Friday, December 10, 2004

Soldiers Pepper Rumsfeld With Complaints Media Has Failed to Investigate

According to Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita, the questions Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld heard from National Guard and Reserve soldiers at Camp Buehring in Kuwait Wednesday were "unexceptional."

But I have to figure that the average American listening to these troops from his living room wouldn't use a word like "unexceptional" to describe the complaints -- ranging from a failure to get paid on time to a lack of armor on their Humvees. The average American would use words like "disheartening" or "frustrating" to describe the complaints.

And I would ask: Where has the media been? The television media in particular, with the power to reach out to a national audience, has gotten bored with Iraq. We see things being blown up, we acknowledge some of our guys (and more of theirs) are dying, and then we move on to Scott Peterson or what toys to buy this holiday season.

Many of the questions posed by the troops might have seemed "unexceptional" because they've been voiced before, either during the initial months of the war, or, more likely, during the presidential campaign. John Kerry talked about how the Bush administration didn't have a "plan to win the peace," and Bush responded by falsely suggesting the Kerry would "cut and run" from Iraq, and that Kerry didn't support the troops when he voted against the $87 billion spending spree the president supported (Bush failed to note that the alternate $67 billion spending bill that Kerry supported Bush threatened to veto). Meanwhile, Vice President Cheney implied that a Kerry victory would be a victory for terrorists and their plans to bring nuclear winter to a metropolis near you.

Since Fox News is too busy saying the war is going well, and Wolf Blitzer, Chris Matthews and Tim Russert are too busy with other issues of the day, let's focus on one key question from the Q&A session.

Army Spc. Thomas Wilson, an airplane mechanic with the Tennessee Army National Guard, asked: We’ve had troops in Iraq for coming up on three years and we’ve always staged here out of Kuwait. Now why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromise ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles and why don’t we have those resources readily available to us?

His question brought a round of hearty applause, and then Rumsfeld offered this answer:

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I talked to the General coming out here about the pace at which the vehicles are being armored. They have been brought from all over the world, wherever they’re not needed, to a place here where they are needed. I’m told that they are being – the Army is – I think it’s something like 400 a month are being done. And 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.

As you know, you go to war with the Army you have. They’re not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time. Since the Iraq conflict began, the Army has been pressing ahead to produce the armor necessary at a rate that they believe – it’s a greatly expanded rate from what existed previously, but a rate that they believe is the rate that is all that can be accomplished at this moment.


***

Rumsfeld's response was filled with spin.

First, let's consider why the Humvees are not armored. The U.S. military began preparing for war in late 2001. Would it not be fair to say that Rumsfeld, although he won't admit it, is guilty of poor planning?

If, as Rumsfeld said, "you go to war with the Army you have," did Rumsfeld either a) rush to go to war before the U.S. had enough armored Humvees; b) fail to anticipate the intensity and size of the resistance to the U.S.-led efforts; or c) both?

Di Rita acknowledged late Wednesday that the military is only producing 15 new armored Humvees a month -- an insufficient number to keep up with demand.

Meanwhile, 450 Humvees are being retrofitted with armor. One in four Humvees in the war zone -- 6,530 vehicles -- remain unarmored, leading troops to use "hillbilly armor" -- salvaged metal and armored glass found in landfills.

Why isn't the problem being addressed more quickly?

Although Rumsfeld the problem is not a "matter of money," the Bush administration's budget requests contradict that statement. According to testimony last year from the Army's vice chief of staff, the military needs 8,400 armor kits for Humvees in Iraq and Afghanistan. Guess how much President Bush's 2004 budget asked for such armor kits? Zero.

But maybe it's a lack of direction from Rumsfeld. Robert Mecredy, who heads Armor Holdings of Jacksonville, Fla., the sole supplier of protective plates for the Humvee vehicles, said it could increase output by as much as 22% per month with no additional investment.

"We're prepared to build 50 to 100 vehicles more per month,'' Mecredy told Bloomberg Business News. It just needs to receive the order from the Army. "I've told the customer that and I stand ready to do that," he said.

Representative Martin Meehan (D-Mass.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, cited Mecredy's remarks as evidence Rumsfeld "misled our troops about the reasons for their equipment shortages.''

"Even more outrageous than sending soldiers into combat without the proper protective equipment is offering them false excuses,'' Meehan said in a statement.

The irony is that Rumsfeld himself travels in an armored vehicle when he visits Iraq. Col. John Zimmerman, a leader of Spec. Wilson's unit, reportedly said that he and his troops could not help "fuming" at the sight of the fully up-armored Humvees put on display for Rumsfeld's visit. "What you see out here isn't what we've got going north (to Iraq) with us," Zimmerman said.

***

So the soldiers asked "unexceptional" questions -- but ones that probably caught the vast majority of Americans by surprise.

Will the media fight the good fight and investigate the charges? The administration's response? The progress being made to correct the situation?

Will the media ask what happened to the money in the $87 billion spending bill, which was supposed to support the troops' need for a variety of things, including armored Humvees? Will the media investigate how many deaths in Iraq could be linked to troops in unarmored Humvees being attacked?

Or will the media quickly move along, pacified by empty but comfortable statements like the one made yesterday by President Bush, who said the soldiers' concerns were being addressed. "We expect our troops to have the best possible equipment," he said.

If the media accepts the administration's line as is, then they are the ones who are "unexceptional."

8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obviously spin as Rumsfeld was caught off guard. You ask where the media was--my understanding is that the entire thing was set up my an embedded reporter in order to embarrass Rumsfeld. So, the media gets credit for the questions.

And be realistic, everything is about money. Fact of life. There is a limited supply and no question the war has taken a turn unexpected by the administration so certain things are not up to speed. I believe they have admitted as much.

What were you looking for--a Rumsfeld response like: "Yes sir, thank you for bringing to light the fact that we didnt plan properly, arent spending money to protect you, and basically do not care whether you are protected. But now that you brought it up in public, we will do whatever it takes to perform damage control for the american public."

The media should investigate this but also keeping in mind that things do not ever go perfectly in war, this one being no exception to that rule. It is time that people wake up and realize that all wars have come with a myriad of mistakes and this idea of a clean war that many think exists is ridiculous. The exception was Gulf War 1 since we werent winning a true war there but kicking out someone from invading another country.

With war, expect death. Expect destruction. Expect innocents to die. Expect some to be against it and some for it (especially in current times). And, expect mistakes. Makes one wonder what would have happened if the media had been able to scrutinize past wars to the level we expect today. And also expect significant soldier deaths since because of increased technology etc., the flipside is we are expected to preserve innocents at all costs. Our soldiers will die in this process to save innocents. The days where the threat of leveling an entire town are gone....so our increased technology in some ways helps small insurgencies as they embed themsevles with civilians.

Difficult times.

9:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Either you missed the point, or you're just being an apologist ofr the Bushies.

The point isn't that war sucks, or that people die. The point is that the planning for this war came almost two years ago, and we still have troops in unarmored Humvees. That's ridiculous. If a Democrat were president, the conservatives would be up-in-arms, spouting out how horrible it is that our government isn't supporting the troops.

And what about the lack of money in the budget for armor? Is this another case of Bush saying one thing and doing something else? Actions speak louder than words for this president.

3:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was shocked with disbelief by the first response above. The individual indeed missed the entire point. The overwhelming evidences, produced at a time when the media was finally doing it's job, demonstrate the Administration did not prepare for equipping the soldiers in this war.
My understanding is that this exact same charge was brought up SIX MONTHS AGO to the Bush administration by another soldier. The media at the time, obsessed with a separate issue involving Rumsfeld, had then ignored the entire thing. No one better tell me the claim of under-protecting military vehicles caught the administration by surprise. It has become an issue now for Bush ONLY because the media paid attention this time. This is what it takes to rouse an Bush, who has bumbled and fumbled this war. The media sleeps at its peril to the lives of U.S. solders.
Don't give me this inaccurate Republican gurgitated garbage that this soldier was set up by the media. Maybe the press nudged the soldier a bit, but the initiative was entirely that of the soldier and the dozens of his collegues that cheered him on.
One other point. Now that the situation in Iraq has grown only worse, the press must cease immediately rehashing the Bush spin that it "should be expected" as the country heads towards election. As if the violence would stop immediately after the late-January election.
Rather the legitimate issue of the merits of this war and getting the U.S. out of this deadly mess must be allowed to creep to the forefront.
Every time I see a story in the New York Post "celebrating" the death of another hero who was killed in Iraq, I think there should be equal attention given to what the Bush Administration is doing to bring this conflict to a halt and saving the lives of more heroes.
Anyone who adapts the laisse-faire attitude, "Oh well, it's war. People die. We must bow down to whatever Bush says is right," is no more credible than the gum-chewing Brittany Spears expressing her support for Bush and his war. The same should be said for these Fox ghouls.

10:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Find me evidence that soldiers are combing through scrapyards looking for armor. Show me evidence that people are buying body armor on the internet and sending it to soldiers, which, by the way, is against the UCMJ. This really is not a story. JABBS like to stress that 1 out of 4 vehicles are not armored, but it can also be said that 3 out of 4 are. Additionally, not every vehicle in the military requires armor. Additionally, the existence of armor does not guarantee safety. Additionally, sure, we could retrofit every vehicle in the entire US military with armor, bulletproof glass, their own individualized security detail, and overhead fighter escorts, but such is not the reality of war or the military. We simply cannot arm everybody and everything to the maximum extent that civilian retrospection would call for. But, it certainly does give the moonbats something to whine about ...

When did reporters start creating news, and if it was such an important question to be asked, why did this cowardly reporter not ask it previously. This was a cheap political stunt.

10:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the evidence is that Specialist Wilson said it, and the troops who were gathered whooped with applause.

If Wilson was lying, wouldn't the troops have booed? Wouldn't Rumsfeld himself have said, "That's simply not true?"

As for what Humvees need armor, know that more than half the troop deaths in Iraq have been linked to vehicles poorly armored.

And really, isn't the greater point that the administration says one thing and does something else? Rumsfeld SAYS he planned appropriately; Bush SAYS he will provide our troops with the necessary protection. But the ACTIONS speak louder than the WORDS.

It amazes me to see conservatives try to spin linguistic loopholes to defend their party. Stand up for your country! What are you afraid of?

2:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A cheap political stunt?
Don't think that Wilson or most of the U.S. Military in the front lines in Iraq would agree with you. In fact, I think they'd be thoroughly insulted.
Not a news story?
The very fact it sprung the Bush Administration into action to quickly shield more vehicles heading into Iraq more than merits its news value. The media did what it was supposed to do, save lives.
We have a right to know where our billions of dollars expended on this war have been going. We have a right to know when we have been mislead to believe the cash was going towards adequately protecting our troops when in fact it has not.
A few years ago, the media had its hands in its pants playing with itself while lusting after Bush's cause for war. Had it been doing its job then, we probably wouldn't be in this mess in the first place.

3:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, since I have been on the front lines of war, I can personally attest that has not been my experience, and I certainly was not trying to insult myself.

The standard of proof required is not that of Sec. Rumsfeld's to bear. It is the responsibility of the person making the charge, in this case, the reporter, via the soldier. If they are cannibalizing vehicles in junkyards for armor, it should be pretty easy to show us a picture or a video of that. Having said that, one might note that it is a common practice of the military to cannibalize inoperable or less functional vehicles for parts, so it would not surprise me to see this happening.

By the way, I think if you asked a journalist, they would tell you that their job is not to save lives, or to create the news, but rather, to report the events as they see them.

This is yet another way for the Dems to try to make political hay out of an issue that, when the rubber met the road, they opposed. Or rather, they voted for it before they voted against it. Either way, this type of hysteria over issues which they do not fully grasp shows how drastically out of touch they are with today's concepts and issues.

12:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Having said that, one might note that it is a common practice of the military to cannibalize inoperable or less functional vehicles for parts, so it would not surprise me to see this happening."

Actually, it's against our military's rules. There was an item in the news about several Ohio men court-martialed and now serving six months in jail for taking spare parts off of abandoned U.S. trucks in Kuwait, for the purpose of helping transfer items to Iraq.

Conservatives are focusing on the Chattanooga reporter -- but we don't know whether the reporter came up with the question, or just encouraged Wilson to repeat to Rumsfeld what he had said to the reporter first.

The first scenario is not good journalism, although given the administration's shroud of secrecy, it's not difficult to understand the reasoning behind the act.

The second scenario should not be criticized, though.

But the bigger issue is whether what Wilson asked is truthful. The applause from the other troops should provide circumstantial evidence of that. And Rumsfeld stumbling over an answer that seemed to agree with the premise of the question provides additional circumstantial evidence.

10:31 AM  

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