August 14, 2003

Bush Eats Barbecue... Soldiers Starve

Despite the kid glove coddling of the "US mainstream
news medi," the _resident is finally starting to sink
in the *published* polls (that's means the deep
polling, the data never released, is really, really
bad for him), BUT imagine what the numbers would look
like if AnythingButSee or SeeBS or NotBeSeen drew this
contrast on the evening news...

Bush Eats Barbecue... Soldiers Starve
August 13, 2003
By Barbara O'Brien

As our soldiers suffer in Iraq with inadequate water,
food, sanitation, and shelter, President George W.
"Bring 'em On" Bush treated his top fundraisers to a
private barbecue near his ranch.

The Bush re-election campaign shuttled about 350 top
fund-raisers to Crawford, Texas, for the event. The
favored few had collected $50,000 each for the
privilege of chowing down with the President and his
advisor, Karl Rove.

But even as he enjoyed the best of Texas cuisine
during his month-long vacation, the President assured
the nation he is focused on Iraq.

On Friday, the President stood in the driveway of his
ranch home with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
and declared there had been "good progress. Iraq is
more secure."

Mr. Bush would not say whether he shared the
assessment of the commander of coalition forces in
Iraq, Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who said Thursday
that U.S. forces will remain in Iraq at least two
Mr. Bush would only say "I will do what's necessary to
win the war on terror." Mr. Bush said Americans have
"got to understand I will not forget the lessons of
Sept. 11," when America was hit with its worst ever
terrorist attack.

The president also would not say whether he had an
estimate on how many more soldiers would die. Nor did
he answer a question on future costs of the American
presence in Iraq. ["Bush Sees Iraq Progress," CBS
News, August 8, 2003 ]

It's a good thing he's focused on Iraq. If he were
less focused he might forget the war entirely.
To be fair, one reason the President can't estimate
cost is that logistics in Iraq became the Mother of
All Snafus. Soldiers have lived for months in
primitive shelters without windows or air
conditioning. Some are without fresh food and showers
and telephones and toilets. For a time they weren't
even getting their mail. Although news stories say
conditions have improved, soldiers continue to write
to Stars and Stripes and David Hackworth's web site
with tales of deprivation.

This soldier wrote to Hackworth in mid-June that
troops were so desperate for water they had to
purchase water of dubious quality from Iraqis. They
also have been short of food. "Soldiers are trying, in
vain, to keep mosquitoes from consuming them nightly,
and using hoses from an Iraqi latrine stall to get
water enough to maintain their hygienic needs," he
writes. "There are soldiers, to this day, that live in

Another soldier wrote,

While the Army did a great in winning the war, what is
not being covered is how broke the Army logistics
system is and the damage it is doing to the long term
readiness and moral of the Army. The Army seems to
have this NTC rotation mentality, which consists of
fuck it live in the dirt and filth you only have to be
here for a month. That works at NTC, but it seems no
one has thought of how to sustain an Army in the field
for weeks and months at a time.
... Our supply lines are clear. There is no excuse why
basic health and safety issues and moral issues like
mail cannot be addressed. They are not being addressed
because the army doesn't know how anymore. Units spend
their lives preparing for 2 week warfighters and one
month NTC rotations and never think, "okay, how are we
going to live out here for six months or a year." Its
just not part of the Army's thinking anymore and it s
a shame. ["Everything Is Just Peachy Keen in Iraq,"
Soldiers for the Truth, June 11, 2003]

This letter from Stars and Stripes is dated July 27:
During the day the temperature reaches 127 degrees in
the shade.... Due to a lack of bottled water, each
soldier has been limited to two 1.5 liter bottles a
day. We’ve had two soldiers drop out due to
heat-related injuries. A person with common sense
knows that a normal person can’t survive on three
liters of water a day."
- Pfc. John Bendetti, stationed in Tallil, Iraq,
letter in Stars and Stripes.

There's No Business Like War Business
Behind the logistical breakdown in Iraq is a Pentagon
team with no personal experience on a battlefield and
only a theoretical view of battle. Throughout American
military history, most of the work of supplying troops
in the field was performed by the military itself.
But, beginning in the Clinton Administration, supply
and support personnel were shifted into combat jobs
and defense contractors were hired to take their
place. And, writes David Wood of Newhouse News
Service, "This shift has accelerated under relentless
pressure from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to
make the force lighter and more agile."

"When you turn these services over to the private
market, you lose a measure of control over them," said
[Peter] Singer, a foreign policy researcher at the
Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington. ...

Thanks to overlapping contracts and multiple
contracting offices, nobody in the Pentagon seems to
know precisely how many contractors are responsible
for which jobs - or how much it all costs. That's one
reason the Bush administration can only estimate that
it is spending about $4 billion a month on troops in
Iraq. White House Budget Director Joshua Bolten said
this week he could not even estimate the cost of
keeping troops in Iraq in fiscal 2004, which begins
Oct. 1. [David Wood, "Some of Army's Civilian
Contractors Are No-Shows in Iraq," Newhouse News
Service, July 31, 2003]

Can we say, "this is the fault of management?" I think
we can.
Long-time CEO Rumsfeld and his civilian lackeys are
running the military like a corporation. And, as in
most corporations, the Suits at the top of the ladder
and the worker bees in the cubicles and factories live
on different planets. The Suits concern themselves
with profits and growth but forget the product.
Employees? Employees are cost, and employees in Asia
work cheaper.

Next we'll hear the Navy is being outsourced to India.

To see clearly what went wrong with logistics in Iraq,
look no further than Dick Cheney's old outfit, Kellogg
Brown & Root. Last fall the Army hired the
Houston-based contractor to draw up the master plan
for supporting U.S. troops in Iraq with civilian
contractors. But KB&R failed to deliver on its own
contracts. The modular barracks, showers, bathroom
facilities, and kitchens it had been paid to deliver
were AWOL.

Part of the blame lies with the cost of insuring
civilians in a combat zone. Rates skyrocketed by 300
and 400 last March as the contractors waited in Kuwait
for the war to start. And civilians cannot be ordered
to go into a combat zone. Many of them, sensibly,

'Course, you'd think the well-paid geniuses who drew
up the master plan and greedily anticipated record
profits from the war would have anticipated this.
Guess not.

Warfare 101

Military historian Martin van Creveld defines
logistics as "minutely coordinating the movements of
troops...and such a way as to make
everything and everybody...appear at exactly the right
moment" (Supplying War, 1977). Any sensible person can
see that military logistics are a little more
complicated than running a McDonald's. However, we're
dealing with CEOs, so "sensible" is not an operative
word. "Greedy," maybe.

According to van Creveld, throughout military history
logistics have been nine-tenths of the business of
war. Unfortunately, there's no glory in it, and people
with a CEO mindset look at logistics and think, cost.
A common metaphor is the "teeth to tail" ratio. The
thinking is that an effective military beast should
have more teeth and less tail. Therefore, the military
should focus on teeth - the ability to kill - and not
waste its time with mundane support details. The
problem with this metaphor is that food and water and
soap and bug spray and spare parts are not "tail";
they are legs and torso as well, and the beast will
die without them.

However, anyone who has done time in a factory or in a
honeycomb of office cubicles will recognize the CEO
philosophy at work. In business, marketing and finance
are the "teeth"; products and the employees who create
them are the "tail." Hi ho, hi ho, to India we go.

What happened to the professional military? Rummy and
his minions have shoved them to the margins. In a
recent op-ed in the Houston Chronicle, retired Air
Force lieutenant colonel Karen Kwiatowski described
what she observed during three years of service in the
Pentagon. She described functional isolation of the
professional corps, who were kept out of the loop of
policy decisions; cross-agency ideological cliques who
made the real decisions; and groupthink that elevated
opinion into "fact."

Saddam is not yet sitting before a war crimes
tribunal. Nor have the key decision-makers in the
Pentagon been forced to account for the odd set of
circumstances that placed us as a long-term occupying
force in the world's nastiest rat's nest, without a
nation-building plan, without significant
international support and without an exit plan.
Neither may ever be required to answer their accusers,
thanks to this administration's military as well as
publicity machine, and the disgraceful political
compromises already made by most of the Congress.
Ironically, only Saddam Hussein, buried under tons of
rubble or in hiding, has a good excuse. [Karen
Kwiatowski, "The Pentagon Has Some Explaining to Do,"
The Houston Chronicle, August 3, 2003 ]
But last Friday, the Commander in Chief and the
Secretary of Defense stood together in Texas, on the
other side of the world from the mess they made, and
congratulated each other on how focused they were and
how well their plans were turning out. And, dutifully,
the news media reported this.
Fortunately for Rummy, media attention has been
diverted to Ah-nold's gubernatorial campaign. The
troops in Iraq couldn't get media coverage today if
they chipped in and paid for it.

In times like these, I ask myself, WWTD - What Would
Truman Do? Harry, I think, would have ordered Rummy to
haul his butt to Iraq to straighten out the mess, now.
Instead, for the next few years we will see armies of
consultants who've never set foot on a battlefield
make big bucks explaining how to avoid the mistakes of

It's the American CEO way.

Please visit Barbara O'Brien at The Mahablog.

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Posted by richard at August 14, 2003 11:36 AM