Ok, so it's not Southeast Asia; at least there the United States could declare victory, withdraw, and move on since the region was not of any military or economic importance. Iraq is, as anyone with two neurons to rub together knows, a far, far more critical mess. Especially if you're a soldier getting blown up in your Humvee:
The Pentagon says that more than 10,000 US military personnel have been wounded in Iraq since the conflict began in March 2003. Newly published figures show that more than 5,000 of the wounded have been unable to return to duty. Many have been left with serious injuries such as lost limbs and sight, mostly as a result of the blast effects of roadside bombs. More than 1,300 US troops have been killed.BBC
What is apalling is how most of those horrific injuries were totally unnecessary. (I'll ignore the issues about whether the war should have been fought at all or should have been implemented by a UN-backed coalition.) The fact remains that America has again sent an insufficient number of troops into battle without adequate supplies, equipment, or protection against what the military euphemistically calls "Improvised Explosive Devices" or IEDs. We should call them booby-traps and homemade bombs, because that's really what they are.
Rumsfeld lied when told the troops "It's essentially a matter of physics. It isn't a matter of money. It isn't a matter on the part of the Army of desire. It's a matter of production and capability of doing it." But that's just the lie that Bush and the Republicans wants propagated. The fact remains that the issue here is a callous lack of caring about the troops and their families that moves into the realm of the criminal.
Did you know that an armored Humvee costs $180,000 but the naked one — you know the one with canvas doors, vulnerable to any kid with a BB gun — costs half that at $90,000 per? Yup, that's right: the issue is saving money. Oh, wait, you say. Rumsfeld told us that it was "physics" and "production" and "capability". That's not just dissembling and spin, that's outright lying. Back in March of last year, the Wall Street Journal covered the problems that unarmored Humvees posed for soldiers:
A decade ago, the Army began producing an armored Humvee capable of providing protection from many roadside bombs and rocket-propelled grenades.
Like most soldiers in Iraq, Capt. Cameron Birge hasn't set foot in one of those vehicles. Instead, he leads convoys through one of the country's most violent regions in a Humvee — the modern successor to the Jeep — with a sheet-metal skin that can't even stop bullets from a small-caliber handgun. To shield himself, Capt. Birge removed his Humvee's canvas doors and welded on slabs of scrap metal. He spread Kevlar blankets over the seats and stacked sandbags on the floor.
"I don't know what the Army has planned for me next," he wrote in an e-mail from Iraq in early March. "But it's definitely time to stop ordering the Humvees with the canvas doors."Greg Jaffe, Cold-War Thinking Prevented Vital Vehicle From Reaching Iraq
The Wall Street Journal, March 19, 2004
After Rumsfeld's lies became public, reporters spoke with the Humvee armor manufacturers. The result? About what you'd expect: the armorers have the ability and capacity to turn out far more vehicles than are currently being produced, but Bush and the Pentagon simply aren't interested in allocating the funds to buy them:
The manufacturer of Humvees for the U.S. military and the company that adds armor to the utility vehicles are not running near production capacity and are making all that the Pentagon has requested, spokesmen for both companies said.
"If they call and say, 'You know, we really want more,' we'll get it done," said Lee Woodward, a spokesman for AM General, the Indiana company that makes Humvees and the civilian Hummer versions.
At O'Gara-Hess & Eisenhardt, the Ohio firm that turns specially designed Humvees into fully armored vehicles at a cost of about $70,000 each, spokesman Michael Fox said they, too, can provide more if the government wants them. Seattle Seattle Post-Intelligencer
But even if the official manufacturers couldn't meet the demand, others could easily do so. (Isn't this what outsourcing is all about? Oh, wait a minute. Halliburton doesn't have a unit that armors Humvees. Too bad; fewer soldiers would be mutilated or killed if it did.) Texas Armoring Corporation is just one of many after-market firms creating armored vehicles for the mideast market. Their homepage has a photo of an armored humvee. How good is it? According to Trent Kimball, the owner of TAC, its "armoring materials will defeat any bullet short of a 50mm round and would protect passengers from most improvised explosive devices".
"We have armored the Hummer H-1, the military style Humvee," Ron Kimball said. "And we could make a Humvee armoring kit per day starting today and make 30 with the material we have on hand." But after repeatedly submitting price quotes, the Kimballs said no one from the Defense Department has even bothered to call.Sanantonio.comLogin: firstname.lastname@example.org
Courtesy of www.BugMeNot.com
That's bad enough, but then then I read things like this, about how desperate soldiers are creating "hillbilly armor" because the military won't provide the explosive-resistant vehicles they need:
In the process Rocco's unit gets hit regularly with small-arms fire, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and even suicide car bombs. He displays reddish pockmarks and scar tissue up his right arm, the effects of an IED from last May. "I really can't close my right hand," he says. And Rocco's Humvee is, today, equipped with "Gypsy racks" — steel-plated cages around the gunner — and other add-on, improvised hardware, known as "hillbilly armor." "It's Mel Gibson 'Road Warrior' stuff," says Capt. John Pinter, the battalion's maintenance officer. "We're not shooting for pretty over here."MSNBC
This really makes me angry. Then I read about the crippled and mutilated soldiers coming home without rehab, without counseling, without every reasonable effort being made to acknowledge their sacrifice and try to do something, anything, to mitigate the damage, and it positively makes my blood boil. The military is not a toy, and the ten thousand casualties are human beings being needlessly killed and mutilated to save a trifling sum of money in a badly-bungled war.
All those idiotic red-state Americans who plaster their SUVs with moronic "support our troops" ribbons need to ask, as did National Guard Spc. Thomas Wilson and as do millions of troop-supporting blue-state Americans, "Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles?". Why indeed. Why indeed.