Is the Pentagon doing enough to protect the troops?

As the U.S. death toll in Iraq passes 2,200, a new report says that a lot of Marines would be alive today if they had been given better body armor.

Published January 9, 2006 2:04PM (EST)

The U.S. death toll in Iraq just blasted past the 2,200 mark. Over the weekend, five Marines were killed in either IED or small-arms attacks in and around Fallujah, and eight U.S. soldiers -- along with four other Americans -- were killed in a helicopter crash in Northern Iraq.

Is the United States doing everything it can to keep U.S. troops safe? The New York Times says no. In a report published Saturday, the Times unearthed a secret Pentagon study that found that as many as 80 percent of the Marines who have died of upper-body wounds in Iraq could have survived if they had been given additional body armor.

The study found that Marines often died when bullets or shrapnel struck their shoulders, sides or other areas of the upper body not covered by the ceramic plates in the body armor the Marines are given. While body armor providing better coverage has long been available, the Pentagon has declined to provide it to troops in Iraq out of concern about the extra weight of additional ceramic plates. Some Marines have tried a self-help solution, hanging plates designed for crotch protection from their shoulders, the Times says.

The Marine Corps began ordering more extensive body armor in September, the Times says. The Army is still deciding what it wants to buy for its soldiers. Meanwhile, the Times says, the Pentagon is still having difficulty developing the Cougar, a new armored truck designed to withstand IED attacks, and it's still experiencing delays in getting armored Humvees out of a factory in Ohio and into Iraq.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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