Monday, April 25, 2005

Hillbilly Armor

Dubya famously said, "Bring 'em on." He got what he asked for. But, as we now know, he didn't bother with ensuring US soldiers were properly equiped:

[while Company E] en route to Ramadi, they lost the few armored plates they had earmarked for their vehicles when the steel was borrowed by another unit that failed to return it. Company E tracked the steel down and took it back.

Even at that, the armor was mostly just scrap and thin, and they needed more for the unarmored Humvees they inherited from the Florida National Guard.

"It was pitiful," said Capt. Chae J. Han, a member of a Pentagon team that surveyed the Marine camps in Iraq last year to document their condition. "Everything was just slapped on armor, just homemade, not armor that was given to us through the normal logistical system."

The report they produced was classified, but Captain Royer, who took over command of the unit, and other Company E marines say they had to build barriers at the camp - a former junkyard - to block suicide drivers, improve the fencing and move the toilets under a thick roof to avoid the insurgent shelling.

Even some maps they were given to plan raids were several years old, showing farmland where in fact there were homes, said a company intelligence expert, Cpl. Charles V. Lauersdorf, who later went to work for the Defense Intelligence Agency. There, he discovered up-to-date imagery that had not found its way to the front lines...

In parceling out Ramadi, the Marine Corps leadership gave Company E more than 10 square miles to control, far more than the battalion's other companies. Captain Royer said he had informally asked for an extra platoon, or 44 marines, and had been told the battalion was seeking an extra company. The battalion's operations officer, Maj. John D. Harrill, said the battalion had received sporadic assistance from the Army and had given Company E extra help. General Mattis says he could not pull marines from another part of Iraq because "there were tough fights going on everywhere."

Colonel Kennedy said Company E's area was less dense, but the pressure it put on the marines came to a boil on April 6, 2004, when the company had to empty its camp - leaving the cooks to guard the gates - to deal with three firefights.

Ten of its troops were killed that day, including eight who died when the Humvee they were riding in was ambushed en route to assist other marines under fire. That Humvee lacked even the improvised steel on the back where most of the marines sat, Company E leaders say.

"All I saw was sandbags, blood and dead bodies," Sergeant Valerio said. "There was no protection in the back."...

Captain Royer said that he photographed the Humvees in which his men died to show to any official who asked about the condition of their armor, but that no one ever did.

Royer himself is now contesting a negative performance evaluation that could adversely affect his military career. Company E will soon be shipped to Okinawa, under the circumstances the equivalent of R&R--although it's all but certain Iraq will soon be on their agenda--again.

Remember--the war was fought NOT because of any sort of pressing threat, but for political convenience. George W. Bush wanted an easy victory so he could paint himself as a flight-suited wonderboy worthy of four more years. In doing so, he and his political cronies couldn't bother with diverting less than one half of one percent of the $400 billion dollar defense budget to provide basic protection for US Military personnel. They couldn't bother with establishing a real coalition. In fact, they couldn't bother with a genuine plan.

Bush, Rummy, Dick, Wolfo, et al, might as well have taken those killed in Iraq and personally shot them--because essentially they did just that...

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