"You go to war with the Army you have... not the Army you might... wish to have at a later time." -- U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
Normally very adept at deflecting the questions offered up by the usual corporate media suspects attending his pentagon briefings, BushCo spokesman Donald Rumsfeld seems to have pulled a typical Dubya mush-mouth maneuver during the recent troop meet-and-greet in Kuwait. When asked by a service member about to convoy north toward Baghdad why they had to dig through landfills for scrap metal to armor* their vehicles -- Rumsfeld's answer to the troops readying themselves for deployment into the Iraq warzone that our own CIA has once again categorized as bleak and on the verge of being unmanageable -- was nothing short of snarky and lame. I'm calling this Conspiracy Theory in the Imajica, Rumsfeld's Armor-Gate.
Whether or not the question sparking this controversy was given to the service member by an embedded reporter is not important to me. What is important and makes Rumsfeld's uncharacteristic lameness so poignant is that we all know Operation Iraqi Freedom was a war of choice for the Bush Administration from the get-go. I would have to wipe the screaming spit off my monitor if I started on that often ranted-on subject. You can follow the links and read what variouspundits have said.
General Whitcomb sounded like an affable guy and a professional soldier during his press briefing -- in what was likely his first press briefing in this particular command -- and he is one of many commanders deserving the highest respect attempting to do his job and honor his responsibilities. Unfortunately, the combination of the brain-dead reporters mostly looking for infotainment and story angles and the military concerns of operational security turned General Whitcomb's briefing into a Crayola Crayon sales pitch to an audience of bored kindergartners.
General Whitcomb did his best to explain the different levels and types of armor being utilized on wheeled vehicles in Iraq. That pretty much covers Humvee's and trucks -- the vast majority of the vehicles that our service personnel use for convoys, patrols, and other missions -- and has nothing to do with the armor typically found on track vehicles. A track vehicle could just be a bulldozer or it could be a combat tank.
In General Whitcomb's statements, a civilian can be educated to what is obvious to military personnel and even couch-potato video gamers. Level 1 armor will keep you alive and in the game longer than level 2, or level 3, or running around a warzone with no armor at all.
So what was the army we have of which Rumsfeld speaks? There are two major thoughts here. Firstly, General Whitcomb, other commanders, and everyone in the Bush Administration will point out that they are doing the best they can to face the changing tactics of the enemy. To me, this simply points out that the BushCo insanely and ridiculously held notion that the coalition forces would be showered with flower garlands instead of bullets, RPGs, and IEDs when they pulled into Baghdad was based on woefully inadequate and faulty human intelligence. And yet, I guarantee you that Ahmed Chalabi doesn't ride around Iraq in a convertible.
Secondly, Rumsfeld's Armor-Gate simply shows the unbearable cost for a politically-motivated rush to get into a war of choice. If Iraq was truly such a growing danger to the United States, we could have gone to war and met this threat to national security after adequately equipping our military vehicles and training our miltary personnel for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Why did we go to Iraq in 2003 and not 2004? Pure politics.
Let the finger pointing begin. Again, besides the typical and annoying soothe-saying from the usual BushCo lackeys and pundits, we're also likely to hear the 'commanders on the ground' deflection to tough questions. General Whitcomb even did it:
Of that 30,000 vehicles, around a little less than 8,000 of them do not have some type of armor protection on them -- level one, two or three. Of those vehicles that don't, some number of them are things like tool trucks, communication vans or vehicles that don't leave the base camp. In other words, they're trucked up into Iraq -- or in cases before what we're doing now, were driven up into Iraq -- and they go onto a base camp, and that's where they spend most of their time.
Now who makes the decision what goes off at base camp? That becomes a commander -- the tactical commander's call.
Another excuse immediately given is production. AM General makes these vehicles. Armor Holdings and its subsidiaries, Ogara-Hess and Simula, make the level 1 up-armor and level 2 add-on kits. Of course, AM General is saying the Defense Department contract for Humvee's only included the initial production capacity for level 1 up-armored models, used primarily at the time for MP patrol, was limited. General Whitcomb pointed out that since the beginning of OIF, it has been ramped up from about 30 a month to about 400 now.
But the wheels of the military-industrial complex move slowly. Even with level 1 and level 2 armor, there have been known problems -- cracks in the armor.
Unfortunately for the typical soldier riding around in a truck convoy in Iraq, there is only level 3 or no armor available for them. Around 8000 trucks driven by military truck drivers and the untold number of civilian contractors are left to use speed and luck, instead of armor, to keep themselves alive and in the game.
What is the cost for rushing into a war of choice unprepared? For the BushCo insiders, not much. While Bush's Veteran Affairs outgoing cabinet Secretary Anthony Principi gets to "move on to fresh opportunities and different challenges," our brave men and women serving in Iraq continue to run the risk of moving on to a medical facility, like Landstuhl, Walter Reed, or dozens of other facilities if speed and luck fail them as the leaders seem to have failed them.
J f Z December 11, 2004 08:06 PM PST I wasn't very technically verbose about the armor levels available for the the Humvee and truck model variants because I put in SO MANY LINKS. Honestly, the entry would be 2-3 longer, if I had. I did dwell on General Whitcomb's briefing and link to it more than once because it might help explain the situation.
At the same time, I left dozens of unique links out after I wrote the text and came back to stick in the research I had done in relevant places.
Level 1 is factory installed armor for the Humvee models. Follow the 'AM General' and 'up-armor' links.
Level 2 add-on kit armor is also manufactured. It doesn't provide top and bottom, but is a horizontal box. I know it's made for Humvees. I didn't even put in the Velcro link that I found on add-on kits.
I'm not entirely positive that this level 2 armor is useable for what we think of as trucks ... 5-tons and military versions of 18-wheelers that we see on our U.S. highways.
I think that falls strictly under the level 3 armoring ... which is just pieces of plate steel bolted and welded onto the doors of the trucks, primarily. This is what the soldier's question referred to -- the vehicle command and pre-deployment staging area in Kuwait has a junk yard (or landfill) of plate steel to try to work on this level 3 armoring.
This level 3 plating protects against an L.A.-style drive-by shooting, not a large IED or RPG attack. If it's only on the doors -- what about a bullet-proof glass on the glass in the cab?
I don't know if they are provided or cannabalizing old impact or ballistic glass for use on the trucks. It's still minimal protection.
All levels of armoring do one thing -- add weght. If these vehicles, humvees or trucks, weren't initally designed to carry that extra weight, they break down more often. If they break down during a convoy, the soldiers have to scramble around not to be a sitting duck.
It's not a good situation and it makes me angry at the people who put people like your cousin in that there, Brandon.
Yeah, the NPR story mentioned the weight issue, too. Apparently only the factory-installed jobs are any good, because the engine, suspension, etc. are built to take the added weight. Otherwise, you add armor, but will reduce acceleration and top speeds, as well as cause more breakdowns, as you mention.
J f Z thinks aloud December 12, 2004 02:57 PM PST Here's an absolutely educational blogdriver's blog about his first-hand experiences in Iraq.
When I say it's a 'must-read blog', I mean go now and do it.
For the laziest among you, feel free to click on 'J F Z thinks aloud' now.
You girls should contact him and send him a care-package. I would myself, but I never baked a friggin' cookie in my life.