"Some very thoughtless person"

Did a leak foil a White House plot?

Published April 11, 2007 9:19PM (EDT)

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates complained bitterly today that "some very thoughtless person" at the Pentagon leaked word about duty extensions for Army units in Iraq and Afghanistan. Gates said that the leak robbed the Army "the opportunity to notify unit commanders who could then talk to their troops 48 hours before we made a public announcement."

Was there maybe another reason that Gates wanted to keep the story under wraps? As War Room reader Terry Anastassiou notes, George W. Bush mentioned duty extensions just yesterday as one of the terrible things that might have to happen if Congress doesn't get him a timetable-free "emergency" supplemental spending bill soon. At a speech at an American Legion post in Virginia, Bush said: "If Congress fails to pass a bill I can sign by mid-May ... Some of our forces now deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq may need to be extended, because other units are not ready to take their places."

We're just guessing here, but it's not all that hard to imagine how this might have played out for the White House. Bush plays hardball with the Democrats into May. The Pentagon announces that it has to extend troop deployments by a few months. And the president says, "See, I warned you. Look what those Democrats have done."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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