Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Military Pork, Wasteful and Deadly

Patty Murray has now declared herself to be a better judge of military procurement than the military itself.

Murray remains a staunch defender of earmarks. She pointed to Insitu, a high-tech company in Klickitat County that makes aerial drones the Army uses for surveillance in Iraq. She said she helps local companies with good products that may be overlooked by the sprawling Pentagon and its faraway bureaucrats who might favor their "buddies" who they "were having drinks with ... on Friday night."

"People tend to talk about earmarks as something that is a bad thing," she said. "I see it as a way to make sure that the tax dollars that are spent are spent in a very wise way."

The Seattle Times has a very well researched article about how Northwest politicians abuse earmarks to pay off their contributors, and how the process isn't just wasteful, but dangerous - especially when politicians force the military to purchase gear that's unsafe.

In June 2005, Rep. Wu of Oregon arrived in Iraq and handed out free T-shirts to Marines. He was promoting the wares of InSport, a Portland-area company that makes fast-drying polyester shirts.

Earlier that year, Wu and other Northwest lawmakers got a $2 million earmark in the defense bill to sell T-shirts to the Marines. Wu said the shirts would be far more comfortable than the cotton ones the Marines wore under body armor.

But there was a big problem with these T-shirts, a problem encountered in the deserts of Iraq and in 1982 during the Falklands invasion.

Polyester clothing melts in intense heat, adhering to the skin. "This essentially creates a second skin and can lead to horrific, disfiguring burns," said Capt. Lynn E. Welling, the 1st Marine Logistics Group head surgeon, who conducted research in Iraq in early 2006.

Months after Wu's visit, a Marine wearing a polyester T-shirt was riding in an armored vehicle in Iraq when a bomb hidden on the road exploded. Even though the Marine wore a protective vest, the shirt melted in the explosion, contributing to severe burns over 70 percent of his body. Doctors had to extract the shirt's remains from the Marine's torso.

In April 2006, the Marines banned polyester T-shirts for use in combat or anywhere outside the protected "Green Zone" bases.

But, don't Wu doesn't concern himself with any of that. He's fishing for campaign contributions.

Executives of InSport and its owner, Vital Apparel, donated $6,100 to Wu's campaign in a single day at the end of the earmark "season."

The day after the bill passed on Sept. 29, 2006, one executive gave another $750 to Wu. Two others followed with identical donations within three weeks.

So Wu squanders millions of dollars of taxpayer money and contributes to grevious injuries to at least one Marine, all exchange for $8350 in campaign contributions.

1 comment:

April E. Coggins said...

On a personal level, I find this story smacking of self-serving political favors, but not for the obvious reasons.
Way back when George Nethercutt was running against Patty Murray, I contacted Murray's office about my store not being able to bid on federal government contracts to provide Honda products to the federal government. My objection is that there is one dealer, in Russellville, Arkansas(!), that is allowed to bid and therefore receives every federal contract for every Honda ATV and motorcycle sold to the US government. It bothers me that a USDA office in St. John, WA is getting their Honda ATV's from Russellville, AR.
Me, in my naivete, thought she would care about a small business in Washington State, so I called her office and promptly received a letter that she would look into it and follow up. I'm still waiting and I still have the letter. All I am looking for is an open bidding process, but we are thrown under the bus for the political favors coming out of Arkansas.