Q: Yes, Mr. Secretary. My question is more logistical. Weve had troops in Iraq for coming up on three years and weve always staged here out of Kuwait. Now why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromise ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles and why dont we have those resources readily available to us? [Applause]
SEC. RUMSFELD: I missed the first part of your question. And could you repeat it for me?
Q: Yes, Mr. Secretary. Our soldiers have been fighting in Iraq for coming up on three years. A lot of us are getting ready to move north relatively soon. Our vehicles are not armored. Were digging pieces of rusted scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass thats already been shot up, dropped, busted, picking the best out of this scrap to put on our vehicles to take into combat. We do not have proper armament vehicles to carry with us north.
SEC. RUMSFELD: I talked to the General coming out here about the pace at which the vehicles are being armored. They have been brought from all over the world, wherever theyre not needed, to a place here where they are needed. Im told that they are being the Army is I think its something like 400 a month are being done. And its essentially a matter of physics. It isnt a matter of money. It isnt a matter on the part of the Army of desire. Its a matter of production and capability of doing it.
As you know, you go to war with the Army you have. Theyre not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time. Since the Iraq conflict began, the Army has been pressing ahead to produce the armor necessary at a rate that they believe its a greatly expanded rate from what existed previously, but a rate that they believe is the rate that is all that can be accomplished at this moment.
I can assure you that General Schoomaker and the leadership in the Army and certainly General Whitcomb are sensitive to the fact that not every vehicle has the degree of armor that would be desirable for it to have, but that theyre working at it at a good clip. Its interesting, Ive talked a great deal about this with a team of people whove been working on it hard at the Pentagon. And if you think about it, you can have all the armor in the world on a tank and a tank can be blown up. And you can have an up-armored humvee and it can be blown up. And you can go down and, the vehicle, the goal we have is to have as many of those vehicles as is humanly possible with the appropriate level of armor available for the troops. And that is what the Army has been working on.
And General Whitcomb, is there anything youd want to add to that?
GEN. WHITCOMB: Nothing. [Laughter] Mr. Secretary, Id be happy to. That is a focus on what we do here in Kuwait and what is done up in the theater, both in Iraq and also in Afghanistan. As the secretary has said, its not a matter of money or desire; it is a matter of the logistics of being able to produce it. The 699th, the team that weve got here in Kuwait has done [Cheers] a tremendous effort to take that steel that they have and cut it, prefab it and put it on vehicles. But there is nobody from the president on down that is not aware that this is a challenge for us and this is a desire for us to accomplish.
SEC. RUMSFELD: The other day, after there was a big threat alert in Washington, D.C. in connection with the elections, as I recall, I looked outside the Pentagon and there were six or eight up-armored humvees. Theyre not there anymore. [Cheers] [Applause] Theyre en route out here, I can assure you. Next. Way in the back. Yes.
How does this answer merit this editorial from the Star Tribune that accuses Secretary Rumsfeld of not wanting to support our soldiers in Iraq? It doesn't. A soldier asks a legitimate question about armored Humvees (even if the question was planted by a reporter) and received a candid response. A response, by the way, that the Strib's editors chose to cherry-pick a sound bite out of , robbing it of context. All this to claim that the SecDef is suffering from hubris, calling him 'delusional', accusing him (for the umpteenth time) of direct responsibility for the abuses at Abu Ghraib, and raise the bogus NYT story about missing explosives again. Oh, and demanding his resignation again (again not for the first time).
Personally, I find the idea of the Strib accusing the administration of not properly supporting our soldiers darkly funny, given their support of John Kerry, who voted against funding our forces once they were engaged in Iraq. I have my problems with Rumsfeld (fodder for a later post), but this is just another dishonest argument presented by the Star Tribune editorial board.