Thursday, December 09, 2004

 

"You go to war with the army you have"

...or maybe you just don't fuckin' go to war at all! Why does Don Rumsfeld hate the troops?
Iraq-Bound Troops Confront Rumsfeld Over Lack of Armor

CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait, Dec. 8 - In an extraordinary exchange at this remote desert camp, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld found himself on the defensive today, fielding pointed questions from Iraq-bound troops who complained that they were being sent into combat with insufficient protection and aging equipment.

Specialist Thomas Wilson, a scout with a Tennessee National Guard unit scheduled to roll into Iraq this week, said soldiers had to scrounge through local landfills here for pieces of rusty scrap metal and bulletproof glass - what they called "hillbilly armor" - to bolt on to their trucks for protection against roadside bombs in Iraq.

"Why don't we have those resources readily available to us?" Specialist Wilson asked Mr. Rumsfeld, drawing cheers and applause from many of the 2,300 troops assembled in a cavernous hangar here to meet the secretary. Mr. Rumsfeld responded that the military was producing extra armor for Humvees and trucks as fast as possible.

A few minutes later, a soldier from the Idaho National Guard's 116th Armor Cavalry Brigade asked Mr. Rumsfeld what he and the Army were doing "to address shortages and antiquated equipment" National Guard soldiers heading to Iraq were struggling with.

Mr. Rumsfeld seemed taken aback by the question and a murmur began spreading through the ranks before he silenced them. "Now settle down, settle down," he said. "Hell, I'm an old man, it's early in the morning and I'm gathering my thoughts here."

He said all organizations had equipment, materials and spare parts of different vintages, but he expressed confidence that Army leaders were assigning the newest and best equipment to the troops headed for combat who needed it most.

Nonetheless, he warned that equipment shortages would probably continue to bedevil some American forces entering combat zones like Iraq. "You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time," Mr. Rumsfeld said.

Moreover, he said, adding more armor to trucks and battle equipment did not make them impervious to enemy attack. "If you think about it, you can have all the armor in the world on a tank and a tank can be blown up," he said. "And you can have an up-armored Humvee and it can be blown up."
Well duh. Still, which would you rather take your chances in? Make you a deal, Mr. Secretary, why not prove how safe it is and ride an unarmored Humvee on the road from Baghdad to the airport?

Since the timing of this war was 100% in the hands of Bush and Rumsfeld (or, more likely, Cheney and Rumsfeld), then, clearly, they chose to go to war with the army they had and it must have been the army they wanted to have. Otherwise, they could have waited until they had the army they wanted.

And, in any case, it's 18 months later. Why are the troops, especially Guard and Reserve units, still having to scrounge armor? I wouldn't have thought Halliburton could have stolen all the money, but maybe I'm just being naive here.

Update: For more on this, check out Juan Cole:
Rumsfeld's dictum that "you go to war with the army you have" begs so many questions it would take days to list them all. But just for starters, let's point out that the officer corps wanted to send more like 300,000 troops to Iraq in March of 2003, not the 100,000 that Rumsfeld insisted on. Rumsfeld's mania for turning the entire US military into special operations forces ignores the need to keep order in the aftermath of a war. Paul Bremer admitted that "we never had enough troops on the ground" and that the lack led to the orgy of looting, which the US was not in a position to stop and which there was not even much will to stop. The looting in turn paid for the incipient guerrilla war (and a good deal of the looting was from weapons depots like al-Qaqaa, despite the Bush administration's denials).

So Rumsfeld didn't go to war with the army he had. He went to war with a much reduced military force, to make some sort of weird point.
In any case, I wonder if - maybe, this time, just possibly - all the military folk and their families who supposedly so fervently support Bush will begin to wonder if maybe, just possibly, their support has been misspent?

Naah, it's always someone else's fault.
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