Before I was a blogger, before the blogosphere even existed, I was bitching long and loud about the stupidity of going to war in jeeps. That particular snit started when 18 soldiers got pinned down and killed in Mogadishu in 1993. I started asking back then ‘why the hell are we going to war in jeeps?’ It became a full-throated hissy-fit four years ago when Rumsfeld was asked “the question” by that Guardsman from Tennessee and testily dismissed the young man’s concerns about inadequate equipment with a breezy “You go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want to wish to have at a later time.”
Humvees aren’t troop carriers, they are utility vehicles. They were made for use in the Cold War, designed to scramble across terrain quickly. Humvee’s are decidedly ill-suited for use in urban warfare, like they are currently being used in Afghanistan and Iraq. They have a flat bottom that absorbs the impact of mines and IEDs, where true combat vehicles, (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, or MRAPs) have an angled chassis to deflect impact. When Humvees are armored, they lose their ability to be quick and nimble. And the chassis is light, so when they are armored, they, out of necessity, leave the rear more exposed. (Where are gas tanks located again?)
The risks and vulnerabilities were well known, but they were ignored. The people charged with delivering Hummers to war zones rarely find themselves relying on them for protection in a war zone.
The Marine Corps and the other military branches were aware of the threat from mines and roadside bombs and of the commercial availability of MRAPs well before U.S. troops invaded Iraq in 2003, the report said. Yet nothing was done to acquire the vehicles.
“As a result, the department entered into operations in Iraq without having taken available steps to acquire technology to mitigate the known mine and IED risk to Soldiers and Marines,” the report said.
There has been much back-and-forth over the procurement of MRAPs throughout the course of the wars. Orders have been placed, and then scaled back. Yesterday the IG for the Pentagon released a report that is highly critical of the Marine Corps for failing to deliver the IED resistant vehicles to the troops in the field, and one of my Senators is pissed off about it. Understandable – he is one of a handful of our elected representatives that has some skin in the game. Kit Bond’s son is an intelligence officer who has spent his fair share of time in Iraq.
“It appears that some bureaucrats at the Pentagon have much to explain to the families of American troops who were killed or maimed when a lifesaving solution was within reach,” said Sen. Kit Bond, a Missouri Republican.
Bond and Democratic Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware – the vice president-elect – have been critical of the Pentagon over the vehicles, known as MRAPs. Pronounced em-wraps, it stands for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected.
For two years the senators have pushed to uncover why efforts to obtain safer vehicles and other protective equipment for combat troops have been ignored or delayed. USA Today first reported about the problems getting MRAPS into combat last year.
The acting inspector general’s study dealt specifically with the Marines’ use of MRAPS. The report says that the inspector general also will look into how other military branches – presumably the Army – countered the threat of IEDS.
Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said Tuesday that “great quantities” of MRAPs weren’t available at the early stages of the war.
“As the threat has evolved, so have our force-protection measures,” he said. “Have we done so with the rapidity and the efficiency that we would have liked at all times? No, we haven’t. But to suggest that there was any sort of neglect, or people were sitting on their hands ignoring the urgent request of commanders in the field, is just not accurate.”
Nice try Geoff, and it might work on the masses that haven’t been paying attention, but I ain’t one of ’em.
Let’s just accept that the administration knew, possibly before the 2000 election, that if George W. Bush became the president, they were going to war. They certainly knew that we were going to war after 9/11 happened. But in 2002, the administration cut the M1117 A.S.V. fighting vehicle from the budget, despite that fact that it had the support of both senators from Louisiana, where it is manufactured. Whereas an armored Humvee can withstand 7.62 mm ammunition fire, the M1117 can stand up to .50 caliber armor-piercing ammunition. The Humvee and the M1117 are both built to take 155-mm artillery airbursts. But the defining difference is in the back axle. Whereas the armored Hummer is an improvised afterthought, with a chassis too light to handle full armor, MRAPs do not have this fore-aft disparity. The back end of a Hummer is vulnerable to a 4-pound land-mine. The lightest MRAP can withstand a 12-pound blast to any wheel. This is the smallest, lightest, quickest fighting vehicle in our armament. Why it was more important to give tax-cuts to a few than to build these vehicles for our troops, who we had already committed to battle in Afghanistan by that point eludes my comprehension.
Seventy percent of the casualties in Iraq have been caused by IEDs taking out Hummers, and with them Marines and Soldiers. Troops in MRAPs had much better protection. In fact, no American died in an attack on an MRAP for over four years. That record was broken in May 2007 when two soldiers were killed by a bomb blast that took out the MRAP they were riding in. At the time those two soldiers lost their lives, over two thousand of their fellow Soldiers and Marines had perished in Hummers that were susceptible to IED blasts.
Morrell is being disingenuous and spinning like a top when he says the vehicles “weren’t available” at the beginning of the wars, and then deliberately fails to acknowledge the cancellation of the M1117-A after the invasion of Afghanistan.
I guess the wry irony is that people like us go to war with the Pentagon we have, not the Pentagon we might want to wish we had at a later time.