In falsely accusing Senator John Kerry of denigrating American troops, it is in fact conservatives themselves -- including one of Bush-Cheney '04's most vocal campaigners -- who are suggesting that soldiers on the ground are responsible for explosives going missing in Iraq. On FOX News Channel, both Weekly Standard editor William Kristol and conservative radio host Laura Ingraham claimed that it was the soldiers -- not President George W. Bush -- who decided not to search for the explosives. And on NBC's Today, former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, an active Bush campaigner, placed the "actual responsibility" squarely on the troops.
On October 27, Bush accused Kerry of "denigrating the actions of our troops and commanders in the field without knowing the facts." But in defending the president, Giuliani, Kristol, and Ingraham engaged in precisely the kind of finger-pointing at the troops of which Bush falsely accused Kerry.
From the October 28 edition of NBC's Today:
GIULIANI: The president was cautious. The president was prudent. The president did what a commander in chief should do. And no matter how much you try to blame it on the president, the actual responsibility for it really would be for the troops that were there. Did they search carefully enough? Didn't they search carefully enough?
From the October 28 edition of FOX News Channel's FOX News Live:
KRISTOL: The Bush campaign was actually slow to respond, I think, but finally yesterday pointed out that Kerry was launching very serious charges against the president of the United States, based on a thinly sourced New York Times article, charges that really impugn the competence of the U.S. military. [President] George [W.] Bush didn't decide, you know, "skip that dump" [the Al Qaqaa military installation, where the missing explosives were supposedly housed]. That was 101st [Airborne Division] or the 3rd ID [Infantry Division], "skip that arms dump." That's not a decision made by the president, that's made on the ground. Even if there were some weapons there, this is what happens in war. You know you have to make tough decisions, leave some stuff to take care of later.
From the October 27 edition of FOX News Channel's Hannity & Colmes:
STEVE MURPHY (FORMER MANAGER OF REP. DICK GEPHARDT'S (D-MO) PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN): Laura, Laura, John Kerry did not question the troops. John Kerry questioned the leadership of --
INGRAHAM: Oh, really? Who was looking for those weapons, Steve?
MURPHY: He questioned the leadership of George [W.] Bush. George Bush did not send enough soldiers.
INGRAHAM: Was George Bush on the ground there? The military commanders were on the ground there, Steve.
MURPHY: He [Bush] didn't send enough soldiers to Iraq. He didn't secure the borders.
INGRAHAM: That's not how the soldiers see it, Steve.
MURPHY: He didn't secure the weapons.
INGRAHAM: Why don't you talk to the soldiers for a change?
In fact, the troops who stopped at the Al Qaqaa facility on their way to Baghdad on April 10, 2003, did not have orders to search it; nor were they even informed that the site was sensitive. According to an October 27 New York Times article, Col. Joseph Anderson, the commander of those troops -- the 2nd Brigade of the Army's 101st Airborne Division -- "said he did not learn until this week that the site, Al Qaqaa, was considered sensitive, or that international inspectors had visited it before the war began in 2003 to inspect explosives that they had tagged during a decade of monitoring." The Associated Press reported on October 28, "The first team with orders to search the facility for dangerous weapons arrived on May 8 to inspect the Latifiyah Phosgene Facility, which was part of the al-Qaqaa complex, Pentagon officials said. Another team inspected a missile and rocket facility also located at al-Qaqaa on May 11."