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Thursday, Dec. 2, 2004 06:26 pm

common sense 12-2-04

art1603

Talk about bitter irony. George W. Bush wrapped himself in the flag and campaigned under a political theme of "support our troops," yet, even as he campaigned, troops in Iraq continued to die precisely because he failed them.

Propaganda won't stop roadside bombs and other blasts. For the deadly reality of war, our troops need the best protective armor and equipment there is. But even now, their commander in chief continues to short them, especially the National Guard members and reservists who are doing much of the most dangerous work in Iraq.

For months, entire units have gone begging for the most basic steel plates needed to armor their Humvees against the deadly blasts they encounter daily. Families of soldiers have offered to buy these steel plates themselves but have been rejected by commanders who keep promising that the Army will provide better equipment soon. Soon never seems to come, and soldiers are reduced to scavenging scrap sheet metal and sandbags to provide makeshift protection.

The Bushites loudly contend that they have spared no expense to outfit the troops, but the soldiers and their families -- and the daily body counts -- say otherwise. In fact, although the Pentagon has said that it has plans to retrofit some 4,400 trucks in Iraq with armor kits, it had provided only about 800 of the kits by mid-September.

As the mother of one Guardsman put it: "If we're one of the richest nations in the world, our soldiers shouldn't be sent out looking like the Beverly Hillbillies." The Pentagon now says it hopes to have all Humvees armored by April -- two years and more than 1,200 deaths after Bush launched this poorly prepared war.

To demand that Washington support our troops with more than political rhetoric, call Operation Truth: 212-982-9699.

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