Sunday, June 26, 2005

Soldiers vs. Intellectual Property Rights

Despite Dick Cheney's insistence that the insurgency in Iraq is in its "last throes," American casualties are at their all-time high:
US Troops Killed by Homemade BombsLast month there were about 700 attacks against American forces using so-called improvised explosive devices, or I.E.D.'s, the highest number since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, according to the American military command in Iraq and a senior Pentagon military official.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I.E.D.'s of all types caused 33 American deaths in May, and there have been at least 35 fatalities so far in June, the highest toll over a two-month period, according to statistics assembled by Iraq Coalition Casualty Count. . . . (David S. Cloud, "Iraqi Rebels Refine Bomb Skills, Pushing Toll of G.I.'s Higher," New York Times, 22 Jun. 2005)
Higher casualties are said to be due to Iraqi guerrillas' advancements in military technology: "the use of 'shaped' charges that concentrate the blast and give it a better chance of penetrating armored vehicles" and "the detonation of explosives by infrared lasers, an innovation aimed at bypassing electronic jammers used to block radio-wave detonators" (Cloud, 22 Jun. 2005).

In contrast, US troops have yet to see improvements in their vehicles. The Humvee is still "the Pentagon's vehicle of choice for American troops," the vehicle shunned by Donald Rumsfeld and other dignitaries visiting Iraq:
When Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld visited Iraq last year to tour the Abu Ghraib prison camp, military officials did not rely on a government-issued Humvee [$140,000 for an armored vehicle] to transport him safely on the ground. Instead, they turned to Halliburton, the oil services contractor, which lent the Pentagon a rolling fortress of steel called the Rhino Runner [$250,000].

State Department officials traveling in Iraq use armored vehicles that are built with V-shaped hulls to better deflect bullets and bombs. Members of Congress favor another model, called the M1117 [$700,000], which can endure 12-pound explosives and .50-caliber armor-piercing rounds.

Unlike the Humvee, the Pentagon's vehicle of choice for American troops, the others were designed from scratch to withstand attacks in battlefields like Iraq with no safe zones. (Michael Moss, "Safer Vehicles for Soldiers: A Tale of Delays and Glitches," New York Times, 26 Jun. 2005)
What the Armor Can Withstand

While Iraqi guerrillas' innovations made even the best-armored Humvees unsafe, most US troops cannot even avail themselves of them: "[A]ccording to military records and interviews with officials, about half of the Army's 20,000 Humvees have improvised shielding that typically leaves the underside unprotected, while only one in six Humvees used by the Marines is armored at the highest level of protection" (Moss, 26 Jun. 2005).

Why? It turns out that US capitalists are at war with US troops:
The Defense Department continues to rely on just one small company in Ohio to armor Humvees. And the company, O'Gara-Hess & Eisenhardt, has waged an aggressive campaign to hold onto its exclusive deal even as soaring rush orders from Iraq have been plagued by delays. The Marine Corps, for example, is still awaiting the 498 armored Humvees it sought last fall, officials told The Times.

In January, when military officials tried to speed production by buying the legal rights to the armor design so they could enlist other venders to help, O'Gara demurred, calling the move a threat to its "current and future competitive position," according to e-mail records obtained from the Army.

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Robert F. Mecredy, president of the aerospace and defense group at Armor Holdings, the parent company of O'Gara, acknowledged that the company was protecting its commercial interests. (emphasis added, Moss, 26 Jun. 2005)
Soldiers' lives are evidently less important than intellectual property rights that confer monopoly profits on capitalists. The Iraq War is the best crash course in the ABC of capitalism.


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