Look out: Hillary Clinton is pulling the armor cloak from her rhetorical closet again. As long as she pairs it with a skirt, Italian designer Donatella Versace approves. But for any leading presidential candidate with a shred of integrity, this political wardrobe malfunction goes in the "fashion don't" column.
In her latest campaign video, Hillary attacks the Bush administration for sending soldiers off to battle unprotected: "Promises just aren't enough anymore. After almost four years, longer than we were in WWII, our troops still don't have all the body armor and armored vehicles and other equipment they need. It's a disgrace."
Whenever leftists need to show they really, really do care more about the troops than their political opponents, they pull out this armor card. A Rumsfeld-bashing reporter bragged about coaching a soldier into spotlighting the armor gap two years ago. And last year, ignoring rank-and-file soldiers' own observations about the trade-offs between weight and mobility, Hillary excoriated the Bush administration as "incompetent" for not weighing down the troops with extra body armor. Now, the Army is being pummeled again by vultures and opportunists with no clue about the complexities of military logistics.
The Democrats' latest talking point involves a reported shortage of armored Humvees in Iraq. The armchair generals of The New York Times editorial board waxed indignantly about the story last week -- lambasting the "Army, the National Guard and the Marine Corps" for being "caught constantly behind the curve" on armor upgrades. The Times' editorial titled their anti-Bush tirade, "Not supporting the troops." The meme has penetrated from Hillary and Ted Kennedy down to every last, lowest-level Democratic strategist looking to burnish pro-military credibility.
But the Army reminds its critics that it began the War on Terror "with equipment shortages totaling $56 billion from previous decades. In the last several years, the Army has transformed itself more than any other military in history and rapidly acquires ever-improving equipment on a scale not seen since World War II." In Iraq alone, officials report, "the Army has gone from a low of 400 up-armored Humvees to nearly 15,000 up-armored Humvees patrolling neighborhoods, protecting troops and mitigating risk from most types of enemy munitions. As of this date, the Army has produced enough Frag Kit No. 5 Retrofit kits to outfit every Humvee in Afghanistan and Iraq. Thousands of these kits are being flown into theater every month and they are being installed in theater, 24 hours a day, seven days a week to ensure Soldiers have the best protection available."
Capt. Aaron Kaufman of the Dagger Brigade at Forward Operating Base Justice, the unit my Hot Air partner Bryan Preston and I embedded with in Baghdad last month, told me: "This is simply another red herring. All of the trucks that leave the FOBs either possess interim FRAG-5 armor kits or the Objective Kits. . . . Every truck we have is baseline an M1114 or M1151 up-armored HMMWV, not a modified M998 or M1025 (standard HMMWV, no armor). The same type of reporter writes these articles, one you can refer [to] as a Green Zone Sniper. I have personally been impressed with how quickly the Army gets newly developed equipment and technology to the soldiers in the fight."
Capt. Matt Schoenfeldt, who serves as a gunner in Iraq's Diyala province, also sent me his reaction:
"I would first like to point out that this is just one more attempt by the liberals to take an extremely complicated situation, look at one small aspect of the story, and then invent the story that they [want] to tell. We have over 70,000 M1114 Up-Armored HMMWVs in theater right now. With that said, it is remarkable that we would be able to retro-fit this number of vehicles with armor in this short time period while still conducting 24-hour combat operations. . . . In addition to the upgrades to all of these 70,000-plus M1114s, the Army has upgraded every vehicle that travels out in sector; from ballistic glass for Track Commanders on Tanks and Bradleys, to armored doors and glass for support vehicles, and everything in between. There is not a single vehicle that goes out in sector that has not been upgraded for threats specific to Iraq.
"The armored upgrade program is a tremendously successful program and has saved thousands of lives. This story on the armor upgrades has been taken by the media and other uneducated members, and painted a very successful and impressive program as a failure. It is an appalling lack of fact-checking by the media and others that should be informed on the issue."
T.F. Boggs, a sergeant in the Army Reserves who recently returned from his second deployment to Iraq, summed it up: "We have come so far since the early days of the war that the armor issue is a joke. Only those who don't have a clue about the reality of the war in Iraq make it an issue."
Put another way: The empress has no clothes.