Panetta's profanity-laced, flub-filled trip

The new Defense Secretary's maiden voyage abroad was a memorable one

By Natasha Lennard

Published July 15, 2011 4:16PM (EDT)

Leon Panetta (AP/Paul J. RIchards)
Leon Panetta (AP/Paul J. RIchards)

Newly minted Defense Secretary Leon Panetta inexplicably sprinkled his recently completed trip to to Iraq and Afghanistan with misstatements and mild profanities, earning some unfortunate headlines. Here are some highlights from the 73-year-old former CIA chief's travels:


  •  "Dammit, make a decision." Panetta expresses his frustration with Iraq's delay in making a decision on whether to ask the U.S. to keep some of its 46,000 troops in the country past the end of the year.
  •  "This damn country has a hell of a lot of resources," Panetta told troops in Baghdad. The New York Times counted "16 cheerful 'damns' and 'hells'"during 28 minutes of remarks.
  • During the same speech, he described the operation to kill "that son of a bitch" Osama bin Laden.
  • Panetta told reporters that the United States would keep 70,000 troops in Afghanistan until the end of 2014. The White House has pledged to bring many more service members home by then and aides were quick to say that Panetta had misspoken.
  • As President George W. Bush did before him, Panetta suggested the United States' invasion of Iraq in 2003 was related to the presence of al-Qaida there, telling troops in Baghdad that "the reason you guys are here is because on 9/11 the United States got attacked." This is something the Obama White House has denied.


What could possibly account for Panetta's seemingly of-the-cuff manner? The Defense Secretary had a suggestion on MSNBC on Monday night: "I'm Italian, what the frick can I tell you?"


Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

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Afghanistan Al-qaida Iraq Iraq War Pentagon U.s. Military War Room