Wash. Times falsely claimed Obama “urg[ed] the Bush administration to conduct air strikes against terrorist targets in Pakistan without its approval”

A Washington Times article distorted Sen. Barack Obama's comments about targeting terrorists in Pakistan, falsely claiming that Obama “urg[ed] the Bush administration to conduct air strikes against terrorist targets in Pakistan without its approval.”

A February 26 article by Rowan Scarborough on the front page of The Washington Times distorted Sen. Barack Obama's comments about targeting terrorists in Pakistan, falsely claiming that Obama “urg[ed] the Bush administration to conduct air strikes against terrorist targets in Pakistan without its approval.” Scarborough wrote of Obama, “His urging of the Bush administration to conduct air strikes against terrorist targets in Pakistan without its approval is privately derided inside the Pentagon as the way to ruin relations with a good ally.” In fact, during an August 1 foreign policy speech, Obama stated: “If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and [Pakistan] President [Pervez] Musharraf won't act, we will.” Obama made any actions conditional, not definite, contrary to the Times' assertion, and did not specify what actions he would take. Moreover, Scarborough failed to note that several media outlets, including The Washington Post, have reported that the United States recently used a CIA Predator aircraft to launch missile strikes at terrorist targets inside Pakistan and that “the U.S. spy agency did not seek approval” from the Pakistani government.

Scarborough also claimed that "[m]embers of Washington's military and defense establishment are expressing trepidation about Sen. Barack Obama," adding that “the mostly conservative retired officers, industry executives and current defense officials interviewed by The Washington Times cite Mr. Obama's lack of experience in national security.” But only one of the four people cited in the article as support for the Times' claim that "[m]embers of Washington's military and defense establishment are expressing trepidation" about Obama was identified as a “current defense official[]” ; Scarborough quoted an unnamed “senior Pentagon official” who claimed an Obama swearing-in “will give the Arab street the final victory, the best optics, and the ultimate in bragging rights. They win. We lose.” The other three purported "[m]embers of Washington's military and defense establishment" cited in the article, included an unnamed defense "industry executive; retired Army Gen. Jack Keane, an MNSBC analyst and a leading advocate of President Bush's 2006 “surge” policy -- a policy Obama opposed; and retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, whom Scarborough quoted as saying, “We're very concerned about [Obama's] apparent lack of understanding on the threat of radical Islam to the United States,” adding: "[a] lot of retired senior officers feel the same way." As Media Matters for America documented, McInerney is a Fox News analyst who, in 2002, said that the military campaign in Iraq would be “shorter” than the 42 days it took to complete the Persian Gulf War in 1991, adding, “It is going to be absolutely awesome, and that's why this war, if we do it properly, will go very quick, and we'll have less civilian casualties than we did last time.” In February 2006, as Think Progress noted, McInerney told Fox News host Bill O'Reilly that: “I believe that -- that [Saddam Hussein] had [WMD] and then the Russians convinced him, because they sent a team in, a Spetsnaz [Russian Special Forces] team in, and they moved those weapons into three locations in Syria and one into Bekaa Valley.” Also in 2006, McInerney discussed the potential use of military action to thwart Iran's efforts to develop nuclear weapons and purported to “lay out a campaign today that will take Iran down very quickly.”

Scarborough also reported that "[d]efense industry executives worry that Mr. Obama will end six years of defense budget increases and, as he has repeatedly said on the campaign trail and in debates, tap into war and military funds to support his plan for universal health care." But while Obama has frequently asserted that money spent on the war in Iraq could have been better utilized elsewhere, the Times provided no evidence that Obama supports diverting non-Iraq-related military funds to other programs. Further, in explaining how Obama will pay for his health care proposal, the Obama campaign website says: “The Obama plan will realize tremendous savings within the health care system to help finance the plan. The additional revenue needed to fund the up-front investments in technology and to help people who cannot afford health insurance is more than covered by allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire for people making more than $250,000 per year, as they are scheduled to do.”

From Scarborough's February 26 Washington Times article:

Members of Washington's military and defense establishment are expressing trepidation about Sen. Barack Obama, as the Illinois senator comes closer to winning the Democratic presidential nomination and leads in national polls to become commander in chief.

But his backers, including a former Air Force chief of staff, say the rookie senator believes in a strong military, and with it, a larger Army and Marine Corps.

“Any military person who concludes he's a left-wing, hair-on-fire, Kumbaya child of the '60s has sadly misunderestimated him, to use George Bush's term,” said retired Gen. Merrill McPeak.

Still, the mostly conservative retired officers, industry executives and current defense officials interviewed by The Washington Times cite Mr. Obama's lack of experience in national security. They also point to his determination to pull American combat units from Iraq at a time when a troop surge has reduced violence, damaged al Qaeda and allowed the Iraqi government to progress toward Sunni-Shia-Kurd reconciliation.

“We're very concerned about his apparent lack of understanding on the threat of radical Islam to the United States,” said retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, who is pro-Iraq war and a Fox News analyst. “A lot of retired senior officers feel the same way.”

Mr. Obama also has stirred concern in national security circles by pledging to talk to the leaders of rogue nations, such as Iran and North Korea, without preconditions.

His urging of the Bush administration to conduct air strikes against terrorist targets in Pakistan without its approval is privately derided inside the Pentagon as the way to ruin relations with a good ally. Pakistan will not allow U.S. combat troops to operate on its soil.

[...]

Mr. Obama has visited Iraq and other nations as a Senate Foreign Relations Committee member.

No other Obama proposal brings more military criticism than his plan to bring home one to two combat brigades per month from Iraq - meaning all such units would be out by the end of 2009, his first year in office.

A senior Pentagon official said an Obama swearing-in “will give the Arab street the final victory, the best optics, and the ultimate in bragging rights. They win. We lose.”

Retired Army Gen. John Keane, an architect of the Iraq troop surge, worries that talk of a U.S. pullout makes reconciliation more difficult. Gen. Keane has not endorsed any presidential candidate.

“Anyone who is advocating a precipitous pullout of U.S. forces, believing this will be a catalyst for political progress, does not understand the realities of Iraq and the minds of the key political leaders,” Gen. Keane told The Washington Times. “The U.S. military presence is the glue that is holding things together in Iraq and is the fundamental reason for the recent political progress. If you remove this presence, the political leaders in Iraq will believe they are on their own and will fall prey to their own fears and paranoia. ... They will bunker down and the political progress will come to a dead stop.”

[...]

Defense industry executives worry that Mr. Obama will end six years of defense budget increases and, as he has repeatedly said on the campaign trail and in debates, tap into war and military funds to support his plan for universal health care.

“We've got some trepidation. There is no track record,” said an industry executive of the first-term senator. “He's an unknown quantity and that scares us a little bit.”