Iraq: USMC didn’t “support the troops”

Now why is it? When the question is posed (as it always is) in terms of supporting the war, it is absolutely mandatory that we all “support the troops.” If Congress doesn’t endlessly fund the military adventure, it is accused of betraying the troops. Those of us who want to bring the troops home, out of Iraq’s killing fields and back to their loved ones, are by some twisted logic accused of “betraying the troops.” Military websites like urge citizens to do sacrifice-free things like send e-messages of encouragement to the troops—which then allows us to feel good about supporting a policy that keeps the troops in a situation where they are getting shot at and blown up by IEDs. But the people who are actually in a position of responsibility for getting the troops what they need to beat the odds of getting killed or maimed are allowed to totally screw over the troops. From AP, Feb. 17:

Study: MRAP lack led to Marine deaths in Iraq
WASHINGTON – Hundreds of U.S. Marines have been killed or injured by roadside bombs in Iraq because Marine Corps bureaucrats refused an urgent request in 2005 from battlefield commanders for blast-resistant vehicles, an internal military study concludes.

The study, written by a civilian Marine Corps official and obtained by The Associated Press from a nongovernment source, accuses the service of “gross mismanagement” that delayed deliveries of the mine-resistant, ambush-protected trucks for more than two years.

According to the Jan. 22 study, stateside authorities saw the so-called MRAPs, which cost up to $1 million each, as a financial threat to programs aimed at developing lighter vehicles that were years from being fielded.

After Defense Secretary Robert Gates declared the MRAP the Pentagon’s No. 1 acquisition priority last May, the trucks began to be shipped to Iraq in large quantities. Only four U.S. troops in MRAPs have been killed by improvised explosive devices.

Study author Franz Gayl catalogs what he calls flawed decisions and missteps by midlevel managers in Marine offices well before Gates replaced Donald Rumsfeld in December 2006. Gayl, who has clashed with his superiors before and filed for whistle-blower protection last year, makes his case with official Marine documents, e-mails, briefing charts, congressional testimony and news articles.

The study says an urgent February 2005 request for MRAPs got lost in bureaucracy. It was signed by then-Brig. Gen. Dennis Hejlik, a commander in western Iraq, who asked for 1,169 vehicles. Gen. James Conway, Marine Corps commandant, was not told of the gravity of the request, Gayl writes, and thus gave “inaccurate and incomplete” information to Congress about why buying MRAPs was not hotly pursued.

Gayl, who prepared the study for the Marines’ plans, policies and operations department, said the Combat Development Command, which decides what gear to buy, saw MRAPs as expensive obstacles to longer-range plans.

Gayl, science and technology adviser to Lt. Gen. Richard Natonski, who heads the department, recommended the Marine Corps conduct an inquiry to determine if any military or government employees are culpable for failing to rush critical gear to the troops.

“If the mass procurement and fielding of MRAPs had begun in 2005 in response to the known and acknowledged threats at that time, as the [Marine Corps] is doing today, hundreds of deaths and injuries could have been prevented,” Gayl writes.

Maj. Manuel Delarosa, a Marine spokesman, called Gayl’s study “predecisional staff work” and said it would be “inaccurate to state that … Natonski has seen or is even aware of” it.

Last year, the service defended the original decision not to buy MRAPs, saying there were too few companies able to make them, and armored Humvees were adequate. Hejlik, now a major general and head of the Marine Corps Special Operations Command, has cast his 2005 statement as more of a recommendation than a demand for a specific system. “I don’t think there was any intent by anybody to do anything but the right thing,” he said.

No, of course not. But those of us who want to bring the troops home now are (as Bush put it in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention last summer) “pulling the rug out” from under the troops. Which, as Robert S. Rivkin on Dissident Voice notes, is another way of saying “stab in the back” (or, as the Nazis put it, dolchstosslegende).

Did you ever ask yourself—why is that?

See our last posts on Iraq, soldiers getting screwed and the rhetorical device of words-mean-whatever-we-say-they-mean.