- The Washington Times - Friday, January 13, 2006

Move over, Joan Rivers. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is vying for title of undisputed queen of the cosmetic makeover. After a cultural warrior collagen injection with recent crusades against violent videogames and flag-burning, Hillary traded in her ratty black pantsuit for a new, politicized accessory to enhance her electoral figure: Body armor.

Last week, a group called Soldiers for the Truth leaked results of an unpublished Pentagon study that reportedly found that as many as 80 percent of a random sample of Marines killed in Iraq from wounds to the upper body could have survived, given extra body armor. On Friday, the New York Times seized on the study. Faster than you can say “quagmire,” Hillary landed on ABC’s “Good Morning America” to lambaste the Bush administration as “incompetent” and its failure to provide more armor “unforgivable.”

“We perhaps could have avoided so many of these fatalities with the right body armor,” concluded Brig. Gen. Clinton, who immediately dashed off letters to Sen. John Warner, Virginia Republican and chairman of the Armed Services Committee; Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee; and Francis J. Harvey, secretary of the Army. Smarter-than-thou Mrs. Clinton is, of course, demanding an investigation (highly recommended by image consultants to boost one’s pro-military posturing).

Hillary bashed President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for callously letting troops die and said she was “just bewildered as to how this president and this vice president continue to isolate themselves from different points of view.”

Well, I am bewildered, too. Bewildered at how such a supposedly brilliant and savvy woman — supposedly in tune with American troops — can so blithely ignore the grave tradeoffs involved in this matter.

You want different points of view? Listen to soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division’s 3rd Brigade, who must don some 40 pounds of protection and gear while fighting in the desert heat. Capt. Jamey Turner, 35, of Baton Rouge, La., a commander in the 1st Squadron, 33rd Cavalry Regiment, bluntly reminded the Associated Press: “You’ve got to sacrifice some protection for mobility. If you cover your entire body in ceramic plates, you’re just not going to be able to move.”

Second Lt. Josh Suthoff, 23, of Jefferson City, Mo., said: “I’d go out with less body armor if I could.”

There is a legitimate debate to be had about the Army’s supply system, military procurement and contracting squabbles over body armor. However, challenging the leaked study’s premises, Spec. Robert Reid, 21, of Atlanta, commented: “It’s the Army’s responsibility to get soldiers the armor they need. But that doesn’t mean those deaths could have been prevented.”

A military blogger at Baghdad Guy, who serves in the U.S. Army, 101st Airborne Division, 506th Infantry, sums it up: “Body armor has saved numerous lives in Iraq and Afghanistan and it will continue to do so, especially as it is modified to better meet the threat we face. However, there are limitations as to how much armor you can add onto an individual and maintain his effectiveness as a soldier: when I step out the gate I am wearing on my person body armor, a Kevlar helmet, my M4 rifle with a few hundred rounds of ammunition, my M9 sidearm with another hundred rounds of ammunition, 2-3 quarts of water, a portable radio, night-vision equipment, and numerous other odds and ends… .

“Too much weight means a soldier moves slower, tires more easily, [maneuvers] less stealthily and spends more time feeling sorry for himself instead of focusing on the mission. And then there’s the bulkiness that becomes an issue as you move through tight space and wedge into the seats of military vehicles that were not designed with comfort and/or legroom in mind. All these tradeoffs must be addressed before you make the decision to add armor, it must be determined that the armor will be effective, and then it must be designed in a way that minimizes impact on our ability to do our job.”

Alas, fund-raising, spotlight-grabbing, 2008-planning Hillary isn’t interested in sober analysis of tradeoffs on the battlefield. She is too busy playing dress-up to listen to the troops she says she cares so much about now.

Michelle Malkin is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of the new book “Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild.”

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