Memo to supporters of George W. Bush: Before you slap another red, white and blue magnetic ribbon on the rear end of your SUV, why not take a moment to read a new report from the Marine Corps' inspector general? It might give you a whole new sense of what it means to "support the troops" -- and how the current administration isn't doing so.
According to today's Boston Globe, the inspector general finds that U.S. Marines assigned to fight in some of the most dangerous parts of Iraq haven't been provided the weapons, communications gear or vehicles they need. The inspector general says that "all" Marine units currently fighting in Iraq "require ground equipment that exceeds" what they've got, "particularly in mobility, engineering, communications and heavy weapons."
The Humvee problem is apparently particularly acute. According to the Globe, the inspector general found that a quarter of the Humvees assigned to the Second Marine Expeditionary Force lack the armor needed to protect against roadside bombs. And the Humvees that have been retrofitted with armor are wearing out faster than they should because they weren't designed to carry so much weight.
But it's not just Humvees. The Globe says that the inspector general found that all -- all -- of the tanks the Marines are using in Iraq have "passed the normal criteria for replacing them." The Marines need more .50-caliber machine guns, more M240G machine guns, more MK19 machine guns and more and better communications equipment, too, the inspector general found.
The report will be the subject of a House Armed Services Committee hearing today, but its contents are probably old news for parents of some Marines -- people who have come to understand that "supporting the troops" sometimes means ponying up the money themselves for military equipment their kids will need in Iraq.
The Arizona Republic told the story of one such Marine family over the weekend: As Marine Pfc. Jeremy Tod prepared to ship out to Iraq recently, he called home to tell his folks that his superiors were urging him and his fellow Marines to buy their own armor-plated flak jackets, knee and elbow pads, special ballistic goggles, a "drop pouch" to hold ammunition, a load-bearing vest and a Camelbak water carrier. "We're supposed to have a professional army, the best in the world," Tod's father told the newspaper. "And we're not providing them with the type of gear they need to protect themselves as they do their jobs."