"Let us go forth a while, and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our closed rooms...
The game of ball is glorious."

--Walt Whitman

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

In Harm's Way

San Antonio, like much of the state of Texas, is a gun-totin', beer-drinkin', Republican-votin' sort of place. But it's also a military town, and they love their boys in uniform. One sure way to piss off a San Antonian is to screw the military.

So it should come as no surprise that the media there would break with the GOP noise machine in outrage over the recent armor-for-troops scandal. My mother, who lives near San Antonio, forwarded me an article from her local paper, with a note to the effect that she'd like to blog it herself, but she really doesn't care to get an ulcer. I'm feeling the need for a Rolaids, myself.

For your edification, select excerpts from that column:

Carlos Guerra: S.A. firm keeps offering to help bulletproof GI vehicles in Iraq:

San Antonio Express-News

Until Ronald Kimball wrote me to take issue with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's assertion that 'production problems' are the reason GIs in Iraq don't have armored vehicles, I was unaware that San Antonio's Texas Armoring Corp. is doing a brisk business bulletproofing vehicles for a lot of Middle Eastern customers.

'It is not a matter of production, as Secretary Rumsfeld said in response to the soldier's question about armored vehicles for the troops in Iraq,' Kimball wrote. 'It is a matter of lethargy and ineptitude. And it is sad that the government will lie to the American people, and especially to the soldiers, saying that they are doing all they can when we know the truth.'

Kimball's son, Trent, now owns the business his father got into in 1975 after leaving the Drug Enforcement Administration. For years most of their business was with Latin American governments and individuals, but lately the Kimballs have shipped 24 armored vehicles to clients in Iraq.

The firm currently is armoring 35 vehicles, most for Middle Eastern clients. Texas Armoring could deliver several armored vehicles to Iraq immediately, the Kimballs said.


Their armoring materials will defeat any bullet short of a 50mm round and would protect passengers from most improvised explosive devices, which have become ubiquitous in Iraq. But Trent Kimball warned that while most improvised explosive devices are as easily defeated as fragmentation grenades, "you never know about the power behind an IED."


Trent Kimball told me he has been getting some very disturbing queries from Americans lately. "I'm getting e-mails from people who want to buy armoring kits to send to their kids in Iraq," he said. "They even write to ask if we will sell them body armor."

They help when they can, he said, but they would rather deal with the U.S. government.

"We have armored the Hummer H-1, the military style Humvee," Ron Kimball said. "And we could make a Humvee armoring kit per day starting today and make 30 with the material we have on hand."

But after repeatedly submitting price quotes, the Kimballs said no one from the Defense Department has even bothered to call.

To contact Carlos Guerra, call (210) 250-3545 or e-mail cguerra@express-news.net.

This isn't the first company to come forward to say that they could increase armor production but haven't been asked to. I'm sure it won't be the last. The government insists (ludicrously, in the face of a heretofore unheard-of deficit) that there is ample money for such things. But if the government does, in fact, have sufficient capital to buy sufficient armor for existing and incoming troops, why haven't they? If the money has been allocated, where is it? Is it lining a pocket it shouldn't? Does it lie fallow in some government account, awaiting requisition?

Perhaps it's being used to buy coffins, instead. And flags...you have to have flags, for the coffins and the widows. You need headstones, too. You can't leave a soldier's grave unmarked after he's died for lack of armor.

What a waste.

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