Tuesday, January 31, 2006

SOTU 2005; A year later, SOTU 2006 tonight

A little reminder to myself of last year's SOTU (2005) and my reaction from last year as I prepare to listen to this year's SOTU (2006). When I wrote this article in Feb 2005, it reflected the political climate of that time, and actual dialogue on the Iraq war was close to non-existent. Well there was the 'wrap yourself in a flag' and all those magnetic yellow ribbons which didn't help much with the un-armored humvees and you could have dialogue as long as it was 'support the troops' by voicing no criticism or opposition.

As the year passed, and another mother who's son was killed in Iraq paid a visit to the President at his Crawford ranch, she had a quite different message to bring; generating front and center discussion and dialogue of the Iraq war.

As the year passed, a courageous Congressman, a 37 yr career and decorated Marine and a respected Congressman for 30 years came out front and center with his message 'Redeploy the troops out of Iraq".

As the year passed and the President's approval rating of his handling of the war has spiralled into the 30 % range, what the President; the Commander-in-Chief will say tonight in the SOTU while the Iraq war moves into third year will likely be more of the same, but sadly I will have to listen since he as Commander-in-Chief does hold the 'mission' (read lives) of our deployed troops (x 2, 3, 4, 5 repeat deployments) in his hands.

American Principles, SOTU 2005
written 02-03-05, by Lietta Ruger

Having watched the State of the Union speech last night, I find myself in a peculiar state of being today. While the news goes on and on about the emotional and moving tribute to the Iraqi woman who was thankful to be able to vote and the parents of a soldier killed in Iraq, I'm in a somewhat different and more somber place.

I could rant, but I don't think I will. First the Iraqi woman was strictly photo-op PR stuff, as she hasn't been in Iraq since 1968 (google her name, Safia Taleb AlSouhail, to learn of her history). Having her featured at the SOTU was staging, pure and simple. I mean no offense whatsoever to the woman, rather I am objecting to the manner in which she was used. Juxtapose that with an account from Dahr Jamail, a journalist in Iraq, reporting what the media will not report and you get a very different portrait of election and voting in Iraq.

It was said at the SOTU that her father was killed during the Saddam regime. Be it reported that the children of men and women, both our troops and the Iraqis now being killed (and tragically maimed) in Iraq may some one day claim their parent was killed during the Bush regime. That will be a future time in history. Those children have no voice now, rather live their lives as children trying to reconcile the irreconcilable in loss of parent to love and raise them. Those children will someday have their own voice.

I take no consolation in the Iraqi woman who lost her father being used as promo for the supposed victory of Iraq elections. She was not part of the Iraqi landscape during this recent occupation by our own American forces (our forces do comprise the majority of the Coalition forces) and I would think it unlikely her reactions would be representative of the majority of the Iraqi people who live daily with the Coalition bombs and raids. If she does represent that for you, then sadly, you may not be following news of the rest of the realities in Iraq. Perhaps you are preferring to get your news from a media who reports on the inexplicable "vision" of a man who seems able to sell his vision as gospel while his actions speak a seemingly quite different vision. Or perhaps history will show him to be a man of foresight and all will come out well in the end once the fullness of his thinking is played out. I rather doubt it, but it is for sure, he will have made his name in history. It will indeed be a memorable name, George W. Bush. Will the ones who gave limb and life be as well remembered? How will the children who lost a parent remember him?

Second and way more difficult to reconcile, was the parents of soldier killed in Iraq, who were asked to come and apparently agreed to have their personal tragedy shared before the nation. It was obvious the pain they were in and how they struggled to not succumb to their own tears as they bravely stood before the nation to let President Bush tell the spin he wanted on their personal truth. How would I feel if I lost one of our loved ones in combat, in Iraq, and the President, their Commander-in-Chief, asked me to come before the nation at one of his speeches?

I wouldn't accept the offer, that much I know. Yet there is the paradigm that a brave and courageous and dutiful soldier should be honored by the military, the CIC, the nation, as has been traditional since time immemorial. I accept that. I am after all, a military brat, raised in military family. I still get tearful with the military songs, the pledge of allegiance, the national anthem, the flag, the ceremony.......but from a place of yesterday, not a place of today. If another President besides Bush were to have an honoring occasion for a fallen soldier, how might I view that, I ask myself? Quite differently.

With President Bush, it is not authentic, it usually leaves me feeling slimed and dirty, like someone has just capitalized on personal trauma to their own advantage and re-traumatized the victims. With so many military families speaking out now and speaking a different military ground truth, it was opportune for the President to find a grieving military family willing to appear at his SOTU and permit their loss, their son's life to be shown as a patriotic and courageous cause. I can't, don't, and won't find fault with these parents who live with the loss of their son's life and will live that loss all their days.

What has been a proud tradition for military and military families, one they cherish and hold dear, as do I, is the ability to honor the sacrifices in knowing from inside the culture how much was sacrificed. It is this authentic tradition that has meaning for the troops and their families in ways personal to each of them. As I watch that very tradition usurped to aggrandize a flawed man in President Bush, my soul weeps and bleeds for our nation, for our troops, for their families, for the Iraqi people who have experienced the carnage and destruction in having their own families decimated in war.

I think what is sometimes more difficult to assimilate though, is that so many American citizens are willing to make hoopla of the misleading propaganda. It becomes increasingly more clear day by day that what is practically irrefutable and knowledge-based information, on which the President makes his bold decisions, will at a later date shortly down the road prove to be deceptive and unfounded knowledge or intelligence. Showing loyalty to this President is not a form of patriotism, or for that matter loyalty to American principles. Or is it?

What are American principles if what I am witnessing today is representative of the popular view? Have I deluded myself over my many years into believing a premise of the potential of America's greatness? Certainly, I'm not foolish enough to believe of America that it is all-good, neither all-bad as its own history which shows America's grandness along with America's horrific flaws. We have proud history and less than proud history to be sure. We have homage to pay to the populations we have exploited over the generations, and we have what has been "hope" that we can learn from our mistakes and grow into our potential as a people and as a nation among the world.

When in my young years as a new bride to my high-school sweetheart, we watched and marked time knowing the draft was in place and there was strong likelihood he would be drafted, his lottery number would be picked next. His number was picked, he went, and I chose to have my first pregnancy much sooner than we planned. If the death of my then young husband was to be an outcome, I wanted our child as a legacy to his life. I didn't join the protests of the sixties, as I was in that peculiar place of being a military family and of the military culture, one which esteems the military rule of discipline. Yet I was grateful that other voices were speaking out as it cast the questionable ness of the Vietnam War into a public dialogue. While I didn't always agree with the forms the protests took, nor even with many of the kinds of people protesting, I still valued that their ability to point out discrepancies did open the dialogue and minds in our nation.

I was of the generation of the fifties, and never quite fully made it into the rebelliousness of the sixties. I looked to the adult generation, as I was taught and trained to do with a certain amount of respect. And I looked to the leaders of our nation as Leaders. The assassination of John F. Kennedy, followed by assassination of Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy was a wake-up call from which I have never fully recovered. It seemed that Leaders who chose to actually Lead were an unwanted commodity in our country. By the time of Vietnam, 1969 when my husband was drafted, at the beginning of the end, I had the benefit of a decade of seeing dramatic change in our country.

When my then young husband had to make his own choice and decision about Vietnam, I was prepared to follow whichever way he might choose. I had my own opinions and preferences for what I would want him to choose. He chose to honor his own WWll pilot father and my young husband decided to meet his "obligation to do his duty in time of war". As his military wife, and remember, this was not choosing to enlist, rather the outcome of his being drafted, I knew already the military culture and did my own dutiful service to honor my husband in the tradition of military families. Essentially, that means to keep your silence on matters of policy and the Commander in Chief in public, while stoically carrying on in private and bearing your burdens in dignity and pride. I respect that dignity and that pride then and now. Now the daughters bear that burden and just as I did, they do so silently, respectfully in dignity and pride.

But I'm an older version of my younger self these days, and not unlike the unrest of the sixties, I find my own unrest with how this President is choosing to spend the lives of my young in a mission not well identified as clearly defined. Rather it seems to morph from it's origins as the deceptive information is revealed and a new definition gets assigned to why we are there. It is a recognizable pattern and it is reasonable to expect those definitions of what the mission is and will become to get re-defined each time we learn of a new deception by this administration.

I did not agree that a knee-jerk reaction to 911 was a rush to war. Since our President made that choice and decision, I had the dilemma of choosing how to support our own loved ones as they went into combat. My heart screamed No, and the sage in my own background in military life came forward to remind me of some old military principles. Out of respect for our new young warriors, I kept a silence as I watched neighbors and citizens move into a spirited patriotism, careful to thank the troops and not forget the lessons of Vietnam.

Yet they did forget the lessons of Vietnam. One cannot take part of the equation and say on the one hand, we will not do to our troops as was done to them in Vietnam, while dismissing the rest of the equation as not applicable. What is the rest of the equation? What are the many lessons of Vietnam? Friends, our President would prefer us to view Iraq and the future countries we may invade as a scene out of World War ll and skip past the history of the wars that came after, Korea and Vietnam, Bosnia and those other little excursions that were not quite wars, but combat nonetheless. Our President would like us to see our nation’s efforts in invading a country who did not attack us as noble, as rescuing an oppressed people. If we conveniently disregard the history of our own other wars in Korea, Vietnam and elsewhere, then perhaps we can continue to delude ourselves into believing the propaganda that keeps our young deployed and in combat.

I choose not to delude myself, nor buy the propaganda. Rather I choose to see it for what it is and wonder at my incredible young naiveté when I was the young wife of a soldier and wanted to believe in my country, believe in my country's Leadership, believe in a wisdom that was beyond my every-day knowledge. Believe in spite of what was before my very eyes and ears as our country prolonged a war in Vietnam with incessant killing and carnage. I do not choose this for my young or for anyone's young, and the tradition of military culture is not what is going to keep them alive.

Now I'm a mother and a grandmother looking to my children and their children's future. I gave them the "rules" to living life as I knew them for myself and learned them along my own young and adult life. Now I find those life rules no longer seem to apply as the President goes about the process of re-arranging not only our country but the world in what seems to be a model known only to himself and some few insiders. Oh I know what the other half say or repeat verbatim as their own set of talking points and to listen to them, one might believe they believe what they are saying. Yet I wonder in their hearts, in those quiet moments, if doubts stir and rattle about and threaten to not be quelled so easily by those very talking points. I wonder if they have to force those nagging hints that all is not well into a subdued silence as the doubts suggest the talking points might be superficial, might be propaganda, might not be the whole cloth of reality.

Bless those parents who decided to go to the President's SOTU and who have now the memory of their child. Bless the Iraqi woman who had the opportunity in her lifetime to vote in an Iraq election. Bless this country that it has the potential to shake off the cobwebs it is allowing to grow in the corners of people's minds and will learn to engage each other again and listen to a fuller sense of experiences in what indeed has become a historical time as we live and breathe today.

Facing our future is not done easily by hiding truths in exploitation and propaganda. For my own two loved ones, who will return to Iraq in redeployment, second tours, I would not wish them to go blindly into combat on a feverish fervor of propagandized patriotism to give their limbs and lives that deception and lies might live in the cocooned minds of Americans as a testimony to our greatness. It requires us to do more than jump into the polarized camps of thinking that permit only either/or and very little in between. That in itself, ought to be a signal, a flag waving of an effort to minimize the ability to think more broadly about the issues and the war and to actually find a means beyond the constricted propaganda which has served to divide us, distract us, and keep us dis-engaged from talking to each other.

When did America stop being American? When did what stood for American principles change so dramatically and how will I teach my young what it means now to be American?

Lietta Ruger
Feb. 03, 2005
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Sunday, January 15, 2006

Swift Bloat Chicken Hawks Against Murtha

Thank you to Lietta for inviting me to post this article at this excellent site.

This is an updated opinion of something I wrote during last year's election.- AR

Who has earned the right to speak about serious stuff with a veterans's wisdom?

I'm an old veteran with no hair, high blood pressure and military memories going back to the early 1970's when Jane Fonda was a swear word and my cousin somehow got into the National Guard and I didn't.

Had I waited another six months before enlisting, the new draft lottery which placed my birthday at the 350+ level would have meant that I, like Mr. Cheney, could have pursued my "other priorities."

Somewhere downstairs I've got an old hard-cardboard Schlitz beer-box with enough military records in it to prove I went and to prove I did.

There's a bunch of ribbons there that I didn't toss over any walls in protest but are in a glass jar where sometime I'll go down and look at them.

There's an air-medal (and maybe a cluster) that are still in their containers.

There's little sterling silver wings that my commander told me I could wear even when not on flying status after completing ten combat missions.

They're all down there to prove I went and did.

When I was studying Russian at Syracuse University, Woodstock happened less than 100 miles away.

I wasn't about to drive over and see that. I was too mad at Jane Fonda - mad about her movie Barbarella which had offended my youthful moral view of the world. And I was incensed by her Hanoi affair.

I don't remember hearing anything about John Kerry back then and his post-Viet Nam role against the war. I recently watched a Dick Cavett show where Kerry debated another vet and can assure you that at that time I would have voted Kerry into the brig for what he was saying and doing.

Funny how time changes perspectives.

My yuppie kids are outraged that in 1969 I willfully refused to go to Woodstock.

I agree with them.

What was I thinking?

Was my patriotism so shallow that rain, mud, outlandish music, naked women and pot smoke could rock my foundation as a true American?

I'm embarrassed about what I thought was important when I was 22 and what I did and didn't do about it.

Yet, here I am today, a middle-aged repository of all my experience which is the only source of wisdom I have to offer my kids and grandkids.

I sure as heck am not going to teach my kids that military veterans are long on judgment and condemnation and short on wisdom.

No, I'm not retired from the military. I got out after 6 years and later served 2 more in the reserve.

30 years later, I'm still aware of a sense of difference between the civilian and military world where you have got to trust somebody before you follow them.

In 1968 I was so mad at LBJ, I voted for Nixon so I guess that made me a Republican.

In 72 I thought McGovern was a peacenik and I was a war-nik so I gave RMN another vote.

In 76 I was genuinely offended at Nixon - and Ford for pardoning him - so I voted for Carter.

In 1980 when Reagan asked "Are you better off now...." he got my vote.

In 1984 he looked tougher than Mondale so I voted for RR again.

By 1988 though, I didn't trust Bush the First so I went into my vote-for-the-outsider mode and voted for Dukakis.

1992 and I'm mad at Bush Sr. who seemed to think looking like Patton would fix the economy and voted for Bill with the following little sentence in sotto voce: "Ok you SOB, you'd better not blow it."

By 1996 I began to suspect I was more of a liberal than a conservative and just couldn't bring myself to vote for Dole.

So there I am, trying to vote the man instead of the party, flip-flopping and waffling with the best of them.

By 2000 I realized that my veteran's instincts were alive and well and I saw only form without substance in Dubya. Besides, an old NBA fan like me thought Bill Bradley was the smartest guy for president and I was disappointed that he didn't get nominated.

I voted for Gore, the veteran.

So let's get real out there! Being so offended at what Kerry said and did in 1971 that you voted for George more out of spite than wisdom is not a prideful attribute.

If you think there is more international wisdom and military craftsmanship from a gang that truly cannot shoot straight, has not shot straight and literally did not serve - has not been there nor done that - then by all means betray what you think you stand for.

Speak out and reveal your belief that splashing around in shallow water is better than learning to swim and navigate in something deeper where there's much more substance to everything.

Go ahead and pretend that Repuglican political fools - presenting to us a bushwhacking war president who is bluffing - have really convinced you that Bush knows more about the military than Jack Murtha;

That Mr. Bush as a run-and-hide Texas Champagne Guardsman is truly a wiser military-veteran grown-up than Jack Murtha;

Be sure to watch a lot of Fox TV (chicken hawk heaven) and pay attention when William Kristol of PNAC fame makes a guest appearance there and talks like winning games of RISK make him a strategic wunderkind;

who said last year that Ted Koppel shouldn't have said out loud on Nightline the names of our fellow warriors who didn't make it.

And by all means, go to Kristol's pride and joy site The Project for the New American Century.

There you'll find an ivory-looking tower made of fragile glass full of intellectual hubris. It's a place where political power theories look like they came out of a perusal of Cliff Notes and where - like in RISK - military troops are nothing more than little colored blocks of wood that are casually swept off the board with each roll of the dice.

That's the alternative to using your own common sense.

Jack Murtha is much closer to the reality in which I live and the memory trove from where my own supposed wisdom comes.

I trust Jack.

Cross-posted to WashBlog at Pacifc Northwest Portal
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Watch Murtha on 60 Minutes Sunday night; Jan 15

CBS News | Murtha Details His Exit Strategy | January 14, 2006�11:03:56:

"(CBS) Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., believes the vast majority of U.S. troops in Iraq will be out by the end of the year and maybe even sooner. In his boldest words yet on the subject, the outspoken critic of the war predicts the withdrawal and tells 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace why he thinks the Bush administration will do it

“I think the vast majority will be out by the end of the year and I’m hopeful it will be sooner than that,” Murtha tells Wallace, this Sunday, Jan. 15, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

“You’re going to see a plan for withdrawal,” says Murtha. He believes Congress will pass it because of mounting pressure from constituents tired of the war that could affect the upcoming midterm elections.

The political situation will force President Bush to accede to Congress, he says. “I think the political people who give [the president] advice will say to him, ‘You don’t want a democratic Congress. You want to keep a Republican majority, and the only way you’re going to keep it is by reducing substantially the troops in Iraq,’” Murtha says.

The president has said publicly that any decision regarding Iraq would be based on the situation there and not on Washington politics.

Murtha rejects the president’s argument that the war on terror is being fought in Iraq. “The insurgents are Iraqis – 93 percent of the insurgents are Iraqis. A very small percentage are foreign fighters….Once we’re out of there, [Iraqis] will eliminate [foreign fighters],” says Murtha.

“[President Bush] is trying to fight this war with rhetoric. Iraq is not where the center of terrorism is,” he says. “We’re inciting terrorism there....We’re destabilizing the area by being over there because we’re the targets,” Murtha says.

When Wallace challenges him by saying, “General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, says your comments are damaging recruiting and hurting the troops,” Murtha respo"
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Friday, January 13, 2006

Instead we could have done....

Another way to look at the 'cost of war'; instead of death, carnage, brutal maiming, sending the same troops (those would be our young) out into combat deployments over and over again with some redeployed up to 5 times..... in our country we could have done this instead (figures from 2004; will be more in 2005 and we've only just begun 2006);

Taxpayers in United States will pay $251.0 billion for the cost of war in Iraq. For the same amount of money, the following could have been provided:

57,007,104 People Receiving Health Care or
4,349,898 Elementary School Teachers or
33,244,945 Head Start Places for Children or
147,677,463 Children Receiving Health Care or
2,260,014 Affordable Housing Units or
29,538 New Elementary Schools or
48,671,708 Scholarships for University Students or
4,325,722 Music and Arts Teachers or
5,655,541 Public Safety Officers or
444,059,161 Homes with Renewable Electricity or
3,931,781 Port Container Inspectors

and in my state (Washington)

Taxpayers in Washington will pay $5.9 billion for the cost of war in Iraq. For the same amount of money, the following could have been provided:

3,573,076 People Receiving Health Care or
105,219 Elementary School Teachers or
639,517 Head Start Places for Children or
3,618,008 Children Receiving Health Care or
32,620 Affordable Housing Units or
583 New Elementary Schools or
1,181,409 Scholarships for University Students or
104,222 Music and Arts Teachers or
111,310 Public Safety Officers or
8,070,904 Homes with Renewable Electricity or
62,426 Port Container Inspectors

If you'd like to see what could have been done different in your state, here's a link to National Priorities Project website.
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Sunday, January 8, 2006

Pentagon Study Links Fatalities to Body Armor - New York Times

posting the entire article here via educational public information. 80 % avoidable fatalities for wounded Marines in Iraq. This is no small disclosure, and if you feel the outrage act; link to enter your zip code and readily access your elected officials. Call your congressperson

Pentagon Study Links Fatalities to Body Armor - New York Times:
January 7, 2006


A secret Pentagon study has found that as many as 80 percent of the marines who have been killed in Iraq from wounds to the upper body could have survived if they had had extra body armor. Such armor has been available since 2003, but until recently the Pentagon has largely declined to supply it to troops despite calls from the field for additional protection, according to military officials.

The ceramic plates in vests now worn by the majority of troops in Iraq cover only some of the chest and back. In at least 74 of the 93 fatal wounds that were analyzed in the Pentagon study of marines from March 2003 through June 2005, bullets and shrapnel struck the marines' shoulders, sides or areas of the torso where the plates do not reach.

Thirty-one of the deadly wounds struck the chest or back so close to the plates that simply enlarging the existing shields "would have had the potential to alter the fatal outcome," according to the study, which was obtained by The New York Times.

For the first time, the study by the military's medical examiner shows the cost in lives from inadequate armor, even as the Pentagon continues to publicly defend its protection of the troops.

Officials have said they are shipping the best armor to Iraq as quickly as possible. At the same time, they have maintained that it is impossible to shield forces from the increasingly powerful improvised explosive devices used by insurgents in Iraq. Yet the Pentagon's own study reveals the equally lethal threat of bullets.

The vulnerability of the military's body armor has been known since the start of the war, and is part of a series of problems that have surrounded the protection of American troops. Still, the Marine Corps did not begin buying additional plates to cover the sides of their troops until September, when it ordered 28,800 sets, Marine officials acknowledge.

The Army, which has the largest force in Iraq, is still deciding what to purchase, according to Army procurement officials. They said the Army was deciding among various sizes of plates to give its 130,000 soldiers, adding that they hoped to issue contracts this month.

Additional forensic studies by the Armed Forces Medical Examiner's unit that were obtained by The Times indicate that about 340 American troops have died solely from torso wounds.

Military officials said they had originally decided against using the extra plates because they were concerned they added too much weight to the vests or constricted the movement of soldiers. Marine Corps officials said the findings of the Pentagon study caused field commanders to override those concerns in the interest of greater protection.

"As the information became more prevalent and aware to everybody that in fact these were casualty sites that they needed to be worried about, then people were much more willing to accept that weight on their body," said Maj. Wendell Leimbach, a body armor specialist with Marine Corps Systems Command, the corps procurement unit.

The Pentagon has been collecting the data on wounds since the beginning of the war in March 2003 in part to determine the effectiveness of body armor. The military's medical examiner, Dr. Craig T. Mallak, told a military panel in 2003 that the information "screams to be published." But it would take nearly two years.

The Marine Corps said it asked for the data in August 2004; but it needed to pay the medical examiner $107,000 to have the data analyzed. Marine officials said financing and other delays had resulted in the study's not starting until December 2004. It finally began receiving the information by June 2005. The shortfalls in bulletproof vests are just one of the armor problems the Pentagon continues to struggle with as the war in Iraq approaches the three-year mark, The Times has found in a continuing examination of the military procurement system.

The production of a new armored truck called the Cougar, which military officials said had so far withstood every insurgent attack, has fallen three months behind schedule. The small company making the truck has been beset by a host of production and legal problems.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is still relying on another small factory in Ohio to armor all of the military's principal transport trucks, the Humvee, and it remains backlogged with orders. The factory, owned by Armor Holdings, increased production in December after reports in The Times about delays drew criticism from Congress. But the Marine Corps said it was still waiting for about 2,000 of these vehicles to replace other Humvees in Iraq that are more lightly armored, and did not expect final delivery until June.

An initiative begun by the Pentagon nearly two years ago to speed up production by having additional companies armor new Humvees remains incomplete, Army officials said.

Body armor has gone through a succession of problems in Iraq. First, there were prolonged shortages of the plates that make the vests bulletproof. Last year, the Pentagon began replacing the plates with a stronger model that is more resistant to certain insurgent attacks.

Almost from the beginning, some soldiers asked for additional protection to stop bullets from slicing through their sides. In the fall of 2003, when troops began hanging their crotch protectors under their arms, the Army's Rapid Equipping Force shipped several hundred plates to protect their sides and shoulders. Individual soldiers and units continued to buy their own sets.

The Army's former acting secretary, Les Brownlee, said in a recent interview that he was shown numerous designs for expanded body armor in 2003, and had instructed his staff to weigh their benefits against the perceived threat without losing sight of the main task: eliminating the shortages of plates for the chest and back.

Army procurement officials said that their efforts to purchase side ceramic plates had been encumbered by the Army's much larger force in Iraq compared with the Marines' and that they wanted to provide manufacturers with detailed specifications. Also, they said their plates would be made to resist the stronger insurgent attacks.

The Marine Corps said it had opted to take the older version of ceramic to speed delivery. As of early last month, officials said marines in Iraq had received 2,200 of the more than 28,000 sets of plates that are being bought at a cost of about $260 each.

Marine officials said they had supplied troops with soft shoulder protection that can repel some shrapnel, but remained concerned that ceramic shoulder plates would be too restrictive. Similarly, they said they believed that the chest and back plates were as large as they could be without unduly limiting the movement of troops.

The Times obtained the three-page Pentagon report after a military advocacy group, Soldiers for the Truth, learned of its existence. The group posted an article about the report on its Web site earlier this week. The Times delayed publication of this article for more than a week until the Pentagon confirmed the authenticity of its report. Pentagon officials declined to discuss details of the wound data, saying it would aid the enemy.

"Our preliminary research suggests that as many as 42 percent of the Marine casualties who died from isolated torso injuries could have been prevented with improved protection in the areas surrounding the plated areas of the vest," the study concludes. An additional 23 percent might have been saved with side plates that extend below the arms, while 15 percent more could have benefited from shoulder plates, the report says.

In all, 526 marines have been killed in combat in Iraq. A total of 1,706 American troops have died in combat there. The findings and other research by military pathologists suggests that an analysis of all combat deaths in Iraq, including those of Army troops, would show that 300 or more lives might have been saved with improved body armor.

Military officials and contractors said the Pentagon's procurement troubles had stemmed in part from miscalculations that underestimated the strength of the insurgency, and from years of cost-cutting that left some armoring companies on the brink of collapse as they waited for new orders.

To help defeat roadside ambushes, the military in May 2005 contracted to buy 122 Cougars whose special V-shaped hull helps deflect roadside bombs, military officials said. But the Pentagon gave the job to a small company in South Carolina, Force Protection, that had never mass-produced vehicles. Company officials said a string of blunders had pushed the completion date to this June.

A dozen prototypes shipped to Iraq have been recalled from the field to replace a failing transmission. Steel was cut to the wrong size before the truck's design drawings were perfected. Several managers have left the company.

Company officials said they had also lost time in an interservice skirmish. The Army, which is buying the bulk of the vehicles, asked for its trucks to be delivered before the Marine vehicles, and company officials said that move had upended their production process until the Army agreed to get back in line behind the Marines.

"It is what it is, and we're running as fast as we can to change it," Gordon McGilton, the company's chief executive, said in an interview at its plant in Ladson, S.C.

On July 5, two former employees brought a federal false-claims case that accuses Force Protection of falsifying records to cover up defective workmanship. They allege that the actions "compromise the immediate and long-term integrity of the vehicles and result in a deficient product," according to legal documents filed under seal in the United States District Court in Charleston and obtained by The Times.

The legal claim also accuses the company of falsifying records to deceive the military into believing the company could meet the production deadlines. The United States Attorney's office in South Carolina declined to comment on the case. The Marine Corps says the Justice Department did not notify it about the case until December.

Force Protection officials said they had not been made aware of the legal case. They acknowledged making mistakes in rushing to fill the order, but said that there were multiple systems in place to monitor the quality of the trucks, and that they were not aware of any deficiencies that would jeopardize the troops.

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Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Murtha says he wouldn't join military now

Murtha says he wouldn't join military now
Tue Jan 3, 2006 9:00 AM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Rep. John Murtha, a key Democratic voice who favors pulling U.S. troops from Iraq, said in remarks airing on Monday that he would not join the U.S. military today.

A decorated Vietnam combat veteran who retired as a colonel after 37 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, Murtha told ABC News' 'Nightline' program that Iraq 'absolutely' was a wrong war for President George W. Bush to have launched.

'Would you join (the military) today?,' he was asked in an interview taped on Friday.

'No,' replied Murtha of Pennsylvania, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives subcommittee that oversees defense spending and one of his party's leading spokesmen on military issues.

'And I think you're saying the average guy out there who's considering recruitment is justified in saying 'I don't want to serve',' the interviewer continued.

'Exactly right,' said Murtha, who drew White House ire in November after becoming the first ranking Democrat to push for a pullout of U.S. forces from Iraq as soon as it could be done safely.

At the time, White House spokesman Scott McClellan equated Murtha's position with surrendering to terrorists.

Since then, Bush has decried the 'defeatism' of some of his political rivals. In an unusually direct appeal, he urged Americans on December 18 not to give in to despair over Iraq, insisting that 'we are winning' despite a tougher-than-expected fight.

Murtha did not respond directly when asked whether a lack of combat experience might have affected the decision-making of Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and their former top deputies.

'Let me tell you, war is a nasty business. It sears the soul,' he said, choking up. 'And it made a difference. The shadow of those killings stay with you the rest of your life."
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