Some politicians will take advantage of tragedy to seek political advantage. Then there’s Senator Mark Dayton of Minnesota, who may have set a new low when he used the death of a Minnesota soldier to launch a cheap shot against the Bush administration.
On March 26, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported on the death of Cpl. Travis Bruce of Rochester, an MP who was killed by shrapnel while he was standing guard on the roof of a police station in Baghdad. Bruce’s aunt says he was proud to be a soldier and was considering becoming a military recruiter when his active duty ended. But here is what Senator Dayton had to say about his death:
Nearly three weeks ago, Cpl. Travis Bruce of Rochester was killed by a rocket-propelled grenade while standing watch on the roof of a Baghdad police station.
On Tuesday, Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn., sent a letter to President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld questioning the circumstances that led to Bruce’s death.
In the letter, Dayton said that the day before his death Bruce told his girlfriend in a telephone call that he had been unable to obtain enough sandbags to fortify his position adequately.
“He gave his life heroically and importantly, but it’s immoral for our command not to provide our soldiers with absolutely everything they need to give them maximum protection: body armor, armored vehicles, sandbags. … It’s immoral if our soldiers are left in any way unequipped and unprotected,” Dayton said in an interview.
First it was body armor, then armored vehicles. Now it’s “immoral” that our soldiers don’t have enough sandbags. Am I missing something, or is this ludicrous on its face? I can understand a soldier in Iraq being short of armor. But sand? Sand is something Iraq has in abundance; it’s not exactly a commodity that the Army airlifts there from the Mojave desert.
Moreover, the Star Tribune story linked to above seems to cast considerable doubt on the “missing sand bag” theory:
Bruce was killed when the rocket-propelled grenade hit a sandbag, ricocheted and exploded into a water tower, showering him with shrapnel.
On Tuesday, the day before he died, he called his girlfriend and said that he was stationed on the rooftop and increasing the height of the sandbag barricade. “He said they didn’t have enough sandbags up there,” she said softly.
So, the day before he was killed on the roof, Bruce said that he was “increasing the height of the sandbag barricade” because he didn’t think it was high enough. No suggestion that he was unable to get his hands on enough sandbags to accomplish this task. No suggestion that there was a shortage of sandbags, only that they didn’t have enough on the roof. Then, the next night there was an attack with an RPG, which “hit a sandbag,” ricocheted and exploded against a water tower, apparently showering Bruce with shrapnel from above. So apparently there were enough sandbags to deflect the RPG. Would more sandbags have protected Bruce from above? Who knows, but one wouldn’t think so.
Sandbags are not a high-tech device. It is up to soldiers in the field to protect themselves. If they want more sandbags, they should get more sandbags, as Cpl. Bruce apparently did. For Mark Dayton to suggest that the Bush administration somehow “immorally” deprived Bruce of sandbags is an absurdity that would be funny, if war were not a matter of life and death. Thankfully, Dayton will soon be gone from the Senate. His replacement can only be an improvement.
UPDATE: An Army Major agrees:
You nailed it 99% correct.