This weekend, the New York Times carried two weirdly different front page pieces on the lives and living conditions of American soldiers in Iraq. First, there was Saturday’s report on all the wonderful amenities and cool gadgets that soldiers can find at Camp Liberty. With a carefree nod to “the occasional random mortar attack,” Kirk Semple chirpily describes life at a military base that “has the vague feel of a college campus“:
The soldiers live in trailers on a grid of neat gravel pathways, and the chow hall offers a vast selection of food and beverages, ethnic cuisine nights, an ice cream parlor and, occasionally, a live jazz combo. Camp Liberty, like many other bases, also has Internet cafes, an impressively stocked store, gymnasiums with modern equipment, air-conditioning everywhere and extracurricular activities like language and martial arts lessons.
Wow! Reading this article, you just might end up thinking that life in Iraq is pretty good-comfortable, even. But don’t pack your bags for Baghdad yet, because Sunday’s New York Times had another–and much less sanguine–front page story on Iraq. In harrowing detail, Michael Moss describes the recurring failure to provide amble body armor for thousands of American soldiers:
For the second time since the Iraq war began, the Pentagon is struggling to replace body armor that is failing to protect American troops from the most lethal attacks by insurgents.
The effort to replace the armor began in May 2004, just months after the Pentagon finished supplying troops with the original plates – a process also plagued by delays. The officials disclosed the new armor effort Wednesday after questioning by The New York Times, and acknowledged that it would take several more months or longer to complete.
If you take the stories together, then it looks like American soldiers have no problem obtaining karate lessons, digital cameras, DVD and MP3 players, televisions, video games, laptops and live music, but still can’t get ahold of reinforced armor that might actually stop bullets.
Which do you think is more important?