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Troops Put Tough Questions to Rumsfeld

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Troops Put Tough Questions to Rumsfeld

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Dec 8, 9:06 AM (ET)

By ROBERT BURNS

(AP) U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld speaks to U.S. military

CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait (AP) - Disgrunted U.S. soldiers complained to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumself on Wednesday about the lack of armor for their vehicles and long deployments, drawing a blunt retort from the Pentagon chief.

"You go to war with the Army you have," he said in a rare public airing of rank-and-file concerns among the troops.

In his prepared remarks earlier, Rumsfeld had urged the troops - mostly National Guard and Reserve soldiers - to discount critics of the war in Iraq and to help "win the test of wills" with the insurgents.

Some of soldiers, however, had criticisms of their own - not of the war itself but of how it is being fought.

(AP) Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, center, walks with Chief of Staff of Kuwait Armed Forces...

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Army Spc. Thomas Wilson, for example, of the 278th Regimental Combat Team that is comprised mainly of citizen soldiers of the Tennessee Army National Guard, asked Rumsfeld in a question-and-answer session why vehicle armor is still in short supply, nearly two years after the start of the war that ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

"Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to uparmor our vehicles?" Wilson asked. A big cheer arose from the approximately 2,300 soldiers in the cavernous hangar who assembled to see and hear the secretary of defense.

Rumsfeld hesitated and asked Wilson to repeat his question.

"We do not have proper armored vehicles to carry with us north," Wilson said after asking again.

Rumsfeld replied that troops should make the best of the conditions they face and said the Army was pushing manufacturers of vehicle armor to produce it as fast as humanly possible.

(AP) Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, right, is greeted by Chief of Staff of Kuwait Armed Forces...

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And, the defense chief added, armor is not always a savior in the kind of combat U.S. troops face in Iraq, where the insurgents' weapon of choice is the roadside bomb, or improvised explosive device that has killed and maimed hundreds, if not thousands, of American troops since the summer of 2003.

"You can have all the armor in the world on a tank and it can (still) be blown up," Rumsfeld said.

Asked later about Wilson's complaint, the deputy commanding general of U.S. forces in Kuwait, Maj. Gen. Gary Speer, said in an interview that as far as he knows, every vehicle that is deploying to Iraq from Camp Buehring in Kuwait has at least "Level 3" armor. That means it at least has locally fabricated armor for its side panels, but not necessarily bulletproof windows or protection against explosions that penetrate the floorboard.

Speer said he was not aware that soldiers were searching landfills for scrap metal and used bulletproof glass.

During the question-and-answer session, another soldier complained that active-duty Army units sometimes get priority over the National Guard and Reserve units for the best equipment in Iraq.

(AP) Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld speaks to the press before landing in Kuwait, MOnday Dec. 6,...

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"There's no way I can prove it, but I am told the Army is breaking its neck to see that there is not" discrimination against the National Guard and Reserve in terms of providing equipment, Rumsfeld said.

Yet another soldier asked, without putting it to Rumsfeld as a direct criticism, how much longer the Army will continue using its "stop loss" power to prevent soldiers from leaving the service who are otherwise eligible to retire or quit.

Rumsfeld said that this condition was simply a fact of life for soldiers at time of war.

"It's basically a sound principle, it's nothing new, it's been well understood" by soldiers, he said. "My guess is it will continue to be used as little as possible, but that it will continue to be used."

In his opening remarks, Rumsfeld stressed that soldiers who are heading to Iraq should not believe those who say the insurgents cannot be defeated or who otherwise doubt the will of the military to win.

"They say we can't prevail. I see that violence and say we must win," Rumsfeld said.

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that kid has some balls

A reporter supplied the questions...

RUMSFELD SET UP; REPORTER PLANTED QUESTIONS WITH SOLIDER

Thu Dec 09 2004 11:49:38 ET

Chattanooga Times Free Press reporter Edward Lee Pitts is embedded with the 278th Regimental Combat Team, now in Kuwait preparing to enter Iraq, and is filing articles for his newspaper. Pitts claims in a purported email that he coached soldiers to ask Defense Secretary Rumsfeld questions!

When reached Thursday morning, various Chattanooga Times Free Press staffers offered 'no comment' on the development.

From: EDWARD LEE PITTS, MILITARY AFFAIRS

Sent: Wednesday, December 8, 2004 4:44 PM

To: Staffers

Subject: RE: Way to go

I just had one of my best days as a journalist today. As luck would have it, our journey North was delayed just long enough see I could attend a visit today here by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. I was told yesterday that only soldiers could ask questions so I brought two of them along with me as my escorts. Before hand we worked on questions to ask Rumsfeld about the appalling lack of armor their vehicles going into combat have. While waiting for the VIP, I went and found the Sgt. in charge of the microphone for the question and answer session and made sure he knew to get my guys out of the crowd.

So during the Q&A session, one of my guys was the second person called on. When he asked Rumsfeld why after two years here soldiers are still having to dig through trash bins to find rusted scrap metal and cracked ballistic windows for their Humvees, the place erupted in cheers so loud that Rumsfeld had to ask the guy to repeat his question. Then Rumsfeld answered something about it being "not a lack of desire or money but a logistics/physics problem." He said he recently saw about 8 of the special up-armored Humvees guarding Washington, DC, and he promised that they would no longer be used for that and that he would send them over here. Then he asked a three star general standing behind him, the commander of all ground forces here, to also answer the question. The general said it was a problem he is working on.

The great part was that after the event was over the throng of national media following Rumsfeld- The New York Times, AP, all the major networks -- swarmed to the two soldiers I brought from the unit I am embedded with. Out of the 1,000 or so troops at the event there were only a handful of guys from my unit b/c the rest were too busy prepping for our trip north. The national media asked if they were the guys with the armor problem and then stuck cameras in their faces. The NY Times reporter asked me to email him the stories I had already done on it, but I said he could search for them himself on the Internet and he better not steal any of my lines. I have been trying to get this story out for weeks- as soon as I foud out I would be on an unarmored truck- and my paper published two stories on it. But it felt good to hand it off to the national press. I believe lives are at stake with so many soldiers going across the border riding with scrap metal as protection. It may be to late for the unit I am with, but hopefully not for those who come after.

The press officer in charge of my regiment, the 278th, came up to me afterwords and asked if my story would be positive. I replied that I would write the truth. Then I pointed at the horde of national media pointing cameras and mics at the 278th guys and said he had bigger problems on his hands than the Chattanooga Times Free Press. This is what this job is all about - people need to know. The solider who asked the question said he felt good b/c he took his complaints to the top. When he got back to his unit most of the guys patted him on the back but a few of the officers were upset b/c they thought it would make them look bad. From what I understand this is all over the news back home.

Thanks,

Lee

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A reporter supplied the questions...

Who cares who supplied the questions? Were the questions not describing what's going on there? If not, I guess you wouldn't have a couple of thousand soldiers applauding the question. The real problem is with Rumsfeld's answers. Hey, what's a little more armor, you can still be blown up. LOL :rolleyes:

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It isnt my intention to devalue what happened. Im just pointing out that this isnt some soldier coming up w/ questions to ask at the meeting. The questions were fair but unexpected by DR.

War is a tough proposition. The parts needed arent always around. Sometimes soldiers have to make do. I encourage you to find a war that situations like this did not occur.

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It isnt my intention to devalue what happened. Im just pointing out that this isnt some soldier coming up w/ questions to ask at the meeting. The questions were fair but unexpected by DR.

War is a tough proposition. The parts needed arent always around. Sometimes soldiers have to make do. I encourage you to find a war that situations like this did not occur.

Regardless of who came up with the question, the fact is he asked it; If he did not believe in the question he would not of asked it.

Remember when the president promised in the campaign that the troops would have all the body armor they needed?

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I find it interesting how the people making the biggest deal out of this are the ones who voted for John "first I voted for the funding before I voted against it" Kerry. I never knew Democrats were such strong supporters of military spending.

The questions were fair and I dont have an issue with the fact they were asked. The reporter did a good job and made DR answer questions w/ no prep. More power to him.

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I find it interesting how the people making the biggest deal out of this are the ones who voted for John "first I voted for the funding before I voted against it" Kerry. I never knew Democrats were such strong supporters of military spending.

Don't throw this back at democrats, this is a non partisian issue. I find it hard to believe that most republicans and the republican machine (rush, hannity) are making this a non issue.

Everyone is so for the war, but when complaints come to the administration their first reaction to to bash the source.

shame on you

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Don't throw this back at democrats, this is a non partisian issue. I find it hard to believe that most republicans and the republican machine (rush, hannity) are making this a non issue.

Everyone is so for the war, but when complaints come to the administration their first reaction to to bash the source.

shame on you

Im not bashing the source or trying to make this a non-issue. I just find it interesting how committed to military spending Democrats have become.

As I stated earlier, war is tough and you dont always have every single thing you need at every second. Sometimes you have to take what you have and make it work. This has always been the case and will continue to be the case. We arent going to delay a mission b/c there isnt a brand new windshield wrapped up in tissue paper to install.

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Im not bashing the source or trying to make this a non-issue. I just find it interesting how committed to military spending Democrats have become.

I just find it interesting how the rebublicans who are committed to military spending, have our troops using what they call "hillbilly armor"

Then when someone cries foul we hear from the top its the best we have. We are the number one superpower in the world and we can't get our beloved troops body armor?

Everyone who has a yellow sticker on their car in support of the troops should up in arms

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You should use that article as toilet paper.

Donald Rumsfeld has done an excellent job. As long as his health holds and he wants the job, it will be his.

Yep such a good job- we attack a country for what? WMD that every expert includ. our own said were no longer there, and had ZERO to do with 9/11 . But he was a evil man we just had to get rid of, yeah thats a good job.

- source 9/11 report.

Where is Bin Ladin? The real man behind 9/11.

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