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Thursday, August 11, 2005

I often see and hear logistics and supply issues used as proof or ammunition that the war in Iraq is wrong or unjust. The fact is, whether you are pro or anti war, these supply problems and the morality of war have nothing to do with each other.

When I was with 3/7 Marines at one point we ran out of food for three days. Nor did all the night vision systems work. In the squad I was with, nearly half of the night vision systems had problems and were inoperable. Either they wouldn't clip to the helmet or wouldn't focus--a number of the systems fell victim to the rough ride in the AAV. Nor were the first and second generation M-16s in great shape. About half way up to Baghdad many of the take down pins had broken and the weapons were being held together with wire and/or duct tape. Being free to move from unit to unit within the Battalion, I hitched a ride with some MPs to battalion HQ, found the armory, and requested take down pins for as many M-16s as I could get. Unfortunately, they were all out. The unit had to make do as many other units up and down the line.

One could go on an on, but the point is, these are supply and procurement issues and have no bearing on whether or not the war is just, whether or not the U.S. should be in Iraq, whether or not the U.S. should pull out. Those are an entirely different set of questions, far above the average fighting Marine or soldier's pay grade operating in Iraq, and revolve around policy issues much larger than whether or not we ran short of food for a couple of days.

Does that mean it is justifiable that the solder or Marine is short the functioning equipment he or she needs to survive and fight effectively on the battlefield? I don't think so. Personally, I would rather the ground forces were well equiped at the expense of the other branches of service if that is necessary, but this is another whole set of questions that are fought over every budget between the services--that will forever be fought over--and that is only half the problem. There is no doubt that the war in Iraq should serve up some pretty important logistics lessons and a review of the process of getting the fighting men and women the equipment they need to be successful. However, it is unlikely to, and shouldn't have, any bearing on policy decisions related to whether or not the U.S. should be in Iraq. The services need to be prepared to deploy in whatever circumstance in which they are called--that is their role and mission.

Back to our lack of food, as it happened, the platoon I was with was positioned on one of the Main Supply Routes and there were frequent Army supply columns rolling by. Members of 2nd Squad actually took their ruck sack covers and went along the highway picking up discarded meal packets thrown away by Army truckers. We scrounged more than enough food to make up for the shortfall. I can't say that we all got what we wanted. Within the MRE collection, there are those meals that are known to suck and that is invariably what the Army supply columns were getting rid of, but we didn't go hungry.


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