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So the scrap metal dumpster-diving program was part of the Pentagon readiness plan…

They had to f*cking beg to get the armor. It’s coming, but you know it won’t be there fast enough.

Senior military officials can’t explain it, so Bush does a little Rumsfeld-dumping (not the kind we’d like — he still has a job), and the Dems are taking advantage of the latest Shame of Bush’s America. Military Said Working on Armor Upgrade. (AP):

Close to three-quarters of the Humvees in the Iraq war theater now have upgraded armor protection, but many larger trucks and tractor-trailer rigs do not, according to congressional figures.

At the White House in Washington, Bush, too, was asked about the situation.

“The concerns expressed are being addressed and that is — we expect our troops to have the best possible equipment,” Bush said. “If I were a soldier overseas wanting to defend my country, I’d want to ask the secretary of defense the same question. And that is, ‘Are we getting the best we can get us?’ And they deserve the best.”

Democrats have more questions for Rumsfeld. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said he would put his in a letter demanding increased production of armor kits and an explanation for why soldiers are searching for scrap metal in landfills.

“This administration has received every dollar they have asked for from Congress, and oftentimes more,” Durbin said Thursday in his Chicago office. “So, the money has been there.”

[Do you think Halliburton might be sucking up some of that dough? — Pam]

Sen. Evan Bayh , D-Ind., said the problem may have been the Pentagon’s shortsightedness about the mission in Iraq.

“We’ve got a moral responsibility to provide our troops with the equipment they need to accomplish their mission and protect their security,” Bayh said Thursday in a telephone news conference.

Questions have been raised about why the military had not started armoring its vehicles sooner than August 2003, when insurgents turned to bombs to attack U.S. forces. Some critics point to the lack of light armored vehicles as further evidence the Bush administration was unprepared for the kind of insurgency it has faced in Iraq.

It’s the big trucks that do much of the heavy hauling around Iraq, ferrying supplies, troops and even other vehicles through rough stretches of highway. The better-known Humvee serves as a light troop carrier, weapons platform and all-purpose jeep.

But the big trucks, like the five-ton M939 medium truck and the tank-hauling Heavy Equipment Transporter, face some of the same threats as the Humvees, including roadside bombs and gun and rocket ambushes.

Some have weapons on board, but very few have armor, and of those that do, the armor offers less protection than is carried by many Humvees.

As to the issue of soldiers turning to scrap piles to better protect their vehicles, senior military officials have offered a few explanations. One is that units heading into Iraq are allowed to scavenge outgoing and damaged vehicles for spare armor plates.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding