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Deploying without sufficient armor and then having to fly 70-ton Abrams tanks to Iraq is as flaky as almost everything else about a war where politicians were proclaiming just a year ago that once we drained the swamps, the rest would be rice and flowers.
If “Blood and Guts” Gen. George Patton had been running things, he’d have roared when told to deploy to a battlefield without all of his killing gear. Rest assured that the 1st Cavalry, 1st Infantry and 1st Marine divisions would have shipped out with their full kit of heavy weapons instead of liberation light.
But there are few Pattons at the top of today’s military who know the fighting game and have the guts to tell Perfumed Prince superiors that their poor decisions could get soldiers killed. So now – according to the Pentagon’s Lt. Col. Diane Battaglia – our brilliant Brass are “repositioning assets” while our soldiers and Marines are absorbing rocket propelled grenades and roadside mines in thin-skinned vehicles far more fit for a vacation at Yosemite than for combat.
“Most of our tanks were left behind, and tankers, gun bunnies and ADA [Air Defense] guys became infantry,” says a 1st Cav leader in Iraq. “What we need are more tanks and tracked APCs [armored personnel carriers]. We also need more Strykers [armored carrier vehicles], because tracks are no good for line-haul escort duty. However, the Strykers aren’t the end-all – they’re having problems maneuvering inside cities with RPG-proof cages. Bradleys can turn faster.”
Now we’re flying armor to these besieged outfits at about $200,000 a tank, and our seaports are on overtime loading ships with the track vehicles that were also left behind.
It’s no wonder the Pentagon will soon ask we-the-people for additional billions of dollars to continue pursuing the greatest military miscalculation in our country’s history. Meanwhile, the meter’s already closing on $300 billion, 800 dead and more than 22,000 battle and non-battle casualties.
Central Command’s Maj. Gen. John Sattler says that based on the changing situation in Iraq, he requested more tanks and armored Bradley Fighting Vehicles.
Hello? What changing situation? During the months they were preparing to deploy, pals of mine in all three divisions have been groaning to me that they were parking their heavy stuff in the motor pool to go in light. These sergeants, lieutenants and captains already saw that the insurgency struggle in Iraq was getting worse daily, that improvised explosive devices and ambushes were the enemy’s weapons of choice, and that only armor would protect them while they tried to defeat a basically inept but fanatical foe.
But the high brass, from SecDef Donald Rumsfeld down, diligently ignored the fact that guerrilla resistance in Iraq was growing stronger and bolder with the passage of each bloody week.
It’s the type of foggy thinking that reminds me of early 1965, when my parachute brigade was alerted to deploy to Vietnam and we were told we had to take our Army dress uniforms. I yelled at the Pentagon staff officer who gave me the word, and he replied, “We’re envisioning a short war.” Or the Pentagon’s failure in 1993 to send requested tanks to Mogadishu. The result: “Black Hawk Down,” where a lot of good men died or got shot up.
Until Desert Storm, our military did a pretty good job profiting from the lessons of Vietnam. But then the brass became drunk on their splendid 100-hour victory and concluded that “Shock and Awe” with fewer ground troops and lighter equipment would do the whole trick in future conflicts.
So this time around, we went into Iraq criminally short on boots and heavy gear. And one year later, our military’s senior commanders still don’t get what’s going down in the killing fields of Iraq, nor are they listening to what their warriors are telling them.
Since the vast majority of the American people are not yet affected by the carnage, waste and stupidity, the death mill of Iraq will grind on until more and more of our sons’ and daughters’ bodies are flown into Dover Air Force Base at the dead of night to keep the photos off Page One.
Unless the people wake up quick smart and demand decent leadership from the top to the bottom of our armed forces, that sad day will come.