The Non-Issue of Armor, Garry Trudeau
"May 7, 2005. 1125. Hey, Yall. Some of you seemed surprised(Yeah, that you can print something so inaccurate and make money from it in the process) we’re still using hillbilly armor on our vehicles"
"Trust me on this. (Yeah, trust a man with a cartoon that’s 7000 miles away from the place he speaks so confidently of) The new uparmored humvees still haven’t made it to us(We had new ones arrive months ago, and we already had enough before that). It’s strictly scrounge time here(what part of Iraq is he in?), pure road warrior."(He has no idea)
"A few weeks ago, some pencilhead drove out here in a pickup to count how many(enough) battle-worthy wagons we had. Big mistake."(Yeah, on my part, for actually spending one minute of my existence reading the crap that is your cartoon)
"Within an hour, I pimped my ride with Bronco parts."(I’m so clever, I was able to refer to a popular saying and be humorous at the same time. God, I’m a genius)
I don’t know how many people read his comic strip, nor do I know their economic or social status, but I’m sure the number of people is fairly high. He is, after all, syndicated in most newspapers back home. His comic, Doonesbury, even appears in the one paper we receive over here, the Stars and Stripes. So lets assume his number of readers is quite high. Let’s also assume that these people are impressionable, and therefore believe pretty much everything they read. A lot of his readers would probably describe themselves as "intellectuals", those who profess to thinking creatively and having an open mind. They pride themselves on their ability to be open minded about any subject, when in reality they are anything but. They more than likely take his words at face value, believing his opinion on issues regarding the military, Iraq, and the current administration as fact. They would no doubt read a strip like this regarding our supposed lack of armor as the general feelings of every soldier over here, which in turn fuels more criticism for the DOD and the administration.
Joe or Sally know it all, sitting back in the States, sipping on a four dollar latte from Starbucks, would wrongfully interpret this as a major problem confronting every soldier or Marine over here. These same people profess their undying love and support for the men and women in uniform, but are quick to point out their hatred for the war. I say love both. Not necessarily the inherent violent, chaotic, and destructive side of war, but the war we are now waging to win the peace and nurture a democratic Iraq. I say support not only us, but what we are doing over here as well. After all, if you don’t support the good things we’re doing, criticizing everything we do in turn, then in my humble, doesn’t matter opinion, you aren’t supporting us either. Oh, the pseudo intellectual elite, they’re so blinded by their supposed intellect and open mindedness, they fail to realize how clouded their judgement actually is.
As someone who is actually over here living in Iraq, let me give you my view on this issue. I’ll tell you what I know based on my experience within my Brigade, and what I witness on a daily basis. I’m in the 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, based out of Ft. Benning, Ga. We’re under the command of the 42nd Infantry Division, which is based in New York. Not one vehicle in our Brigade left Kuwait without some type of armor. If there was a vehicle without armor, it was transported on top of an armored truck, with no personnel inside. We sometimes use unarmored humvees inside the FOB, but never are these humvees allowed to be taken outside the gates. When going outside the gates, we use armored vehicles. I have yet to see an unarmored vehicle when out on a mission. We cover a large area and pass many convoys, some of which are units not affiliated with 3rd or 42nd ID, and I have still not seen any vehicles without armor.
You’ve heard the term "Hillbilly Armor". I personally think the term sucks. Why make fun of the hillbilly’s. Why not "provisional armor," or "modified armor," or "converted armor." Or how about "appendaged armor," based on the fact that a few vehicles have had armor appended to them. "Hey, go get that "appendaged armor" humvee ready so we can protect our appendages." How about improvised? That word seems to be used quite a bit around here. "Hey Michael, we’re taking the "improvised armor" humvee out today." "Good thinking Sergeant, it will protect us from the improvised explosive devices and the vehicle borne improvised explosive devices." We could just call it IA, but that acronym is already taken by the Iraqi Army and might confuse some people. "Michael, run over to that IA vehicle and grab some water and MRE’s." "Sergeant, we both know the IA won’t have any bottled water, and the only thing they’ll have to eat is some pita bread and eggs." "No, not the Iraqi Army vehicle, the Improvised Armor vehicle." "Roger Sergeant, I got confused. Why do we have to designate them Improvised Armor vehicles when they do the same thing as any other armored vehicle?" "Well Michael, we wouldn’t want the media back home, who have wrongly determined those vehicles as not worthy of that title, to run a story saying that we were trying to give you any false security." "Roger Sergeant, God forbid if that ever happened." This would be better. "Hey Michael, go get that IA vehicle ready to roll, we’re taking it out on a mission today." "Hell yeah Sergeant, we get to go out in a pick up truck today, that’ll be fun." "Sorry to ruin your fun Michael, but you know they won’t allow us to go out in anything that isn’t armored." "Yeah Sergeant, but it sure would be fun to ride around in just a plain, old pick up truck." Pick up truck, dune buggy, motorcycle, bicycle, whatever, I think a lot of us wouldn’t mind going out in any of those sometime.
Armor is armor, who gives a damn what it looks like. Maybe it would make people feel better back home if this "Hillbilly Armor" was painted up to look really nice and pretty, but making it pretty isn’t going to make it any stronger. Anyway, the vehicles with "Improvised Armor" are few and far between, and they mostly just sit inside the FOB.
So I know for a fact that our Brigade is covered when it comes to armored vehicles. I’m probably correct in assuming that the other three Brigades in our Division have plenty of armored vehicles as well. I also know that every vehicle I’ve seen carrying soldiers from the 42nd were armored as well. So lets just assume that those two Divisions aren’t lacking in armored vehicles. I’ve also seen units outside of the umbrella of either the 3rd or 42nd ID riding around in armored vehicles. I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that the vast majority of people who actually go outside the FOB are riding in armored vehicles. Of course you wouldn’t think that from reading Trudeau. That’s the travesty of this comic strip. Some schmuck sitting at his breakfast table, eating a bowl full of soggy bran flakes, will read Trudeau’s words and think how shameful it is. "Honey, can you believe all those poor kids over in Iraq don’t even have the proper armor to protect them from those roadside bombs." "Oh Howard, that’s just awful, hey, can you take the kids to school, I have to get my nails done." Poor Howard, he’s been hoodwinked by a cartoonist.
Having said all that, I’m sure there are some soldiers or Marines that have been out on the streets without armor. I’m not discounting that, especially any that have been wounded or killed by an IED, but it’s irresponsible for Trudeau to spread falsehoods about armored vehicles to further his own political agenda.
The whole nonissue of armor has grown old, and I only bring it up because Trudeau insists on doing so. People also email me about it as well, inquiring as to whether or not we have enough armor. I also think there is a greater issue involved that isn’t tangible. It’s called attitude. To me armor is nothing more than a big heavy security blanket that helps some people feel more comfortable about being in Iraq. All of you remember that National Guardsmen who questioned Mr. Rumsfeld at a camp in Kuwait. He was an attention seeking, pretentious, prick, who showed no respect in the way in which he questioned Mr. Rumsfeld.
We have people send us old magazines all the time. I usually pick up a couple to read whenever I get the chance. One of the ones I picked up was Time magazines last issue of 2004. In it is a little story about this Guardsmen and why he asked the question. The article starts off with a quote from him saying, "If this is my 15 minutes of fame, I hope it saves a life." That’s sweet, it sounds like he’s seeking martyrdom. I think it was Andy Warhol who said in the future everyone would have their fifteen minutes of fame. I personally think Andy was full of crap, since this guy thankfully only received about two before fading back into oblivion.
The article goes on to say that he decided on the question for Mr. Rumsfeld after his convoy arrived at a camp in Kuwait. Keep in mind that this guy is still in Kuwait. He hasn’t even crossed the border into Iraq. He says that the reporter who was urging him to come up with intelligent questions for Mr. Rumsfeld suggested a less brash way of asking the question. What was his response? "I told him no, that I wanted to make my point very clear." Rumsfeld responded that even a fully armored vehicle can be blown up. Martyr boy told the reporter, "Personally, I didn’t like that answer." You might not have liked it, but it’s fact. Truth hurts sometimes. And the truth is that any armored vehicle, including a tank, can be blown up if the explosive is large enough. All he had to do was pick up a newspaper or watch the news and he could’ve found proof.
To me it all goes back to attitude. This guy, still in the safe haven of Kuwait, already had a defeatist attitude. He was already defeated in his mind. He’d already been hit by an IED, and was so busy crying to the Sec. of Def. about it that he failed to realize the opportunity that lay in front of him, the opportunity to attack the bad guys. I never leave these gates without that thought on my mind. It’s what keeps me alert when I’ve only had four hours sleep in the past two days. He’s so worried about getting blown up or attacked that he becomes ineffective in fighting the bad guys. What kind of attitude is that to have before entering a combat zone. Newsflash martyr boy, there are people that would like to cut your head off and post the video on their website. You can either whine about it or go out and try to kill them first. If I had his attitude, with as much time as we spend outside these gates, I’d probably have a nervous breakdown and become so depressed I’d want to die.
I have plenty of armor. Our entire Brigade has plenty of armor. Every vehicle that left Kuwait was outfitted with some kind of armor. Not that it matters. And this is the crux of the issue. Rummy was right, there are bombs out there that can blow a turret of a tank 30 feet away from the hull. So what do you think a bomb like that is going to do to a vehicle that doesn’t have near the armor strength of a tank.
Rummy got into a lot of trouble with media for saying that you go to war with the army you have, not the army you want to have. What’s wrong with that statement? It happens to be true. There are a lot of things I would like to have that I know I’m never going to have. I’d like a hovercraft that requires no maintenance. It floats above the earth at speeds unknown to man. It’s invisible, has an impenetrable force field around it, and its laser gun can destroy the enemy from great distances with pinpoint accuracy. The entire outer surface of the craft is transparent, giving you the ability to see out at every angle. At night, the surface of the craft would automatically become the color of the night sky, but everything on the outside would look as it would during the day. It would have an autopilot, a refrigerator full of cold water and sandwiches, and an XM satellite receiver so I could listen to the news back home.
In another article written by Mark Thompson entitled, "How Safe Are Our Troops?", the author says that it was Rumsfeld’s response that ignited a firestorm. He goes on to say that this reply conveyed "a seemingly blithe disregard for the welfare of troops." Does anyone actually believe that Rumsfeld doesn’t care about the welfare of the troops? I guess some do, and they’re probably the same people that believe everything Trudeau says as fact. Retired Army General Barry McCaffrey had this to say as well, "You can talk like that to a congressional committee or a reporter, but not to a soldier who's extremely concerned about the safety of himself and his buddies." Why not if it’s the truth. I want my leaders to give it to me straight, not try to comfort me by blowing smoke up my ass.
This article also contains one of the most ridiculous statements I’ve ever read. While the author is listing off the number of armored vehicle and unarmored vehicles in Iraq at the time, he said, "These ‘naked’ humvees are supposedly confined to U.S. bases, but they remain vulnerable to mortar attacks." Are you kidding me? Does he think we sit around in a humvee all day while we’re in the FOB? Maybe he thinks we live in them. Yeah, we’ve installed port-a-johns in them as well. When we have to eat, we pull up to the drive through window at the chow hall. The seats double as beds, and we have little curtains on the widows. "Remain vulnerable to mortar attacks," really, I guess we should stop doing p.t. around the FOB, since at any given time of the day there are people out in shorts and t-shirts running around, not to mention that we have to walk out in the open to actually get places.
As for Rumsfeld’s comment that you can have all the armor in the world in a tank and still be blown up, Delaware Senator Joseph "Toupee" Biden thought that remark was insensitive and responded by saying, "By that logic, we should send out troops into battle on bicycles." It’s nice to know that Biden is worried about my sensitivities. Senator, most of us can handle the truth, so you need not worry about our feelings being hurt. While I find Senator Biden’s sarcastic comment indicative of his arrogance, I actually think it would be a good idea. Please let me go ride around on a bike. I guarantee you I could find a group of guys that would love to go out on a patrol riding a bike. I’d like a Schwinn, complete with streamers on the handle bars, a horn, and a big basket on the front to carry ammo and goodies for the children. Or maybe we could upgrade to a Harley and mount a machine gun on the front. Until those bicycles start arriving, I guess I’ll just have to settle for this.
Here I am riding into battle on my "hillbilly" bicycle.