Saturday, December 18, 2004

Supporting Our Troops? The defense secretary we have

Supporting Our Troops? The defense secretary we have
Lynn Woolsey
Friday, December 17, 2004
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has finally gone too far. Confronted last week by a Guardsman who described soldiers rummaging through landfills for protective metal for their vehicles, Rumsfeld's cavalier reply was unconscionable: "As you know, you go to war with the Army you have ... not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time."

As if Rumsfeld were dealt a poor hand and had no choice but to play it. Whose Army is this if not Rumsfeld's and George W. Bush's? They chose this war and its timing. For Rumsfeld to claim that we were caught flat-footed, forced to march into Baghdad without time to get our act together and assemble "the Army you want" is beyond disingenuous.

On the other hand, maybe we were caught flat-footed, thanks to the scandalous incompetence of Rumsfeld and the war planners. This was, after all, the team that believed in "Mission Accomplished" and pooh-poohed warnings of a ruthless insurgency. This was the team that told us grateful Iraqis in tears would be tossing flowers at our soldiers' feet. If conservative columnist Pat Robertson is to be believed, President Bush himself did not even think there would be any U.S. casualties. Under this fantasy scenario, you wouldn't need a whole lot of protective armor.

But this only shows how little they knew or cared, and it certainly doesn't let them off the hook. The magnitude of the war has been apparent for some time. Even if we were low on armored metal in the summer of 2003, has no one seen fit to do something about it in the subsequent year and a half? It's not as if Congress hasn't responded each time the Bush administration has rattled its tin cup for Iraq funds. We have provided more than enough resources for Rumsfeld to build the Army he wants.

It's a question of will and priorities. It's hard to escape the conclusion that this is the Army they want -- one whose front-line personnel are forced to wait in line for lifesaving safety equipment (in some cases paying for it out of their own pockets) because a missile defense shield and no-bid Halliburton contracts had to come first.....