Friday, January 06, 2006

Rumsfeld and Armor - Criminal Negligence Or Treason?

There comes a point at which the truth of the statement "you go to war with the army you have" tapers off into the incompetence of "you're still at war with the army you had". Rumsfeld's band of politicized yeah-sayers passed that point last March when it became obvious that half of all casualties in Iraq up to that point had been because of a lack of vehicle and body armor but the Pentagon desk-drivers were still sitting with their fingers up their collective butts.

Now, almost a year later, the question must be: has that incompetence passed into the realms of criminal negligence? And I think the answer is "yes".

Today, the New York Times reports on a secret Pentagon study which shows that "at least 80 percent of the marines who have been killed in Iraq from wounds to their upper body could have survived if they had extra body armor." Extra armor that's already on the market but that bean-counting, procurement red tape and simple stupidity from Rummie's boys have stopped from reaching the battlefield.

"Our preliminary research suggests that as many as 42 percent of the Marine casualties who died from isolated torso injuries could have been prevented with improved protection in the areas surrounding the plated areas of the vest," the study concludes. Another 23 percent might have been saved with side plates that extend below the arms, while 15 percent more could have benefited from shoulder plates, the report says...The findings and other research by military pathologists suggests that an analysis of all combat deaths in Iraq, including those of Army personnel, would show that 300 or more lives might have been saved with improved body armor.
There's even more detail over at the website of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the first and largest of the groups for returning veterans. The post there has the complete original Defense Weekly report on which the NY Times based it's story, including this jaw dropping snippet regarding two of the Pentagon's major body armor suppliers:
As early as July 19, 2004, according to memos originally obtained by the Army Times newspaper, the Marine Corps found "major quality assurance deficiencies within Point Blank." One month later, on August 24, 2004, the military rejected two orders from Point Blank after tests revealed that the vests did not meet safety requirements.

Faced with a severe shortage of body armor the Army decided that nine Point Blank orders that did not meet safety requirements would be sent to troops overseas anyway, according to court records obtained by DW from an unrelated Point Blank labor dispute heard in a Florida court. On May 3, 2005 Point Blank hired retired four-star Army Gen. Larry Ellis to lead the beleaguered company. On May 4, 2005, the U.S. Marine Corps recalled 5,277 Interceptor vests manufactured by Point Blank Body Armor. On July 20 Point Blank received an additional $10.1 million contract from the U.S. government. In November another 18,000 vests were recalled.

Another Interceptor body armor manufacturer, formerly known as Second Chance Body Armor, Inc., is currently under investigation by the Justice Department for fraud for knowingly selling body armor that can't stop bullets from killing its wearers. Second Chance was the leading body armor supplier to the American Armed Forces three years ago.
This is crony Republicanism helping the troops - helping them to die while their pals pass through the revolving doors between government and big business and pick up fortunes in the process!

Nor will they come clean about their criminal negligence willingly - and yet again the defending refrain will be "national security".
Marine Corps Systems Command (MARCORSYSCOM) spokesman Sanford "Mack" McLaurin, although aware of the report, declined to comment on it, declaring "this information could be help to our enemies and put Marines and Soldiers in danger." MARCORSYSCOM is the agency within the Marine Corps responsible for providing Marine Corps approved equipment to its war fighters.

Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Curry Keir, Army Public Affairs, Media Operations, was equally reticent in his Dec. 30 response to a recent DefenseWatch inquiry.

"We take operational security very seriously and will not discuss in public issues that may render any insight to the enemy on our capabilities; fielding plans; or tactics, techniques and procedures," Keir said.
This despite the fact that the insurgents already know. Well-known war blogger Michael Yon has written about hearing insurgency radio broadcasts in Mosul instructing snipers on how to aim for the vulnerable parts of US troop's armor and the American Armed Forces Network reported on snipers getting the same training back in October 2005.

This criminal negilgence - in that known defects in essential equipment are being covered up, continued in production or too slow to be remedied - continues from defense into US servicemen's offensive capability too, as my colleague at Simianbrain blog notes today in a post about a column at military.com.
The most disturbing information is about infantry weapons. In one official report, 13 to 20 percent of soldiers reported jamming in the M-4 carbine, even though many augmented their cleaning kits with special brushes and picks. Fifty-four percent of those equipped with the M249 machine gun reported maintenance problems, and up to 35 percent said they were not confident in the weapon. There were also complaints about the M9 pistol, that it suffers from corrosion problems and the weak magazine spring does not reliably feed rounds into the chamber. Complaints about poor performing M16 magazines are also common. These are not problems for the enemy; the Soviet-designed AK-47 assault rifle and its magazines operate unaffected in virtually all climates and conditions, even when not properly maintained.
If we hadn't already seen from other areas how the current crop of corrupt and cronyist Republican leaders and their appointees can so thouroughly make a mess of everything except lining their own pockets it would beggar belief.

It's time, and past time, that Donald Rumsfeld and everyone else involved (both civilian and military) were in court on charges of criminal negligence or, if deliberate and planned failure to respond to these issues can be shown, treason.