Sunday, August 24, 2003

Proper Mission of Government: U.S. Troops Use Confiscated Iraqi AK-47s

This in from the AP:

An American soldier stands at the side of an Iraqi highway, puts his AK-47 on fully automatic and pulls the trigger.

Within seconds the assault rifle has blasted out 30 rounds. Puffs of dust dance in the air as the bullets smack into the scrubland dirt. Test fire complete.

U.S. troops in Iraq may not have found weapons of mass destruction, but they're certainly getting their hands on the country's stock of Kalashnikovs--and, they say, they need them.

The soldiers based around Baqouba are from an armor battalion, which means they have tanks, Humvees and armored personnel carriers. But they are short on rifles.

A four-man tank crew is issued two M4 assault rifles and four 9mm pistols, relying mostly on the tank's firepower for protection.

But now they are engaged in guerrilla warfare, patrolling narrow roads and goat trails where tanks are less effective. Troops often find themselves dismounting to patrol in smaller vehicles, making rifles essential.

"We just do not have enough rifles to equip all of our soldiers. So in certain circumstances we allow soldiers to have an AK-47. They have to demonstrate some proficiency with the weapon ... demonstrate an ability to use it," said Lt. Col. Mark Young, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 4th Infantry Division.
So we just do not have enough rifles to equip all of our soldiers? Why not? Why is an armored regiment running infantry patrols? Why are our fighting men not already provided with a rifle they prefer for the mission they have been given? Why does the United Sates of America have to rely on captured weapons to put down its enemies?

I am disgusted. Any American casualty that results from one of our fighting men not having a proper rifle is an appalling and useless sacrifice. A nation that sends its men to fight for it without providing these men every necessary tool and every practical advantage has lost its moral compass.

Somebody once told me that defenders never get the support they need from those they protect. I hear stories like this one and I begin to wonder if that person was right.

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