Pentagon balked at pleas from officers in field for safer vehicles
Iraqi troops got MRAPs; Americans waited
By Peter Eisler, Blake Morrison and Tom Vanden Brook
Pfc. Aaron Kincaid, 25, had been joking with buddies just before their Humvee rolled over the bomb. His wife, Rachel, later learned that the blast blew Kincaid, a father of two from outside Atlanta, through the Humvee's metal roof.
Army investigators who reviewed the Sept. 23 attack near Riyadh, Iraq, wrote in their report that only providence could have saved Kincaid from dying that day: "There was no way short of not going on that route at that time (that) this tragedy could have been diverted."
A USA TODAY investigation of the Pentagon's efforts to protect troops in Iraq suggests otherwise.
Oh, yes it does.
The long and short of it is this: military commanders on the ground in Iraq asked for these Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, or MRAPs, in December 2003. Despite continued pleas for the vehicles, it took two years to get them any.
The brass said adding armor to the Humvees would work just fine. It didn't.
But how could they be expected to know about this new, miracle technology?
The MRAP was not new to the Pentagon. The technology had been developed in South Africa and Rhodesia in the 1970s, making it older than Kincaid and most of the other troops killed by homemade bombs. The Pentagon had tested MRAPs in 2000, purchased fewer than two dozen and sent some to Iraq. They were used primarily to protect explosive ordnance disposal teams, not to transport troops or to chase Iraqi insurgents.
Oh. Well, at least they finally sent some to Iraq, right?
Yes they did.
Even as the Pentagon balked at buying MRAPs for U.S. troops, USA TODAY found that the military pushed to buy them for a different fighting force: the Iraqi army.
Officials at Marine headquarters in Quantico, Va., shelved the request for 1,169 vehicles. Fifteen months passed before a second request reached the Joint Chiefs and was approved. Those vehicles finally began trickling into Anbar in February, two years after the original request.
Well, I'm sure heads will roll!
Because of the delay, the Marines are investigating how its urgent-need requests are handled.
Ah! An investigation! I feel much better now. No harm done, right?
In a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates late last month, two U.S. senators said the delays cost the lives of an estimated "621 to 742 Americans" who would have survived explosions had they been in MRAPs rather than Humvees.
What will we tell the families? How could this have happened?
One reason officials put off buying MRAPs in significant quantities: They never expected the war to last this long. Bush set the tone on May 1, 2003, six weeks after the U.S. invasion, when he declared on board the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln that "major combat operations in Iraq have ended."
UPDATE: No wonder George Voinovich says George W. Bush "f—ed up" the war.