Sunday, April 25, 2004

Remember, He's A War President

It's just that he doesn't seem to know how to fight one:

For the Bush administration it has been a mantra, one the president intones repeatedly: America's troops will get whatever they need to do the job. But as Iraq's liberation has turned into a daily grind of low-intensity combat—and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld grudgingly raises troop levels—many soldiers who are there say the Pentagon is failing to protect them with the best technology America has to offer. Especially tanks, Bradleys and other heavy vehicles, even in some cases body armor.

Soldiers in Iraq complain that Washington has been too slow to acknowledge that the Iraqi insurgency consists of more than "dead-enders." And even at the Pentagon many officers say Rumsfeld and his brass have been too reluctant to modify their long-term plans for a lighter military. On the battlefield, that has translated into a lack of armor. Perhaps the most telling example: a year ago the Pentagon had more than 400 main battle tanks in Iraq; as of recently, a senior Defense official told NEWSWEEK, there was barely a brigade's worth of operational tanks still there. (A brigade usually has about 70 tanks.)

In continuing adherence to the Army's "light is better" doctrine, even units recently rotated to Iraq have left most of their armor behind. These include the I Marine Expeditionary Force, which has paid dearly for that decision with an astonishing 30 percent-plus casualties (45 killed, more than 300 wounded) in Fallujah and Ar Ramadi. The Army's 1st Cavalry Division—which includes the unit in Sadr City—left five of every six of its tanks at home, and five of every six Bradleys.

A breakdown of the casualty figures suggests that many U.S. deaths and wounds in Iraq simply did not need to occur. According to an unofficial study by a defense consultant that is now circulating through the Army, of a total of 789 Coalition deaths as of April 15 (686 of them Americans), 142 were killed by land mines or improvised explosive devices, while 48 others died in rocket-propelled-grenade attacks. Almost all those soldiers were killed while in unprotected vehicles, which means that perhaps one in four of those killed in combat in Iraq might be alive if they had had stronger armor around them, the study suggested. Thousands more who were unprotected have suffered grievous wounds, such as the loss of limbs.

This continued negligence really is insane and I don't understand why it is not a much bigger deal.


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