How about “True?”

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on June 27, 2011

Politifact takes on Rep. Allen West and gives him a “mostly true.”

West has been critical of the U.S. military actions in Libya launched in March. In a Miami Herald/St. Petersburg Times article on June 23, West was quoted as saying "We can't keep committing U.S. military to 'protect innocent civilians'; they're exhausted." He went into more detail on Fox News in response to a question about whether President Barack Obama would have gotten authorization from Congress to launch the operation, West responded:

"Well, the thing is this. You have got to be able to explain what the mission is. And being 22 years in the United States military, we have seen three different missions being stated. First of all, we're going to protect innocent civilians. Kind of hard to do that from 30,000 feet. The next thing, we say we're going to go in and attack the military capability of (Moammar) Gadhafi. Really hard to do between the vehicles of the rebels and his vehicles. And now we want to take Moammar Gadhafi out of power. There are means by which we can restrict and constrain and kind of temper Moammar Gadhafi without coming back again and having a third combat operation. And you want to talk about the economics of this, in the first 24 to 36 hours, you saw $115 million go downrange because a Tomahawk cruise missile is a little over $1 million each."

For this Truth-O-Meter item, we wondered if West got his numbers right. How much does the Tomahawk cruise missile cost and did we spend $115 million in the first 24 to 36 hours on missiles in Libya?

And what if anything can we draw from that initial cost?

West is making two points here:

#1: President Obama committed U.S. military forces to an action in Libya without clear goals.

#2: This costs money.

Politifact ignores #1. Focuses entirely on #2 and quickly determines that all of Rep. West’s “facts” check out—at least close enough for government work.

But they then use that last paragraph quoted above to obfuscate and equivocate into a “mostly” true.

"The cost of the first day or first couple of days was largely Tomahawk missiles and maybe some other munitions, but for the most part that's why it was so expensive," Cooper said. "The cost in the long term of a no-fly zone is typically fuel and operational costs so the two are very different. The upfront cost of imposing a no-fly zone are typically substantially higher than the week-to-week cost of flying planes above Libyan territory."

To which one would reply: “So what?” West’s point is that the Libyan intervention has not insubstantial costs. He uses an easy-to-comprehend and admittedly accurate line item to illustrate those costs. The fact that the amount of money being spent changes from hour to hour is irrelevant.

Is giving a Republican a simple “True” so hard?


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June 2011



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