David Woods of the Patriot News asks, “Are there limits to American might? If so, are we reaching them?”
- The Iraq invasion caught the Pentagon so short of military cargo planes that it had to hire Russian aircraft to ferry tanks and other materiel. “We had exhausted all of our resources,” said Mark Voorhis, a spokesman for the U.S. Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. The United States chartered Russian AN-124 aircraft for 79 missions at a cost of $28.9 million in 2003, and is still chartering them.
- The Army wore out 9,000 heavy weapons and vehicles that need fixing and renovating — “a huge task” for which “we do not have the funds,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker recently told Congress. If another conflict breaks out, the equipment won’t be available.
- The Navy is so short of money it’s requiring pilots to fly simulators rather than real jets to practice carrier landings, according to Vice Adm. Charles W. Moore Jr., deputy chief of naval operations for fleet readiness. To keep aging ships and aircraft going costs $3 billion more every year, but the budget for new ships is down 13 percent.
- Adjusted for inflation, the cost of military personnel, pushed by tripling health care expenses, rose 16 percent over the past decade. Competing with the private sector to attract and keep good people, the Pentagon offers re-enlistment bonuses as high as $40,000; already, average annual military compensation has reached $99,000 in cash and benefits.
- To handle new missions, the Army is recruiting 30,000 soldiers and hiring 20,000 civilians to free up troops for combat jobs. Still, it is short of infantrymen. Specialists in high demand for the war on terrorism, they make up only 4 percent of military personnel. “We’re trying to defend the empire with a force about the size of the New York City police department,” said retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert H. Scales Jr., former commandant of the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle.
The Iraq invasion was badly planned and what inadequate planning was done so irreparably crippled by unrealistic expectations of the situation the American military would be facing that not only is the military stretched to the breaking point in terms of soldiers, but the policies implemented to deal with the shortage of troops are terrible morale-busters like Stop-Loss. Adding to the demoralization of the troops is a serious shortage of equipment and chaotic resupply, but the real back-breaker is knowing that there is no relief in sight. Presently, the troops which originally invaded Iraq are being told that they are next up to go back.
When looking at the shabby situation for resupply of the American troops, keep in mind that the only relief for American troops that the Bush administration has indicated might be forthcoming is the hasty hustling into service of thousands of Iraqi security troops and the “New Iraqi Army.” Left unexplained is the question of how, if the American military is so badly undersupplied, the Iraqis will be equipped.
The contract for equipping the Iraqi troops has been handled in the same incompetent and corrupt manner as the great bulk of Iraq contract fiascos. First, the contract was awarded to a buddy of Ahmad Chalabi’s who was clearly incapable of handling it. When the companies passed over for this crony contract cried foul, the contract was “investigated” and reassigned. This means even more time and money wasted, and Iraqi police forces, already a favored target for attack by guerillas, are sitting ducks with their inadequate weapons and vehicles.
In light of these egregious failures, the continued sabre-rattling by the pro-war neocon hawks in the Bush administration can be dismissed as so much empty rhetoric. The American military has been used and abused to the point that it is struggling to cover current commitments, making new invasions extremely unlikely, regardless of the belligerent declarations issuing from the neocon hawk nests.