60 Minutes reports on Oregon National Guard

Lew Frederick

6:23, Lew Frederick

60 Minutes will run a story on the threats facing the Oregon National Guard

7:20, updated by Kari Chisholm

The story by CBS correspondent Steve Kroft expands dramatically the story originally covered at Willamette Week - and reported here at BlueOregon.

Soldiers with the Oregon Guard are self-armoring their Humvees that were never intended to be used for combat. Family members are sending them night-vision goggles and walkie-talkies. General Ray Byrne, the commanding officer of the Oregon National Guard, pulled no punches:

"If you have nothing then that's better than nothing. The question becomes then again when – when are they going to receive the full up armored Humvees? And I don't have that answer."
"It distresses me greatly that they do not have the equipment. I don't have control over it. The soldiers don't have control over it. The question becomes, 'When is it going to be available? When is it going to be available? When will they have it?

Congresswoman Darlene Hooley blames the Pentagon's war planning:

"We didn't have enough armored vehicles. They weren't manufactured."

Some of the most damning thoughts came from Senator John McCain (who, inexplicably, continues to support the President's handling of the war):

"I don't think that this war has truly come home to the Congress of the United States. This is the first time in history that we've cut taxes during a war. So I think that a lot of members of Congress feel that this is just sort of a business-as-usual situation."
"The least sexy items are the mundane - food, repair items, maintenance – there's no big contract there. And so there's a tendency that those mundane but vital aspects of war fighting are cut and routinely underfunded."

As reported here at BlueOregon, some Oregon Guardsmen are being explicit about their election preferences. Specialist Josh Schertenleib (who has commented at BlueOregon about the armor problem here) made this plea: "Please tell everyone back home that the soldiers here ask that everyone PLEASE vote for Kerry so we can get outta this hellhole."

  • Jeston Black (unverified)
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    Congresswoman Darlene Hooley will part of the story.

  • Anthony (unverified)
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    What, it's "inexplicable" that someone continues to support the war despite the fact that there have been supply problems? Does anyone here believe that in warfare such things do not generally happen?

    And if the war is worth fighting, should we just throw up our hands and give up because some units don't have all they should have?

    One thing that's always in good supply during war, however, is a CBS story calculated to make the U.S. government look bad and sap morale at home. Good, job guys. Useful idiots to the end.

  • Jerry (unverified)
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    The US Government needs no help from OregonBlue to look bad. They been doing a right good job of it on their own.

    This war has been a disaster, the Bush administration handling of it has been a disaster and covering your eyes and plugging your ears isn't going to make it go awasy.

  • Anthony (unverified)
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    Jerry,

    Why do you just repeat tropes rather than providing a substantive argument to the point at hand? It's as if you know a priori that "the war has been a disaster, the Bush administration's handling of it has been a disaster." But I'm the one with my head in the sand.

    I have to say, if the supply problems mentioned in this post is evidence of "disaster" then, maybe we're not in such bad shape after all.

    It's not overstating it to say that yours is a loser's attitude. Rather than take the attitude that whatever problems we face, we will overcome them, you adopt the Chicken Little posture. "Everything has gone wrong, everything will go wrong." Someone coined an amusing word for this tendency to wallow in defeatism: disasturbation.

    We've seen certain elements of this society yearn for a "Vietnam-style quagmire" every time this country engages its military forces. Others simply fear that his will be the case, and are aided by abject ignorance of military matters.

    Hours after the war in Iraq was underway, there was a steady stream of panicked reports from the news outlets. The U.S. was on the verge of an unprecedented military triumph, but the message from the press was that everything was going wrong.

    This administration has presided over two remarkably successful military campaigns, including the Afghanistan War, which was won using highly creative and unorthodox methods, relying on developing alliances with indigenous elements.

    These military successes apparently mean nothing to you because there are still problems. I submit that in your eagerness to focus on problems, you ignore advances and you fail to make a sober analysis of the real possibilities, both for good or ill.

    But leaving the larger question aside, the 60 Minutes report -- the last in a series of shameless attempts by CBS to help John Kerry's campaign -- is pretty weak gruel. There's one born every minute.

    Oh, and by the way, did that $87 million appropriations bill that Kerry voted for and then voted against have anything to do with those Oregon guardsmen being under-equipped? Let's look into that, shall we?

  • JS (unverified)
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    Anthony,

    You're all over the map. The original post is about priorities and following through. Bush must have known (must know today) that many troops don't have the equipment they need. But rather than spend the necessary money to equip them, he's pushed tax breaks, the vast majority of which favor the wealthy.

    The set of problems addressed in the original post could be solved rather easily with a slight change in priorities. Bush has demonstrated he's NOT INTERESTED in changing ANYTHING. Kerry has demonstrated that he is. Kerry voted for the $87 BILLION (not million), but he voted for a version where tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans were rolled back to pay for it. That was the ONLY difference from the version backed by Bush. Unfortunately, Bush's version won, and the next generation, once again, will be footing the bill.

    You also go to great lengths to avoid Republican Senator John McCain's analysis: "I don't think that this war has truly come home to the Congress of the United States. This is the first time in history that we've cut taxes during a war. So I think that a lot of members of Congress feel that this is just sort of a business-as-usual situation."

    Like John Kerry, and unlike Bush, McCain has actually seen combat. Is he unpatriotic? Does he have a "loser's attitude" because he wants Bush to DO EVERYTHING POSSIBLE to protect our troops?

    Talk is cheap. Bush's rhetoric doesn't match his record. And that's going to catch up with him tomorrow.

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    Anthony, you write... What, it's "inexplicable" that someone continues to support the war despite the fact that there have been supply problems?

    I didn't say it was inexplicable that McCain continues to support the war. Instead, I wrote that it's inexplicable that he continues to support the President's handling of the war.

    This is the trouble right now with GOPers. They're conflating the war with Dubya's management. It's possile to continue supporting the war on terror while believing that Dubya has flubbed it.

    In fact, if you support the war on terror, you almost HAVE to believe in replacing Dubya. His team's management has been incompetent and foolish.

    Seriously, why would you send unarmored trucks there at all? Under what scenario would that make sense? No, the Bushies have completely failed in basic War Management 101.

  • Anthony (unverified)
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    JS,

    Did FDR's rhetoric match his record? Come on.

    I have no idea why you would think that what I wrote implied that John McCain has a "loser's attitude." Nothing in my post suggests the slightest disagreement with McCain. As Kari pointed out, McCain supports the president's handling of the war.

    How do you get that I've "gone to great lengths to avoid... McCain's analysis" just because I haven't discussed it. McCain makes a powerful point. He does mention the president's tax cuts, but he also seems to find fault with "a lot of members of Congress." Does his position boil down to Bush's tax cuts being solely responsible for the the Oregon National Guard's lacked of properly armed Humvees? And would that constitute sufficient proof of the administration's inability to manage the conflict as a whole?

    As far as where Kerry's interests lay, I think it might be worth considering what the military would look like if all of his recommendations about military spending had been followed over his long years in the senate.

    Thanks for the correction on the $87 billion. Good catch.

  • Anthony (unverified)
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    Kari,

    I’m sorry if I misconstrued you. Allow me to recast the sentence: “What, it’s inexplicable that someone continues to support the way the war has been handled in general despite the fact that there have been supply problems?”

    I certainly agree that one can support the war on terror while criticizing GWB’s handling of it. You’d have to go a lot further than this post does, however, to make a case of overall incompetence.

    Your interest in this story is understandable, given its local dimension (CBS’s interest is another matter), but I think you are exaggerating its importance in terms of what it says about management of the war overall (before the flaming starts, I understand that the importance of good equipment to the individual soldier can’t be overestimated).

    I also doubt that your case would be helped by a more thorough sampling of veterans active in Iraq, and I suspect that many would feel Schertenlieb’s comment reflected poorly on him.

    As far as sending unarmored trucks, I think if you were to look into the matter, so-called “soft-shelled” vehicles have been used in every conflict the U.S. has been involved in that required transport and patrol vehicles. I know that the troops in Somalia had trouble with the vulnerability with Humvees, whether they were better armed than the Oregon NG’s or not.

    I doubt you could find any war where the government or military couldn’t be accused of gross mismanagement of some sort, or to some degree. The acronym SNAFU didn’t have to wait for Iraq to be invented. In WWII allied tank crews were sent into battle in the European campaign in June 1944 with woefully under-armored and insufficiently armed tanks, despite the fact that the U.S. War Department was advised with caution about the Germans’ gunnery capabilities as early as 1942. After the capabilities of the allies’ Sherman tank vis a vis its German counterparts had been demonstrated to be unconscionably inadequate, a British MP was literally laughed at in Parliament for his efforts to correct the problem.

    Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Stories like this abound. In any major campaign, enough of them can be strung together to form an indictment which nonetheless would be insufficient to allege that, for example, FDR’s or Churchill’s management of the war was intolerably incompetent.

    Again, you’d have to adduce a lot more examples than this one to demonstrate this administration’s overall incompetence. You’d also have to discount the remarkable achievements, both logistical and military, that the U.S. has achieved in its recent campaigns.

    I enjoy your writing and think Blue Oregon is a great achievement. Hope my disagreements with your posts don’t suggest otherwise.

  • JS (unverified)
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    "As far as where Kerry's interests lay, I think it might be worth considering what the military would look like if all of his recommendations about military spending had been followed over his long years in the senate."

    Courtesy of Factcheck.org: http://www.factcheck.org/[email protected]=209.html

    In his first appearance before Congress as Defense Secretary in April 1989, for example, Cheney outlined $10 billion in defense cuts including proposed cancellation of the AH-64 Apache helicopter, and elimination of the F-15E ground-attack jet. Two years later Cheney's Pentagon budget also proposed elimination of further production of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle and targeted a total of 81 Pentagon programs for termination, including the F-14 and F-16 aircraft. And the elder President Bush said in his 1992 State of the Union address: "After completing 20 planes for which we have begun procurement, we will shut down further production of the B - 2 bombers. . . . And we will not purchase any more advanced cruise missiles." So if Kerry opposed weapons "our troops depend on," so did Cheney and the elder President Bush.

    And this from Slate: http://slate.msn.com/id/2106119/

    What makes this dishonesty not merely a lie, but a damned lie, is that back when Kerry cast these votes [on defense appropriations bills, not specific weapons systems], Dick Cheney—who was the secretary of defense for George W. Bush's father—was truly slashing the military budget. Here was Secretary Cheney, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Jan. 31, 1992:

    "Overall, since I've been Secretary, we will have taken the five-year defense program down by well over $300 billion. That's the peace dividend...And now we're adding to that another $50 billion...of so-called peace dividend."

    Cheney then lit into the Democratic-controlled Congress for not cutting weapons systems enough:

    "Congress has let me cancel a few programs. But you've squabbled and sometimes bickered and horse-traded and ended up forcing me to spend money on weapons that don't fill a vital need in these times of tight budgets and new requirements...You've directed me to buy more M1s, F14s, and F16s—all great systems...but we have enough of them."

  • (Show?)

    In any major campaign, enough of them can be strung together to form an indictment which nonetheless would be insufficient to allege that, for example, FDR’s or Churchill’s management of the war was intolerably incompetent.

    Except that, unlike in Iraq or Vietnam, demonstrable progress was made almost every month against the Axis, and it ended in the dual surrenders of Doenitz (on behalf of Hitler) and Hirohito/Tojo on behalf of the Japanese.

    We also combined arms against the Axis. Check your Hackworth - theatre commanders going into Iraq were told to leave their armor battalions at home, that it wouldn't fight well in the street, or on the sand. There weren't tanks or APCs on the ground in Vietnam very much, either. So in both cases, we end up throwing more and more infantry at a problem, with disastrous results.

    And as for Churchill, consider that Great Britain was only 19 miles at its nearest point from occupied territory in Bordeaux for a good part of the war. He must have been one hell of a "War Prime Minister" not only to keep Great Britain uninvaded, but to simultaneously wrap up Rommel's Panzer divisions in North Africa, and begin the rollback of the Axis in Western Europe.

    However you prefer to strike at Berlin, whether it be Patton's laser-like approach or Montgomery's gradual, all-at-once strategy, it cannot be denied that Churchill was successful there, especially in light of the fact that the English could pull their weight in the post-war strategy.

    It also bears repeating that we asked ALL our citizens to sacrifice to defeat the Axis, not just the socio-economic middle to poor like we did in Iraq.

    Not only did this allow us to build the American industrial machine necessary to compete with that of the Reich, but millions of people were put to work. And when they came home, GIs got hired, got medical benefits, and got sent to college on the GI Bill.

    That's just a piece of why, despite the fact that our government sent Japanese-Americans to concentration camps, that racism at home was de rigueur, that troop misbehavior in-theatre was regular, and that Doolittle sent a squadron of American bombers on a suicide mission just to extract vengeance on Japan for Pearl Harbor, World War II was considered an unmitigated success for Allied war-managers and soldiers alike.

    A better object lesson would be to compare Iraq with Vietnam, Anthony. And I'll spot you that Kennedy started the latter.

    But George Bush is no more a "war" president than I am. I have no doubt that John Kerry can make the best of the situation in Iraq.

  • Jerry (unverified)
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    Anthony -- I think you and I have different definitions of successful.

    Neither the Afghanistan war nor the Iraqi war has been successful in any military sense that I know of.

    In Afghanistan, we have yet to capture the leaders of the Taliban. We have vast areas on the Pakistan border that are not under our control. We have Westerners still be held hostage and their lives threatened.

    In Iraq, we have Americans dying daily - more have died since Bush declared 'Mission Accomplished' than before. We have a growing insurrection that the military isn't/can't control. We have major cities that the US Military can't even bomb into control. We have scores of foreign workers kidnapped and large numbers killed by their captors - and not one has been rescued by the US military.

    Now tell me again how successful these campaigns are.

    For the record, I'm a Vietnam Vet. And yes, I see us getting into the same quagmire. Too many have died and not enough courage to admit the mistakes. A lot more are going to die before it's over and Iraq and Afghanistan will return to control of the warlords.

  • Anthony (unverified)
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    JS,

    I've checked the sources you cite and others and concede that you're right about that point, and I regret that I had accepted that argument. I agree with you that the Republicans have made a dishonest argument in this case, and I thank you for setting me straight on it.

    I would like to add that the Slate article casts Cheney in a favorable light regarding McCain's concern about pork-barrel spending.

  • JS (unverified)
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    I'm willing to concede that Cheney's defense budget priorities may have come from a sense of fiscal responsiblity.

    My concern, however, is the hypocrisy of the charge that Kerry will be soft on terrorism because of his alleged votes on specific weapons systems.

    Regarding my first post, I thought you were accusing Kari of taking a "loser's attitude" in her post. Upon a closer reading, I see that you're referring to Jerry's comments. Apologies.

    However, I disagree that people calling this President's policy in Iraq a failure is "defeatist". I take the position, and I know it's debatable, that such a position is more "accurate" than "defeatist".

    More Americans died in July than in June, more in August than July, more in August than July, and more in September than August. More than 1100 American soldiers have died in Iraq. More than 14,000 innocent Iraqis have likely been killed by coalition forces. Significant parts of the country have become less secure in recent months, including the green zone that houses coalition headquarters. There's overwhelming evidence that explosives, weapons, and dangerous technologies were looted after Saddam's government fell because we didn't have enough soldiers in place to secure things.

    To recap (courtesy of Kos): the fatality and casualty rates are higher in 2004 than 2003; higher since Hussein's capture than before; higher since "sovereignty" was turned over on June 28 than before. You can slice and dice the data anyway you choose, but it's not progress.

  • Karen Preston (unverified)
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    My son is serving in Iraq and I participated in the 60 Minutes interview. I am the mother of an infantryman, and the friend of wives and mothers whose loved ones are serving with my son - and some who have died while serving in Iraq. Regardless of what has happened in past wars regarding inadequate equipment, or what your partisan politics are, there are soldiers dying in Iraq and proper equipment could possibly prevent their deaths. My hope is that people will address the issue loudly to anyone and everyone, because our soldiers lives may depend on it. In Oregon we have elected representatives who care: Darlene Hooley, Peter DeFazio, Earl Blumenauer, and the Governor. We need to speak loudly and often on behalf of our soldiers with the hope that the situation will change.

  • andrew (unverified)
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    Karen, you wrote: "We need to speak loudly and often on behalf of our soldiers with the hope that the situation will change."

    You're right. The change should be to bring 'em home. Not 4 yrs. from now, but 4 months from now! All of us should be making our voices heard on Iraq now...it ain't getting better, it ain't gonna get better and we cannot make a silk purse (or even cloth) out of a sow's ear. Since neither Bush or Kerry have a plan to bring our men and women home, it's time to press them (and Congress - and our Governor) to begin planning the withdrawal. Let's go get Osama Bin Laden with a small, tactical team...cut the legs from underneath the Pakistani madrassas and re-focus our priorities.

    When election day is over, I hope all committed progressives will re-double their efforts to end this hopeless occupation in Iraq that is only stirring up more hatred and motive for retaliation in the Middle East...

  • Anthony (unverified)
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    I’m sure we can all agree with Karen that everything possible should be done to equip the troops.

    To respond to John Dunagan: You write that “unlike in Iraq or Vietnam, demonstrable progress was made almost every month agains the Axis, and it ended in the dual surrenders of Doenitz…and Hirohito…”

    Taken without qualification, this statement is simply untrue. There were many, many months during the war where the allies faced nothing but horrific defeats and dispiriting strategic reversals. And even after the time when the allies began to see progress, there were terrible setbacks and atrocious errors.

    Your tribute to Churchill presents, shall we say, a rather incomplete outline of his history as a commander. Looking at a more complete picture of his career, I think it’s fair to wonder whether a person your attitude would have been so supportive of him before victory was assured. Prior to the Second World War Churchill was widely reviled for the WWI disaster of the Dardanelles/Gallipoli, and was later regarded by many as a warmonger for insisting on the seriousness of the Nazi threat. Before the Battle of Britain was won, the best outcome the British forces had enjoyed was a successful retreat (Dunkirk).

    You casually recount Churchill’s being able to “wrap up Rommel’s Panzer divisions in North Africa, and begin the rollback of the Axis in Western Europe.” But until Montgomery became the field commander, Britain was battered all across North Africa by Rommel. Nor was victory in Europe a simple “rollback.” There were any number of reversals, mistakes, etc. Many such reversals could be attributed to subordinates, but some failures were Churchill’s own. His persistence in the defense of Crete – which resulted in a costly defeat – is a good example.

    The fact is that as a military thinker Churchill was very impulsive. In this regard Churchill was blessed in having Alanbrooke, his more militarily astute subordinate, to dissuade him of many of his bad ideas. Of course Churchill also deserves credit for being willing to listen, unlike the megalomaniac Hitler, whose bad ideas resulted in many consequential failures for the Nazis and no doubt sealed their fate.

    Your other comments about WWII aren’t relevant, since I was not trying to draw a broad analogy to that conflict, but rather demonstrate that it’s easy to make a case for a leader’s incompetence during the chaos that is war.

    I don’t doubt that a brief could have been (and perhaps was) made against Washington’s leadership; I know that it was made against Lincoln’s. Just as Churchill faced a no-confidence vote in Parliament during WWII, Lincoln faced a vote on his continued leadership during the Civil War, and against a man with greater military experience (McClellan).

    Not unlike Lincoln, what was most admirable about Churchill was his confidence in the cause of freedom and his nation, his resilience in the face of (frequent) defeat, and his determination to win, no matter what. Bush is no Lincoln or Churchill, but his attitude more resembles theirs than do the sentiments of the other posters in this thread.

  • (Show?)

    Looking at a more complete picture of his career, I think it’s fair to wonder whether a person your attitude would have been so supportive of him before victory was assured.

    Considering the aspect of this post that questions 'whether or not I'd have been a patriotic Brit during the earlier stages of that war,' if it wasn't such a non-issue (i.e., your questions about my hypothetical patriotism), I'd respond, "Go Cheney yourself."

    But we're not within bomber range of our enemy's Western Front like Churchill was after Hitler rolled through the Low Countries, or picking UXBs out of our cupboards like Londoners did during the war.

    We are in one war where the Army had Public Enemy #1 in the crosshairs and only awaited Presidential permission to achieve its objective, only to have it denied. And we're in another more important war where we attacked a country for its oil, who had never been a threat since the sanctions and inspectors, had nothing to do with 9/11, and where we're losing troops daily because Bush long ago fired the generals and staff that could succeed with a plan there.

    So, to hell with his attitude, it doesn't sound too Churchillian to me. Besides, most people had jobs under Churchill during the war, even at the beginning.

    Churchill also didn't cook up the reports from MI5, have his army round up Belgian citizens in-theatre without clear evidence of collaboration, divert the majority of his force from the continent where the enemy was to pacify Rommel, conspire to imprison and torture said citizens, or declare "Mission Accomplished" before the war was over.

    Sure, Churchill saw a threat - but unlike Dubya, he didn't send three divisions into a non-threatening country (like, say, Portugal) with minimal artillery, zero cavalry and corrupt contract support to antagonize the indigenous population.

    This isn't even like 41, who booted the Republican Guard out of Kuwait, slapped the No-Fly-Zone and monitoring on Iraq, then brought the troops home.

    Even Stalin bunkered down during winter, and waited for Hitler to shoot his wad at Stalingrad.

    There are a lot of people who can be resilient, even optimistic in the face of dissent; big fat hairy deal. Not all of them are capable of the attitude it takes to consider dissenting viewpoints, and even less would seek to force their silence, as this president has.

    <h2>If Bush was PM in England during the Second World War, he'd have been moving into the Tower shortly after the first Question Time.</h2>

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