Eats Barbecue... Soldiers Starve
By Barbara O'Brien
our soldiers suffer in Iraq with inadequate water, food, sanitation,
and shelter, President George W. "Bring 'em On" Bush treated
his top fundraisers to a private
barbecue near his ranch.
The Bush re-election campaign shuttled about 350 top fund-raisers
to Crawford, Texas, for the event. The favored few had collected
$50,000 each for the privilege of chowing down with the President
and his advisor, Karl Rove.
But even as he enjoyed the best of Texas cuisine during
his month-long vacation, the President assured the nation
he is focused on Iraq.
On Friday, the President stood in the driveway of his ranch
home with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and declared
there had been "good progress. Iraq is more secure."
Mr. Bush would not say whether he shared the assessment
of the commander of coalition forces in Iraq, Army Lt. Gen.
Ricardo Sanchez, who said Thursday that U.S. forces will remain
in Iraq at least two years.
It's a good thing he's focused on Iraq. If he were less focused
he might forget the war entirely.
Mr. Bush would only say "I will do what's necessary to
win the war on terror." Mr. Bush said Americans have "got
to understand I will not forget the lessons of Sept. 11,"
when America was hit with its worst ever terrorist attack.
The president also would not say whether he had an estimate
on how many more soldiers would die. Nor did he answer a
question on future costs of the American presence in Iraq.
Sees Iraq Progress," CBS News, August 8, 2003 ]
To be fair, one reason the President can't estimate cost
is that logistics in Iraq became the Mother of All Snafus.
Soldiers have lived for months in primitive shelters without
windows or air conditioning. Some are without fresh food and
showers and telephones and toilets. For a time they weren't
even getting their mail. Although news stories say conditions
have improved, soldiers continue to write to Stars
and Stripes and David Hackworth's web
site with tales of deprivation.
soldier wrote to Hackworth in mid-June that troops were
so desperate for water they had to purchase water of dubious
quality from Iraqis. They also have been short of food. "Soldiers
are trying, in vain, to keep mosquitoes from consuming them
nightly, and using hoses from an Iraqi latrine stall to get
water enough to maintain their hygienic needs," he writes.
"There are soldiers, to this day, that live in squalor."
Another soldier wrote,
While the Army did a great in winning the war,
what is not being covered is how broke the Army logistics
system is and the damage it is doing to the long term readiness
and moral of the Army. The Army seems to have this NTC rotation
mentality, which consists of fuck it live in the dirt and
filth you only have to be here for a month. That works at
NTC, but it seems no one has thought of how to sustain an
Army in the field for weeks and months at a time.
This letter from Stars and Stripes is dated July 27:
... Our supply lines are clear. There is no excuse why
basic health and safety issues and moral issues like mail
cannot be addressed. They are not being addressed because
the army doesn't know how anymore. Units spend their lives
preparing for 2 week warfighters and one month NTC rotations
and never think, "okay, how are we going to live out here
for six months or a year." Its just not part of the Army's
thinking anymore and it s a shame. ["Everything
Is Just Peachy Keen in Iraq," Soldiers for the Truth,
June 11, 2003]
During the day the temperature reaches 127 degrees
in the shade.... Due to a lack of bottled water, each soldier
has been limited to two 1.5 liter bottles a day. We’ve had
two soldiers drop out due to heat-related injuries. A person
with common sense knows that a normal person can’t survive
on three liters of water a day."
There's No Business Like War Business
- Pfc. John Bendetti, stationed in Tallil,
in Stars and Stripes.
Behind the logistical breakdown in Iraq is a Pentagon team
with no personal experience on a battlefield and only a theoretical
view of battle. Throughout American military history, most
of the work of supplying troops in the field was performed
by the military itself. But, beginning in the Clinton Administration,
supply and support personnel were shifted into combat jobs
and defense contractors were hired to take their place. And,
writes David Wood of Newhouse News Service, "This shift has
accelerated under relentless pressure from Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld to make the force lighter and more agile."
"When you turn these services over to the private
market, you lose a measure of control over them," said [Peter]
Singer, a foreign policy researcher at the Brookings Institution,
a think tank in Washington. ...
Can we say, "this is the fault of management?" I think
Thanks to overlapping contracts and multiple contracting
offices, nobody in the Pentagon seems to know precisely
how many contractors are responsible for which jobs - or
how much it all costs. That's one reason the Bush administration
can only estimate that it is spending about $4 billion a
month on troops in Iraq. White House Budget Director Joshua
Bolten said this week he could not even estimate the cost
of keeping troops in Iraq in fiscal 2004, which begins Oct.
Wood, "Some of Army's Civilian Contractors Are No-Shows
in Iraq," Newhouse News Service, July 31, 2003]
Long-time CEO Rumsfeld and his civilian lackeys are running
the military like a corporation.
And, as in most corporations, the Suits at the top of the
ladder and the worker bees in the cubicles and factories live
on different planets. The Suits concern themselves with profits
and growth but forget the product. Employees? Employees are
cost, and employees in Asia work cheaper.
Next we'll hear the Navy is being outsourced to India.
To see clearly what went wrong with logistics in Iraq, look
no further than Dick
Cheney's old outfit, Kellogg Brown & Root. Last fall the
Army hired the Houston-based contractor to draw up the master
plan for supporting U.S. troops in Iraq with civilian contractors.
But KB&R failed to deliver on its own contracts. The modular
barracks, showers, bathroom facilities, and kitchens it had
been paid to deliver were AWOL.
Part of the blame lies with the cost of insuring civilians
in a combat zone. Rates skyrocketed by 300 and 400 last March
as the contractors waited in Kuwait for the war to start.
And civilians cannot be ordered to go into a combat zone.
Many of them, sensibly, bailed.
'Course, you'd think the well-paid geniuses who drew up
the master plan and greedily anticipated record profits from
the war would have anticipated this. Guess not.
Military historian Martin
van Creveld defines logistics as "minutely coordinating
the movements of troops...and supplies...in such a way as
to make everything and everybody...appear at exactly the right
moment" (Supplying War, 1977). Any sensible person
can see that military logistics are a little more complicated
than running a McDonald's. However, we're dealing with CEOs,
so "sensible" is not an operative word. "Greedy," maybe.
According to van Creveld, throughout military history logistics
have been nine-tenths of the business of war. Unfortunately,
there's no glory in it, and people with a CEO mindset look
at logistics and think, cost. A common metaphor is
the "teeth to tail" ratio. The thinking is that an effective
military beast should have more teeth and less tail. Therefore,
the military should focus on teeth - the ability to kill -
and not waste its time with mundane support details. The problem
with this metaphor is that food and water and soap and bug
spray and spare parts are not "tail"; they are legs and torso
as well, and the beast will die without them.
However, anyone who has done time in a factory or in a honeycomb
of office cubicles will recognize the CEO philosophy at work.
In business, marketing and finance are the "teeth"; products
and the employees who create them are the "tail." Hi ho,
hi ho, to India we go.
What happened to the professional military? Rummy and his
minions have shoved them to the margins. In a recent op-ed
in the Houston Chronicle, retired Air Force lieutenant
colonel Karen Kwiatowski described what she observed during
three years of service in the Pentagon. She described functional
isolation of the professional corps, who were kept out of
the loop of policy decisions; cross-agency ideological cliques
who made the real decisions; and groupthink that elevated
opinion into "fact."
Saddam is not yet sitting before a war crimes tribunal.
Nor have the key decision-makers in the Pentagon been forced
to account for the odd set of circumstances that placed us
as a long-term occupying force in the world's nastiest rat's
nest, without a nation-building plan, without significant
international support and without an exit plan. Neither may
ever be required to answer their accusers, thanks to this
administration's military as well as publicity machine, and
the disgraceful political compromises already made by most
of the Congress. Ironically, only Saddam Hussein, buried under
tons of rubble or in hiding, has a good excuse. [Karen Kwiatowski,
Pentagon Has Some Explaining to Do," The Houston Chronicle,
August 3, 2003 ]
But last Friday, the Commander in Chief and the Secretary of
Defense stood together in Texas, on the other side of the world
from the mess they made, and congratulated each other on how
focused they were and how well their plans were turning out.
And, dutifully, the news media reported this.
Fortunately for Rummy, media attention has been diverted
to Ah-nold's gubernatorial campaign. The troops in Iraq couldn't
get media coverage today if they chipped in and paid for it.
In times like these, I ask myself, WWTD - What Would
Truman Do? Harry, I think, would have ordered Rummy to
haul his butt to Iraq to straighten out the mess, now.
Instead, for the next few years we will see armies of consultants
who've never set foot on a battlefield make big bucks explaining
how to avoid the mistakes of Iraq.
It's the American CEO way.
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