Sunday, June 26, 2005

"AS YOU KNOW, you go to war with the Army you have. They're not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time."

That is how Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld answered Army Spec. Thomas Wilson last December 8, at a Town Hall meeting in Iraq, when Wilson asked this question:

"We’ve had troops in Iraq for coming up on three years… Now why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles and why don’t we have those resources readily available to us?"

So when Rumsfeld was traveling around Iraq on that visit, he traveled in the same inadequately armored Humvee that the regular soldiers had to use, because "that's the Army we have." Right?

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, an examination by The New York Times has found.

Which leaves TChris at TalkLeft with a question for Rummy:

Whatsamatta Donald? Are you afraid to entrust your life to the same Humvee you provide to the men and women whose lives are entrusted to you?

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