Thursday, January 29, 2004

Warlock Saves GI Lives

Flipped on the C-SPAN tonight and caught a glimpse of a House Armed Services Committee meeting that apparently took place today.

General Peter J. Schoomaker, United States Army, Chief of Staff of the Army, was being questioned by Gene Taylor, a Democrat from Mississippi. Taylor seemed to be going pretty tough on Schoomaker - saying things like [not necessarily verbatim]:

...well, is it because that information is classified or is it because you don't want the American people to know [what this information is that might make the Army look bad]...

So, right away, my interest was piqued. When this particular line of questioning was done, I left my TV and headed over to the web to get see the home page of the House Armed Services Committee. Right away I was struck by how partisan the page was - it seemed to read like a Bush propaganda tool because links like that shown in the image in this post, "Success Stories: Building Freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan". Calling Iraq and Afghanistan a success at this stage is like calling me a successful cook because I am currently able to boil some Ramen noodles in the microwave. Some part of the claim could be technically true, but in reality, it is just misleading. I was a bit surprised, but not overly surprised, to see the propagandizing - but I thought it was tasteless. I mean, I expect it from the Pentagon, but the HASC? C'mon. The HASC should be a place of solemn seriousness where old white guys are determining how much each of our soldiers is worth in monetary terms (literally), not a place to pimp Bush's Reelection Campaign.

Back to the original topic. Congressman Taylor was questioning General Schoomaker about the use of an electronic signal jamming device that can be used to temporarily disable IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices - i.e. homemade bombs) - thus saving the lives (and arms and legs) of GIs. Apparently, Taylor had visited Iraq and his Humvee was equipped with this jamming equipment, but of course, the vehicles of our soldiers are not - or, a very small percentage of their vehicles are. Taylor said that every one of the soldiers from his state that he tracked - and who knows which ones he decided to 'track' - was a victim of an IED. Dead or wounded, every single GI from his state that he was tracking was a victim of an IED, and to him, it seemed that every one of them need not have been victims if the Army had done its job properly and planned for the use of IEDs like it should have. That was the 'behind the lines' meaning of the conversation, as I took it, and that was why the Schoomaker was actually taking B.S. from Taylor, I figure.

I did some Googling and found an article from The Chicago Tribune:

Some U.S. military vehicles in Iraq are using a system known as Warlock, which blocks radio frequencies that set off remote-controlled explosives. On Dec. 29, the Warlock's manufacturer, EDO Corp., announced that the Army has agreed to spend $27 million for at least 1,000 additional units to be shipped in 2004.

The Warlock system consists of a suitcase-size device with an antenna that essentially provides a protective bubble around vehicles as they travel, William Walkowiak, head of EDO investor relations, said in an interview from New York.

The new batch of Warlocks, which will be stripped-down versions tailored to specific dangers in Iraq, was added to a fast-track purchase of military equipment under the $87 billion appropriation for military operations and reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Electronic jamming technology was believed to have thwarted a recent attempt in Pakistan to blow up the limousine of a key U.S. ally, President Pervez Musharraf.

So, Schoomaker refused to discuss, in the public hearing today, how few of our Humvees and other vehicles in Iraq were actually equipped with these Warlock systems - thus, the contentious exchange I quoted at top of this post. He did offer to discuss it 'somewhere else' or something like that.

Did you notice that Musharraf line above? Further searching turned up a more detailed story from the AP about that attempted assassination of Musharraf. Apparently, his convoy had this jamming equipment, thus enabling him to cross a wired bridge safely. The bridge blew with 500 pounds of dynamite about 30 seconds after his convoy passed.

EDO Corp. has apparently received a contract to hurriedly produce and ship a bunch of these Warlock systems (which are updated versions of a product called Shortstop Electronic Protection System - SEPS), but I don't know numbers and timelines. Let's really light a fire under their asses. Man, first the wrong color uniforms, then no Kevlar, now no jamming equipment. Sh*t.

Go to it. Senate Armed Services Committee. House Armed Services Committee.

One last note - a bit of intellectual honesty on my part - not always the easiest thing to do. You might have noticed that the appropriations (dinero, greenbacks, Benjamins) for these Warlock devices was set aside in that gargantuan $87 Billion 'emergency funding bill' or whatever The White House called it back in the day. Well, a certain Senator from Massachusettes actually voted 'nay' on that bill after voting 'yes' to go to war with Iraq. I don't think it takes a genius to figure out that Rove is gonna hammer this one like a roids-aided Sammy Sosa waiting on a fastball down the middle. "Kerry Responsible for the Death and Disfigurement of GIs" reads the headline. Niiiiice. Anyone got some Vaseline? Think Kerry's gonna want all he can get.