Sunday, October 17, 2004

There Goes That Fourth Star 

And the fix was in, too, until some son of a bitch went and leaked the goddam memo:
The top U.S. commander in Iraq complained to the Pentagon last winter that his supply situation was so poor that it threatened Army troops' ability to fight, according to an official document that has surfaced only now.

The lack of key spare parts for gear vital to combat operations, such as tanks and helicopters, was causing problems so severe, Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez wrote in a letter to top Army officials, that "I cannot continue to support sustained combat operations with rates this low."

Senior Army officials said that most of Sanchez's concerns have been addressed in recent months but that they continue to keep a close eye on the problems he identified. The situation is "substantially better" now, said Gary Motsek, deputy director of operations for the Army Materiel Command . . . .

He also said units were waiting an average of 40 days for critical spare parts, which he noted was almost three times the Army's average. In some Army supply depots in Iraq, 40 percent of critical parts were at "zero balance," meaning they were absent from depot shelves, he said.

He also protested in his letter, sent Dec. 4 to the number two officer in the Army, with copies to other senior officials, that his soldiers still needed protective inserts to upgrade 36,000 sets of body armor but that their delivery had been postponed twice in the month before he was writing. There were 131,000 U.S. troops in Iraq at the time.

His letter of concern has surfaced after repeated statements by President Bush that he is determined to ensure that U.S. troops fighting in Iraq have all that they need to execute their missions. "I have pledged, as has the secretary of defense, to give our troops everything that is necessary to complete their mission with the utmost safety," he said in May. Earlier this month in Manchester, N.H., he said, "When America puts our troops in combat, I believe they deserve the best training, the best equipment, the full support of our government."

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