghanistan who was leading a platoon at not much more than half-strength that was scavenging enemy weapons due to supply problems, I had two reactions:

1. What a perfect anecdote to make his points: that Iraq had forced us to take our eye off the ball in Afghanistan, and that the uber-hawks in the Bush administration had FUBAR’d the military.

2. What the hell is a captain doing leading a platoon? Isn’t that a lieutenant’s job? And are the wingnuts going to come after Obama for (1) fibbing and (2) not understanding basic facts about the military?

Well, the answer to the wingnuts-attacking question is “Yes.” However, Jake Tapper of ABC News managed to get in touch with the actual captain, who verifies the while story. (Phil Carter gets additional confirmation from two other platoon leaders in Afghanistan.)

Yes, there are serious shortages of materiel in Afghanistan. (Carter, who served in Buqbah, says that the same thing is true in Iraq, partly because the fancy gear stays on the Forward Operating Bases and doesn’t get to the guys at the sharp end of the spear.) And yes, 15 of the 39 soldiers in the platoon he led got reassigned before the unit was shipped to Afghanistan, at least 10 of them to units headed for Iraq. And no, he isn’t leading a platoon now: he’s a captain now, but in the period he was talking about he was a lieutenant.

Of course, I’m relieved. This could have been the sort of tiny error that wrecks a candidate’s credibility. But what’s striking is the unwillingness of the residents of the Wingnutosphere to let go of the idea that the candidate they dislike is a fool and a fabulist.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com