While President Bush has been busy politically demagoging funding for the troops, CBS Evening News highlighted a disturbing report tonight that the administration waited over a year before acting on a “priority 1 urgent” request to send blast-resistant vehicles to Iraq, the so-called Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles.
Calling it “an outrageous delay,” CBS noted, “The Marines in the field asked for 1,200 MRAPs in February 2005 — but so far, they’ve received less than 100.” The report also noted that the problem is widespread and systemic:
A Marine Corps document obtained by the Associated Press says that of 100 requests for critical gear sent in last year, less than 10 have been filled. It blames red tape and the failure of bureaucrats to take risks.
“Unnecessary delays cause … deaths and injuries,” the document says — and nowhere is it more true than with MRAP.
For American troops in Iraq, the heavy-duty armored vehicle has proven to be a life-saver. As a testament to MRAP’s effectiveness, top Marine commander Gen. James Conway said recently, “We have yet to have a Marine killed in the al Anbar Province who is riding inside an MRAP.” He added, “How do you not see it as a moral imperative to get as many of those vehicles to theater as rapidly as you can?”
As AmericaBlog noted, the Marine Corps lied about why it had failed to fulfill the urgent request for the priority equipment, claiming it was not “a budgetary decision” when internal documents prove that it was.
In an open letter to President Bush, Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE) urged the administration to publicly make MRAP production a national priority. He wrote, “How is it possible that with our nation at war, with more than 130,000 Americans in danger, with roadside bombs destroying a growing number of lives and limbs, we were so slow to act to protect our troops? … We need to know how and why this happened so that it does not happen again.”
At least 1,419 U.S. soldiers have been killed by roadside bombs in Iraq.