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December 08, 2004


Today's PAOTD (Petty Annoyance of the Day): Donald Rumsfeld

CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait - Disgrunted U.S. soldiers complained to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Wednesday about the lack of armor for their vehicles and long deployments, drawing a blunt retort from the Pentagon chief.

"You go to war with the Army you have," he said in a rare public airing of rank-and-file concerns among the troops.

So if the Army you have is armed with rusty spoons and kneepads, well, sucks to be them.

The bigger thing that irks me about that statement is that it implies some sort of deficit in the soldiers themselves, not the equipment. The fact that they're not properly equipped is something that is well within the U.S. government's control, and it's comical that Rumsfeld would suggest otherwise.

What's not comical is how badly I want to slap him.

In his prepared remarks earlier, Rumsfeld had urged the troops mostly National Guard and Reserve soldiers to discount critics of the war in Iraq and to help "win the test of wills" with the insurgents.

NICE, Rummy. Such macho posturing, "win the test of wills." Because we're all petulant 3-year-olds who don't want to compromise no way screw that we just want what we want and we want it now. NOW! And now I'm having a flashback to Woody Allen explaining his affair with his stepdaughter by saying "the heart wants what it wants." As if that makes it okay. Jesus.

Some of soldiers, however, had criticisms of their own not of the war itself but of how it is being fought.

Army Spc. Thomas Wilson, for example, of the 278th Regimental Combat Team that is comprised mainly of citizen soldiers of the Tennessee Army National Guard, asked Rumsfeld in a question-and-answer session why vehicle armor is still in short supply, nearly two years after the start of the war that ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

"Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to uparmor our vehicles?" Wilson asked. A big cheer arose from the approximately 2,300 soldiers in the cavernous hangar who assembled to see and hear the secretary of defense.

Specialist Wilson gets the gold star of the day. I understand the need for command integrity and unit cohesion and all that, but it's about damn time that these issues started being aired publically. Statistics are not esoteric when you're talking about KIA and WIA. Those are - were - real people. If they're going to risk their lives for this country's policies, the very least this country can do is give them the tools necessary to protect themselves as best they can.

Unfortunately, nothing gets the Pentagon's attention quite like a public airing of dirty laundry. Makes me want to be a reporter again.

Rumsfeld replied that troops should make the best of the conditions they face and said the Army was pushing manufacturers of vehicle armor to produce it as fast as humanly possible.

And, the defense chief added, armor is not always a savior in the kind of combat U.S. troops face in Iraq, where the insurgents' weapon of choice is the roadside bomb, an improvised explosive device that has killed and maimed hundreds, if not thousands, of American troops since the summer of 2003.

"You can have all the armor in the world on a tank and it can (still) be blown up," Rumsfeld said.

Well, gee, if that's the case, why bother with tanks at all? Just send 'em out in beat up Pintos retrofitted with chain link fence and fire hoses. Trick out a few with flame throwers and glare-resistant windshields and be done with it.

Maybe the better idea would be to send the soldiers into the fray already equipped, rather than handing them that rusty spoon and telling them they'll get their M-16 as "fast as humanly possible. But until then, make the best of the conditions, you poor bastard. Now I'm off to get my flu shot. Smell ya later!"

Posted by Highwaygirl on December 8, 2004 01:08 PM to the category Current Affairs


Sad thing is, as a low-ranking infantryman, you're nothing more than a body. Rummy's comment just confirms that.

The happiest day of my life (prior to the birth of my son) was January 7, 1994: the day I was discharged from the US Army.

I respect the soldiers and the job they do but think the political leadership of the US is so far beyond hopeless it is depressing.

Posted by: Phildozer at December 8, 2004 04:41 PM
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