Thursday, April 28, 2005

Our Soldiers Can't Go in Peace

"We have our most precious resource engaged in combat, and certainly the wealth of our nation can provide young, selfless men with what they need to accomplish their mission." Capt. Kelly D. Royer, Company E, US Marine Corps, Ramadi, Iraq

I'm going to ask a personal question. It's not pretty. Or "polite." And you don't have to answer. But at least think about it. Here goes.
How long could you sit on a toilet if you knew you might be blown to smithereens at any moment?

For our soldiers in Iraq that's a legitimate concern.

Yes, war is hell. And soldiers train for all kinds of difficult conditions. When they go into battle they need protective gear. It's a critical necessity in a modern war. Yet we continue to hear horror stories about lack of adequate armor for personnel, trucks, tanks, Humvees ... and now, even for toilets.

In between their fighting sorties, soldiers need some down time in a safe place to recharge human batteries. That's what a base camp is supposed to provide. In Iraq, few, if any do.

Most of us have no real reference point for the kind of danger soldiers face on the line ... and dammit, even in their own camps. What we see or read about is removed from our own experience. We're distanced by place and circumstance, and we can only watch in dismay. And in the end -pun intended- we can't actually feel it.

But let's face it, we can all relate to the supremacy of our bathrooms. They're the last bastion of personal space in our crowded world. We focus on privacy, not safety when we're in them, and we're outraged if anybody knocks on the bathroom door. Imagine if that knock were replaced by a mortar shell.

From the New York Times:

"It was pitiful," said Capt. Chae J. Han, a member of a Pentagon team that surveyed the Marine camps in Iraq last year to document their condition. "Everything was just slapped on armor, just homemade, not armor that was given to us through the normal logistical system."

The report they produced was classified, but Captain Royer, who took over command of the unit, and other Company E marines say they had to build barriers at the camp - a former junkyard - to block suicide drivers, improve the fencing and move the toilets under a thick roof to avoid the insurgent shelling. (emphasis added)
The richest country in the world is sending its soldiers into battle pitifully unprotected. It's outrageous. Our soldiers are dying in unprotected Humvees, truck convoys, tanks.

And they're dying on toilets.

But the asses in Washington don't give a damn.

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