Monday, December 20, 2004

Republican Press Secretary Serving in Iraq Discusses Rumsfeld and Armor

I am always a fan of "primary source" material. To me, this is one of the best things about blogging: It gives people who would be normally overlooked by the mainstream media a readily accessible pipeline to the masses. Because of this, I don't have to go to Iraq to hear a first person story about life there. I don't have to rely on catching a few stories on life in Iraq squeezed into the slow news gap between the Peterson Sentence and the Kidnapped Fetus.

One of the worst things about blogging? Being stuck in an apartment in the suburbs with no access to primary material and writing about news and information recycled from other media sources. Using blogs for research isn't much better. It still isn't the same as being there, talking to a live human, but at least it feels one step closer...

There was an article this morning calling Lance In Iraq, by Second Lt. Lance Frizzell, the first blog out of Iraq by a US soldier from Tennessee. I do know know if it is true that this is the first blog from a Tennessee soldier in Iraq or not, but it is the first blog I have noticed from any US soldier in Iraq.

It is an interesting read. It is written by a National Guardsman who's civilian job is being "the Press Secretary for the House Republican Caucus in the Tennessee Legislature."

There is bias here, obviously, but I have no problem with bias as long as it is not claiming to be "Fair and Balanced."

I get laid off from my job and decide to kill time by writing about life and politics on my blogs, this man gets sent to war and decides to kill time by passing "on some of the things the 278th[Armored Cavalry Regiment (now Regimental Combat Team)] is doing in country as well as talk a little politics and media analysis. "

I can respect that, regardless of his political affiliation.

The 278th is the same unit that Spc. Thomas Wilson is from. He is the soldier who asked the Secretary of Defense why the US Military had to "dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles." To make hillbilly armor, as they call it.

Obviously, I am interested to see what a Republican press secretary who is in a combat zone has to say about this...

...what would happen if the 278th hung out in Kuwait for an extended period of time waiting for official up-armor kits. Here is the answer:

The units we are scheduled to replace would be stuck in Iraq waiting to be relieved. A lot of these units are National Guardsman like ourselves who rolled in last year when things were dicier than they are now. I'd hate to be languishing here in country because some members of the U.S. Army are too prissy to pick up a welding torch and put steel on a vehicle. It's time for these guys to go home. It's time for us to take their place. Period.

If we are delayed a year from now because the next rotation is scared of angry family members and Congressional inquiries I (and everyone else in the 278th - especially those complaining about armor) will be highly pissed.

Frizzell writes that he is more concerned about the troop rotations, getting soldiers who are due to leave Iraq out, than having adequate armor. That is very noble. I would guess this is how most soldiers going into this situation feel. This is because we have good people serving over there. They deserve all the protection they can be given while they are doing their jobs over there.

The point here isn't quite on target, unfortunately. The debate isn't about delaying your arrival in the combat zone. You are going with or without the proper equipment. The debate is about making sure that going in unarmored stops.

In a different post from the same day, Frizzell talks about Clinton's secretary of Defense Les Aspin turning down a request for "tanks and armored vehicles for his forces" during the Somalia deployments.

He quotes the following from a DOD web site profile of Aspin:

In September General Powell asked Aspin to approve the request of the U.S. commander in Somalia for tanks and armored vehicles for his forces. Aspin turned down the request. Shortly thereafter Aideed's forces in Mogadishu killed 18 U.S. soldiers and wounded more than 75 in attacks that also resulted in the shooting down of three U.S. helicopters and the capture of one pilot.

In his post, the Republican press secretary/soldier writes, "Liberals and lefty media types using the armor issue to take down Rumsfeld were no where to be found during the Aspin debacle. "

The sentence immediately following the DOD quote above is:

In the face of severe congressional criticism, Aspin admitted that in view of what had happened he had made a mistake, but stated that the request for armored equipment had been made within the context of delivering humanitarian aid to Somalia rather than protecting troops.

Aspin ended up resigning a short time later.

I would use this example not so much to complain about differences in the media coverage between events a over a decade ago in Somalia and current events in Iraq, but to illustrate the difference between an administration that can admit its mistakes and one that cannot, no matter how bad they are.

Especially when considering... Aspin's mistake, apparently, did not cost those soldiers serving in Somalia their lives.

According to one of the comments posted on Frizzell's blog, "But of course having the armor wouldn't have prevented either the attack, or the deaths -- the armor was requested by the 10th Mountain Division, not the Ranger detachment, and the Rangers were based on the opposite side of the city than the 10th Mountain Division."

As far as the media coverage goes, I cannot remember if the media latched onto this Aspin controversy or not, but I do know that very little was said in the mainstream media about the lack of properly armored vehicles in Iraq until Rumsfeld was confronted by one of his own soldiers about the issue.

Body armor was discussed to some degree before then, mostly during the presidential campaign, but the discussion was focused mostly on congressional voting records, not if the soldiers ever actually received armor or other materiel that was supposedly being voted on at the time.

What was that money for? One of our left-liberal stars, Rep. Jim McDermott from Washington, outlined some of it on the House floor...

We have got no jobs in this country. But we are printing money. The presses are running like mad printing this money to send over to Iraq.

Now, what are we going to send it there for? You heard from one of my colleagues a little bit of it. We are going to send over a guard system for public property, $15 million. That is just for training and administration.

We are going to send them 80 pickup trucks at $2.6 million. That is $33,000 apiece. That is a pretty good pickup truck. You can get a pickup truck for under $20,000 right now. But, no, we have to send them the $33,000 brand.

We are going to send over a communications system of handheld radios, 400 of them, and 200 satellite telephones, for $6 million. How many of your police departments have that kind of equipment? And yet we can send it over to Iraq.

Or we can go and give security for the judges at $200 million. Four hundred judges. We are going to provide security details constantly for $200 million.

These phony dollars that they got us into, they got us into a war on a fraudulent basis. The President stood right here and said things which he now says, ``My, it wasn't true.'' But we are going to pay for it.

We are going to pay for a witness protection program. If any Iraqis come forward, we promise them that we will take them to the United States and set them up someplace in Florida or wherever, I do not know, and spend $100 million on them, like they were crime fighters in the Mafia in the United States. That is what your money is going for.

Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of things in this country that ought to happen before that happens.

We are going to buy them 200 tanker trucks. We are going to buy them 250 natural gas trucks. More of these dollars. They are going out. They are going out to the people, and they are going to be spent over there, and the Iraqis themselves say, ``Give us 10 cents on the dollar, and we can do it ourselves.'' But this is an American occupation headed by Viceroy Bremer, and there is no intention in this list of turning over control to them.

We are going to set them up an army. We have decided they need a 40,000-man army. They had an army before. Where is it? Why do we have to buy new weapons for all of them?

Four hundred thirty-five Members are going to come in here with their rubber stamp, and they are going to say, ``Mr. President, you want it. I close my eyes, it is yours.'' And we are going to send them $87 billion , with no discussion. It is wrong. Keep your eye on them.

$87 Billion in October 2003, $25 billion on August 2004, another $70 Billion in the works; all in addition to the initial " $78.5 billion measure that included $62.4 billion for combat and $7.5 billion for foreign assistance..."

This is why the lefties get a little upset and confused when US troops still seem to be unprepared two years into this phase of the Global War on Terror.

This is what inspires "lefty" Congressmen, like Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., to demand accountability from the Secretary of Defense.

Dodd sent a letter to the Secretary "and called the secretary's answer to Spc. Wilson's question 'unacceptable.'"

"Your response -- 'You go to war with the Army you have' -- is utterly unacceptable," Sen. Dodd wrote. "Mr. Secretary, our troops go to war with the Army that our nation's leaders provide."

I can spin in Oregon. Frizzell can spin in Iraq. That is the beauty of blogs.

Welcome to the conversation, Lance.

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