In 2007, a story broke that would shake the Marine Corps to its core. Then-Senator Joe Biden speared-headed a charge that high-ranking officials had ignored safety concerns of those on the front lines and people were dying because of it. The controversy boiled down to the need for vehicles that could withstand roadside bombs. Too many troops in Iraq were dying because of these roadside devices and there was an urgent need for better equipment. The call went out for mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles (MRAPs).
What happened after the initial urgent call for MRAPs is still not clear. According to Biden and his sources, the call was virtually ignored. The Marine Corps leadership had not paid attention and they did not prioritize these vehicles. This was the basis for their entire argument, the Bush administration had failed the troops, but was this the case? As more details and documents are released, it appears Biden relied on false data and faulty logic to make that claim.
The report in 2007 focused on urgent requests for the new equipment that were made in 2005. There was a push for the immediate purchase of vehicles that could protect the troops at risk. What these reports did not share was that there were already machines under development by the Marine Corps to better fit this need. Studies at the Aberdeen Testing Grounds had already determined the current, ready to purchase models that were available were not protective enough.
Biden and his sources had used the fact that the Marine Corps had not immediately produced a model to meet all the troops needs as a sign that they were not taking the concerns serious. This was not the case as they pushed for a better vehicle that was tailored for just that situation. These prototypes were under study before the press release of 2007.
According to the former Warfighting Lab Director, Steve Chill:
“A falsehood was fostered by the press, politicians, and interest groups that the Marine Corps was negligent in supporting fellow Marines in Iraq with armored vehicles during Operation Iraqi Freedom. My study definitively proves that the Marine Corps did not sit on MRAP requests. This study sets the record straight and gives reassurance to Marines and the families of the dead and wounded Marines in Iraq that their Corps did not let them down.”
Chill authored a 355-page study about the needed vehicles, the research being done, and what occurred during the time in question. The vehicles that Biden and many of his supporters wanted, became part of the “MRAP boondoggle”. $45 billion was spent on off-the-shelf models that later were found to be no safer than what was already deployed. This would not have been the case for the machines that were under development by the Marine Corps.
The timing of the smear campaign against the Marine Corps seemed to be more important than the actual contents of the report. At the time the news story in 2007 was released, Democrats were pushing to remove troops from Iraq. Biden used this breaking news article as a cornerstone of the argument to bring the troops out of Iraq. Clearly, at that point it was not relevant to anyone if the facts were accurate, they just needed soundbites to further their argument.
According to the recently released report:
“Senator Biden used Gayl and the press to smear the Marine Corps. Specifically, Biden saw a misleading blog (Danger Room) then organized Gayl, Danger Room and USA Today to take the misleading blog national. While organizing the press, Biden asked the Marine Corps to respond to the original blog. The Marine Corps responses disputing the blog were correct (albeit not detailed), and ignored.”
The lack of support for the troops in Iraq became the foundation of an overnight argument to pull the troops. It was not debated to make sure the troops had the equipment they needed in the future, but instead a dramatic way to use the misinformation to further the Biden agenda.
In pushing the idea that the Marine Corps just ignored the pleas of their troops for safety, they were successful in making their point. They also managed to hurt the reputation of the Marine Corps and also the families of those who ultimately died in combat.
In this case, it seems a little common sense would have saved the relatives of the dead and wounded a large amount of stress and pain. Regardless of when the requests for new and better vehicles came in, people dealing with rumors of the reports being ignored seemed to have no basis for how the process works. Sending machines that were already inadequate made no sense, buying something right off the shelves was not going to cut it in this case. These reports clearly show the Marine Corps was actively researching and testing vehicles to better support those in the field.
Releasing a scandalous report to smear the troops and their leadership did exactly what it was meant to do, it encouraged the Democrat agenda of withdrawing from Iraq. It did not, however, solve the issue or even save just one life. That was already being handled by the diligent researchers with the Marine Corps.