Better body armor could have prevented or limited a significant percentage of fatal torso wounds suffered by Marines killed in Iraq, says a report by U.S. military medical experts.
The report, conducted for the Marine Corps by the Office of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner and not released to the public, examined the cases of Marines fatally wounded from the start of the war in March 2003 through June 2005, and found weaknesses in the torso protective gear.
Bullets or shrapnel hit the Marines’ shoulders, the sides of their torsos or other areas not fully covered by ceramic plates contained in the body armor in at least 74 of 93 fatal wounds examined in the study.
The military defended itself, hoping that empty spin could offset the study’s findings. Army spokesman Paul Boyce said Friday that U.S. forces have the best body armor in the world and it is “saving lives every day.”
Boyce added: “The Army has made numerous improvements in the area of soldier-protection equipment to the outer tactical vests and to the small-arms protective inserts.”
But having the best armor doesn’t help troops who don’t receive it. There have been plenty of news articles about soldiers buying their own armor or scrounging in scrap yards for homemade armor, or about parents personally buying flack jackets for their children.
This spring, the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed legislation to create “Patriot Plates,” special license plates that help buy body armor for Oklahoma troops sent to Iraq. Meanwhile, a Westchester County, N.Y., veterans organization recently announced plans to raise money for body armor for troops.
Throughout the presidential campaign last year, Democrat John Kerry blasted the Bush Administration on the subject.
KERRY (10/1/2004 debate): I’ve met kids in Ohio, parents in Wisconsin places, Iowa, where they’re going out on the Internet to get the state-of-the-art body gear to send to their kids. Some of them got them for a birthday present. I think that’s wrong. … This president just – I don’t know if he sees what’s really happened on there.
The standard Bush-Cheney response was to note that Kerry voted in 2003 against Bush’s $87 billion appropriation for the troops – funding that would have included money for body armor. What the Republicans didn’t say, though, was that Kerry had supported a rival bill that would have provided $67 billion for the troops, including the much-need body armor, but wouldn’t have provided $20 billion for pork-laden reconstruction projects. (Some Republicans came to the same conclusion. The two bills are explained by Sen. Joe Biden on the Aug. 1, 2004, edition of NBC’s Meet the Press.)
Amazingly, Bush threatened to veto the alternate legislation if passed – suggesting that for the White House, the legislation was as much about political favors as Kevlar vests for the troops.
Still, the conservative noise machine repeated the empty spin over and over, and aided by a truthful, poorly worded (and thus easily spinnable) videotaped Kerry admission – he answered a question with “I actually did vote for the $87 billion, before I voted against it” on the campaign trail – it successfully painted Kerry as the dreaded “flip-flopper.”
Somehow, though, in spite of all that spin, the proper body armor didn’t reach enough troops.
This item first appeared at Journalists Against Bush’s B.S.