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June 26, 2005

Karl Rove Is Right! The U.S. Army Has Been Stabbed in the Back

The U.S. army has been stabbed in the back. It has been stabbed in the back by those who assigned the finest high-tech mechanized force in the world a mission--that of being military police in an Arabic-speaking country--that it is not designed to fulfill, by sending only one-third of the troops necessary for the mission if they did speak Arabic, and by dragging their feet at getting the troops on the ground the tools and protection they need.

The U.S. Army has been stabbed in the back by those--George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Karl Rove, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Condi Rice, and company--who pretend that the forces in Iraq are ample, and that their equipment and capabilities are adequate:

Safer Vehicles for Soldiers: A Tale of Delays and Glitches - New York Times : By MICHAEL MOSS: When Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld visited Iraq last year to tour the Abu Ghraib prison camp, military officials did not rely on a government-issued Humvee to transport him safely on the ground. Instead, they turned to Halliburton, the oil services contractor, which lent the Pentagon a rolling fortress of steel called the Rhino Runner. State Department officials traveling in Iraq use armored vehicles that are built with V-shaped hulls to better deflect bullets and bombs. Members of Congress favor another model, called the M1117, which can endure 12-pound explosives and .50-caliber armor-piercing rounds.

Unlike the Humvee, the Pentagon's vehicle of choice for American troops, the others were designed from scratch to withstand attacks in battlefields like Iraq with no safe zones. Last fall, for instance, a Rhino traveling the treacherous airport road in Baghdad endured a bomb that left a six-foot-wide crater. The passengers walked away unscathed. "I have no doubt should I have been in any other vehicle," wrote an Army captain, the lone military passenger, "the results would have been catastrophically different." Yet more than two years into the war, efforts by United States military units to obtain large numbers of these stronger vehicles for soldiers have faltered - even as the Pentagon's program to armor Humvees continues to be plagued by delays.... [T]he M1117 lost its Pentagon money just before the invasion, and the manufacturer is now scrambling to fill rush orders from the military. The company making one of the V-shaped vehicles, the Cougar, said it had to lay off highly skilled welders last year as it waited for the contract to be completed... paid only enough to fill half the order. And the Rhino.... The company said it provided the Army with testing data that demonstrate the Rhino's viability, and is using the defense secretary's visit as a seal of approval in its contract pitches to the Defense Department....

Nearly a decade ago, the Pentagon was warned by its own experts that superior vehicles would be needed to protect American troops. The Army's vehicle-program manager urged the Pentagon in 1996 to move beyond the Humvee, interviews and Army records show, saying it was built for the cold war. Its flat-bottom-chassis design is 25 years old, never intended for combat, and the added armor at best protects only the front end from the heftier insurgent bombs, military officials concede.... Today, commuting from post to post in Iraq is one of the deadliest tasks for soldiers. At least 73 American military personnel were killed on the roads of Iraq in May and June as insurgent attacks spiked.... Last winter, 135 convoys were attacked on the Baghdad airport road alon....

The Pentagon has repeatedly said no vehicle leaves camp without armor. But according to military records and interviews with officials, about half of the Army's 20,000 Humvees have improvised shielding that typically leaves the underside unprotected, while only one in six Humvees used by the Marines is armored at the highest level of protection. The Defense Department continues to rely on just one small company in Ohio to armor Humvees.... The Marine Corps, for example, is still awaiting the 498 armored Humvees it sought last fall....

By the time an Army National Guard member complained to Mr. Rumsfeld in December that troops were still scrounging for steel to fortify their Humvees, the Pentagon's troubles with armoring vehicles had been years in the making.... "This decision is based upon budget priorities," Claude M. Bolton Jr., an assistant Army secretary, wrote to Congress in 2002. Existing vehicles, he added, can be used instead "without exposing our soldiers to an unacceptable level of risk."... "We never intended to up-armor all the Humvees," said Les Brownlee, who was the acting Army secretary from 2001 until late last year. "The Humvee is a carrier and derives its advantage from having cross-country mobility, and when you load it down with armor plating, you lose that."...

Asked why the Marine Corps is still waiting for the 498 Humvees it ordered last year, O'Gara acknowledged that it told the Marines it was backed up with Army orders, and has only begun filling the Marines' request this month. But the company says the Marine Corps never asked it to rush. The Marine Corps denies this, but acknowledges that it did not get the money to actually place the order until this February. Officials now say they need to buy 2,600 to replace their Humvees in Iraq that still have only improvised armor....

Labock Technologies, which makes the Rhino Runner in Israel, thought it had the best advertising ever. Besides posting photographs of Mr. Rumsfeld aboard the Rhino at Abu Ghraib, the company has pictures of a shackled Saddam Hussein going to court last summer, with the headline: "So safe. ... some V.I.P. won't ride anything else." The Defense Department says some military personnel are using the privately owned Rhinos that run the gantlet of bombs on the airport road. But with the Army not accepting the company's test results, and Labock not wanting to destroy a Rhino on the chance of getting orders...

Posted by DeLong at June 26, 2005 07:54 PM