The Army We Have
Rumsfeld, we have a problem – plenty of them
December 10 2004
Scott C. Smith
After more than 19 months of near-daily combat in Iraq, the war continues; the Pentagon announced on Dec. 1 that an additional 12,000 soldiers would be sent to Iraq, and 1500 soldiers from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division would be sent this month to help provide security for next month’s planned election.
A group of soldiers in Kuwait had the unique opportunity to speak with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in a “town hall” style meeting at Camp Buehring in Kuwait on Dec. 8, where they addressed their concerns about being deployed to Iraq.
Army Spc. Thomas Wilson asked, “Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles?”
According to MSNBC, this question was greeted with shouts of approval and applause. After a hesitation, Rumsfeld responded:
“You go to war with the Army you have,” Rumsfeld replied, “not the Army you might want or wish to have.”
With a statement like that, one has to wonder if Rumsfeld has any clue as to how dangerous the streets of Baghdad are right now. Rumsfeld’s response reveals the arrogance of the Bush administration, as it sends soldiers off to war, unconcerned if they have the proper equipment. I’d think a request for properly armored vehicles would fall under the category of “necessity.” Of course, Rumsfeld could have answered the soldier’s question in a more tactful way, but chose to be an ass. That’s classic Rummy.
In response to the soldier’s question, President George W. Bush stated at a White House press briefing, “The concerns expressed are being addressed, and that is we expect our troops to have the best possible equipment.” Bush also said, “If I were a soldier overseas wanting to defend my country, I'd want to ask the secretary of defense the same question, and that is, 'Are we getting the best we can get us?'”
Why should the soldiers have to ask these questions at all? Maybe George W. Bush has forgotten, but he is the Commander in Chief, and it’s his responsibility, along with the secretary of defense, to ensure the troops have all of the equipment they need to secure the peace.
Why didn’t they start this war with the “best possible equipment” for the troops fighting it? Early on, the Bush administration was confident of a quick end to fighting in Iraq, and most certainly did not anticipate attacks from Iraqi insurgents. We were supposed to be greeted as liberators.
Supply lines are stretched thin, and troop deployments are being extended. Members of the “all volunteer” armed forces serving in Iraq are being sent on multiple tours, or having their tours extended, and in some cases, the soldiers up for discharge from the military not being allowed to leave.
You know a military conflict is in dire straights when the Department of Defense has to activate members of the Individual Ready Reserve, civilians who haven’t worn a uniform for years, to fight in that conflict.
Some troops that have finally returned to the United States from Iraq have found new homes: the streets. The Washington Times reported on Dec. 7 that homeless shelters across the country are starting to see veterans of the Iraq war. Linda Boone, executive director of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans told the Times, “When we already have people from Iraq on the streets, my God…I have talked to enough (shelters) to know we are getting them. It is happening and this nation is not prepared for that."
Not prepared. Sounds like the motto of the Bush administration. Not prepared for Iraqis to fight back after “mission accomplished”; not prepared for the lack of weapons of mass destructions in Iraq; not prepared for ensuring the troops have all the equipment they need; and not prepared to provide for soldiers once they return home.
The Pentagon admits to some initial problems in getting the proper treatment for the returning veterans, and says that the problem is now fixed.
As the Pentagon lacks the reputation for getting things “fixed,” I take their statement with a grain of salt.
Sadly, nearly 300,000 veterans are homeless, many with mental illness; an Army study that appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine in July showed that 17 percent of veterans returning from Iraq met the criteria for major depression and other mental illnesses.
Is this how we’re supposed to treat our veterans? The government sends soldiers off to fight a war, and when they return home injured or mentally ill, they have to deal with the bureaucracy of the Veteran’s Administration. These men find receiving the proper treatment to be difficult, as many VA hospitals are understaffed, under funded, and not equipped to deal with the volume of veterans seeking services.
The problem, ultimately, is George W. Bush’s to fix. If he, Donald Rumsfeld, and other members of the cabinet are really concerned about veterans, they will do everything they can to make sure they are treated and cared for. That’s if the administration will allocate the resources needed to treat these veterans. I doubt the solution can be found by giving away another huge tax break for the very wealthy. Making sure the wealthy stay wealthy has been the Bush administration’s #1 priority, and in that regard, they haven’t let anyone down.