December 9, 2004
A Soldier's QuestionAfter a pep talk to soldiers in Kuwait on their way to Iraq, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was asked a tough question by Army Spc. Thomas Wilson:
"Now why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to armour our vehicles... (scrap) that has already been shot up, dropped, busted, picking the best out of this scrap to put on our vehicles to take us into combat?Most of the 2,300 soldiers cheered Wilson. After asking him to repeat the question, Rumsfeld replied:
First, Rumsfeld is skirting the issue. The lack of armored vehicles is not new, it's been going on since the early months of the Iraq war. Why are our soldiers, members of supposedly the strongest, most powerful and well equipped military force in the world, digging for scrap metal to protect themselves almost two years since the war began?
The ugly truth is, Rumsfeld and his fellow neocons who championed this war grossly underestimated it. They thought it would be a matter of weeks, not years, consequently miscalculating the need for critical equipment that is now costing our soldiers their lives.
Second, Rumsfeld said the goal "is to have as many of those vehicles as humanly possible", which was followed up by Lt. Gen. R. Steven Whitcomb, the commander of Army Forces in the Persian Gulf who said, "It's not a matter of money or desire...It's a matter of the logistics of being able to produce it."
If so, then how come the manufacturer of the vehicle armor said they are still waiting for the Pentagon to order more?
Jacksonville, Florida-based Armor Holdings last month told the Army it could add armor to as many as 550 of the trucks a month, up from 450 vehicles now, Robert Mecredy, president of the company's aerospace and defense group said in a telephone interview today."We're prepared to build 50 to 100 vehicles more per month,'' Mecredy said in the interview. "I've told the customer that and I stand ready to do that.''
Third, Rumsfeld's answer was not only glib--like his other infamous quips "nothing's perfect", "stuff happens" and "freedom's untidy"--but also callous and insensitive. "Go to war with the army you have" is acceptable if the war is caused by a surprise attack; Iraq is a preventive war which was planned in advance.
I doubt Rumsfeld would be so cavalier if he had a loved one fighting in this war, as opposed to effectively calling the soldiers wimpy for not sucking it up and toughing it out with what they've got.
And what does Rumsfeld's boss have to say about all this?
"The concerns expressed are being addressed, and that is, we expect our troops to have the best possible equipment. And if I were a soldier overseas, wanting to defend my country, I'd want to ask the secretary of defense the same question," Bush said.Evidently, the irony of his statement was lost on Mr. Bush: that it took a soldier and not the President of the United States, the very Commander in Chief who sent our military men and women to war, to ask the tough questions.
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