Thursday, September 23, 2004

Letter to Albany Herald- what our soldiers lacked in Iraq

Date: Thu, 23 Sep 2004 01:23:31 -0400
From: James Finkelstein

Recently this paper published a letter attacking me for informing your readers about essential equipment not provided to Marine Reservists, including those from the 4th Civil Affairs Group (CAG) from Anacostia, D.C., and soldiers from the Army's 3rd Infantry Division at Ft. Stewart when they were sent to invade Iraq on March 20, 2003. The fact that the Humvees had no armor and were canvas covered wasn't disputed by Zell Miller or the Republican Administration- in fact, the Herald published a column in the Summer of 2004 by Senator Miller in which he bragged that the MCLB Albany was just now getting around to putting armor on those vehicles to protect our Marines in Iraq. When the column was published, I wondered why no one in the press thought to ask Senator Miller why, as a former Marine and as a member of the only body authorized by the Constitution to raise armies and declare war, Congress waited to give the Marine Corps money to put armor on their Humvees- waited until after the invasion, after the war, and after our troops had been sent out on patrols in a mortally dangerous environment during the last year and a half. When my son came home August 18, 2003, he showed me pictures of the canvas covered Humvee in which he traveled all over central Iraq, including An Nasiriya, Hillah, Al Kut, Baghdad, and other cities. He and other Marines slept in it for a solid month before they were able to secure Republican Guard barracks in Kut.

As for the body armor that our troops were sent off without, numerous stories in the press last winter reported that parents were scrambling to contact manufacturers to pay $1,000 for the life saving ceramic vests- vests with which the members of the 4th CAG and other Marine and Army reserve units were not provided the day President Bush gave the order to wage war. When I met with career soldiers at Ft. Stewart on June 16, 2004, they handed me lists of the items of equipment which they lacked when they were ordered to invade Iraq. I was astounded that body armor, armored vehicles for patrol, sufficient ammunition, ammunition clips, and working radio equipment were on the lists, as I would have assumed that no modern American force would ever be sent into combat without those items. As I drove through Ft. Stewart, I saw row after row of Humvees in desert camouflage parked in holding areas-and 90 percent of them had canvas tops.

Hogwash, Mr. _______? Tell that to the career officers and enlisted- all with 10 years or more in service- who handed me their lists. As for your comment that "War and killing are not only necessary on occasion, they're also noble," I think that the families of over 1,000 dead Americans and several thousand wounded, not to mention several hundred thousand Marines and soldiers who have come back from Iraq in the last 16 months, might find that comment pretty hard to stomach.

Of course, you undercut your argument when you first said that the Marines had all the equipment they needed, then in the next paragraph blamed the shortfalls on President Clinton's "enormous slashing" of budgets. As it happens, the President who started downsizing our military when the Cold War ended was named Bush and the Secretary of Defense who initiated the "enormous slashing" of Defense budgets was named Cheney. And the Party which has controlled Congress the last 10 years, which spent our defense dollars on submarines and jet fighters designed to fight the Soviet military of 1985, while leaving individual soldiers and Marines without the ammunition, weapons, and body armor they needed- that is the Republican Party. They can talk the talk, but they haven't walked the walk- unless it's a walk to a fundraiser where Lockheed or General Dynamics hands them a check to keep those big ticket items on the menu while leaving the grunts out in the cold. If you find that hard to digest, then just ask anyone who came back from Iraq last year.

James Finkelstein
Albany, Georgia


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