Sunday, October 22, 2006


Mac Collins took thousands of dollars to fund these now useless warplanes (at $361 million per plane)....

As many of my regular readers know, I have a son serving his second tour of duty in Iraq for the United States Marine Corps. The first time he was there was when his reserve unit was activated in January of 2003 and sent to Kuwait. That unit was part of the invasion force which toppled Saddam Hussein and occupied Iraq.

Like most Americans, I always assumed that our military would not be ordered to war unless they were properly trained and equipped- I naively thought that Congress and the Commander in Chief would make sure that they were ready to perform the mission assigned to them, and do it as safely as possible. In the case of the Iraq War, I was wrong.

When the Marines and Army were ordered by President Bush to cross over the Kuwait-Iraq border on March 20, 2003, they were both poorly trained for their ultimate mission- the occupation of Iraq- and poorly equipped for both desert and urban warfare. For example, my son’s reserve unit lacked body armor, armor for their humvees (they had canvas tops), two way radios, desert boots, goggles, and a host of other items that should have routinely been provided before they were sent off to war. The weapons they were issued weren’t adequate for the job- the barrels on the M-16’s were too long for urban warfare, and the bullets too light to be effective. They weren’t even provided Arabic language phrase books or enough interpreters to do their jobs.

The reason our troops were lacking the most basic items is because the members of Congress who voted to send them off to war were busy appropriating tens of billions of dollars to the huge defense contractors who paid for their political campaigns.

That is why, if you support our troops, there is no way you should allow people like Michael Allen (“Mac”) Collins to return to Congress. Local television has been full of his vicious attack ads on incumbent Jim Marshall of the 8th Congressional District. What Collins doesn’t reveal to the audience is that when he served in Congress during the years leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, he took tens of thousands of dollars which was intended to influence his votes with regard to going to war and with regard to allocating money in the defense budget. He took the money because he wanted to be a United States senator, and he needed the money to run for Zell Miller’s senate seat in the 2004 Republican primary.

General Dynamics of Virginia saw its stock double after the war started- from $50 to $100. The war pumped an extra $1.2 billion into its pockets. General Dynamics paid $10,000 to Mac Collins within 2 months of the war breaking out. United Technologies (UT) of Connecticut got an extra $900 million in war contracts and a stock increase from $54 to $97 after the invasion of Iraq. UT paid $2,000 to Mac Collins, including $1,000 on March 18, 2003, two days before American troops invaded Iraq.

Lockheed Martin is the #1 Department of Defense contractor and was by far the biggest winner from the vote to go to war- it got an extra $5 billion, from $17 billion to $22 billion, between the 2002 and the 2003 defense budgets. Lockheed paid $5,000 to Mac Collins, including $1,000 on March 21, 2003, the day after ground operations began.

On October 11, 2002, Mac Collins stood up to vote on whether America would go to war against Iraq. At that time, he knew that Iraq was not a military threat to any of its neighbors, let alone a threat to the United States. He knew that Iraq was so weakened by eleven years of sanctions that its military and its infrastructure were a shambles. He knew that not only were there no weapons of mass destruction there, there were no ongoing programs to build or acquire any. He knew that American war planes enforced “no-fly” zones over all of Southern Iraq and the Kurdish areas to the north, and that we could (and did under President Clinton) bomb their military sites with impunity.

Mac Collins knew that the purpose of the 2002 vote was to provide a political advantage to Republicans in the midterm elections only three weeks away. He also knew that his vote would reward the companies from which he wanted money to run for the United States Senate in 2004, because under cover of an ongoing war, their defense contracts would skyrocket, whether we needed the weapons systems or not. He knew that as a result of his vote, American troops and innocent Iraqi civilians would die.

As a result of taking the money intended to influence his votes, Mac Collins left the Marines and soldiers- including my son- without the equipment necessary to defend themselves and to accomplish their mission safely. After he came home in October of 2003 and was released from active duty, he summarized his unit’s job and the items they lacked to do it:

“When my Marine Corps reserve civil affairs unit went to Iraq, our job was to rebuild the country – everything from infrastructure such as electric and water systems, to the judicial system and civil administration.... The nature of our duties places us in constant close contact with civil, police, and military officials of the country we work in, as well as the general population. We frequently work in small groups of two or four Marines, and as such we are usually responsible for our own safety and security. The only weapons that anyone in my unit had during our Iraqi deployment were 9mm pistols and M-16 rifles – we had no machine guns, shotguns, hand grenades, etc.

Not that the solution to every problem is force, but frankly there were many situations in which a rifle or a pistol is virtually useless. In the battle for Nasiriyah, for example, we took fire from heavily armed Iraqi forces who occupied fortified positions. In circumstances like that, an M-16 bullet not much bigger than that of a child’s .22 rifle does very little. In much of the close-in fighting in and around buildings, the 39.5 inch M-16 rifle is just too long to be easily trained on targets. Weapons exist which are designed for just that sort of fighting, but we were never provided with any of them. Granted, during the invasion itself, we were not so concerned with doing our civil affairs work, but there are many other occasions during the aftermath of the conflict when we were faced with hostile mobs, guerilla snipers and bombers, and mortar attacks. Not only were we inadequately armed, but many members of my unit were never issued with essential Interceptor body armor with ceramic plate inserts, which have been credited with the protection of countless American lives.

Our vehicles were canvas-topped Humvees with absolutely no protection from bullets or RPG’s (rocket propelled grenades), and we didn’t even have enough of those to meet our needs.

My group of 35 Marines was lucky enough to have three individuals who spoke Arabic – two grew up in Lebanon, and one studied it in college. Unfortunately, this was hardly enough to augment the two or three civilian translators we were given just before the invasion – one of whom decided after experiencing combat that he’d had enough, and he un-volunteered. In time, we managed to hire Iraqi civilians to work as interpreters, but we constantly had to be wary of them – many Iraqis oppose the American efforts in their country, and a few of our translators were discovered doing everything from giving unreliable translations to actively providing information to the insurgency.

Unfortunately, the money which was essential for us to do our jobs and protect us from hostile attack was diverted to expensive weapons systems with costs per unit in the hundreds of millions or more- advanced fighters, ships and so forth.

To put this in perspective: A conservative estimate for the cost of General Dynamics Seawolf submarine is $2.3 billion. $2.3 billion, divided by the 214,000 Marines on active and reserve duty, works out to over $10,700 for each Marine. Here’s a short list of items which would have been extremely useful during my deployment in Iraq, but we were never issued them. All costs are best estimates. Had the funds for just one Seawolf been diverted to the Marine Corps, every Marine and every unit could have been issued the following:

Individual Items:

Interceptor body armor with ceramic plate inserts - $1500
M4 Carbine (short version of M16) - $800
Optical scope for M4 - $800
M9 9mm pistol - $500
Handheld two-way radios for individual communication - $300
Reliable boots - $100
Good sunglasses - $75
Effective sand goggles - $60
Camelback water system - $60
Language phrasebook - $10

Unit Items

Armored Humvees - $100k
High-power encrypted two-way radios for communication with other units - $20k
“Blue Force Tracker” GPS that shows locations of all other units - $100k
Language training - $20k
Interpreters - $80k each, per year
Ammunition for training - $25k”


When Congress and the President sent our troops to war in Iraq, instead of providing the items that my son’s unit and other Marines and soldiers needed, they made sure that projects like the $60 billion F-22 Advanced Tactical Fighter ( $361 million per plane) built by Lockheed and the $2.3 billion Seawolf submarine were funded. These weapons, designed to fight the former Soviet Union of the 1970's and 1980's, are worthless in the conflicts we fight today. The companies which produce those weapons paid money to Mac Collins and other influential Republican officials to ensure that they would be at the head of the line when it came to receiving defense dollars. The items on my son's list were not funded, because they didn't pay Mac Collins and other Republican Congressmen enough money to make them a priority.

It is a disgrace when a Congressman takes money to influence his vote. It is tantamount to treason to shortchange our military, to risk their lives, because defense contractors are buying off Congressmen like Mac Collins.


Blogger Vigilante said...

Bush and Blair have ignited their own Darfur in Mesopotania. Why would anyone want their assistance in the Sudan?

This American election on 7 November is a tripartite referendum on Bush's un-provoked, unnecessary, largely unilateral invasion and unplanned occupation of Iraq (UULUIUOI).

Candidates can't be equally as candid as I can when I say if Iraqis want to have their uncivil free-for-all, let's freaking get out of their frigging way!

1:05 PM  

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