Nick Schwellenbach of the Project On Government Oversight has a very interesting post at the POGO Blog asking whether the Marine Corps Lied to Senator Levin about MRAP Request:
Marine Corps claims described in congressional correspondence are at odds with the actual text of a February 2005 urgent needs request from Marines in Iraq.
Press reports about the February 2005 Marine Corps Urgent Operational Needs Statement [pdf] that you referenced in your letter concerned me a great deal as well. Since learning of this needs statement, my Committee staff has met with the Marine Corps multiple times. The Marine Corps’ answer to the Committee staff has been two-fold: 1) the Marine Corps has initiated its own internal review of how urgent operational needs statements are handled; and 2) the Marine Corps indicated that the request from theater called for more effective armor materiel, which came in the form of fragmentation kit upgrades, rather than a specialized vehicle like the MRAP. I have directed my Committee staff to continue meeting with the Marine Corps on this matter until the internal review is completed. [Emphasis added]
However, even the briefest look at the February 2005 request (pdf) shows otherwise; that is, that the Marines on the ground, in Iraq, requested MRAPs specifically. The first lines in that document on the first page, under “Description of Need,” are:
MINE RESISTANT AMBUSH PROTECTED (MRAP) VEHICLE. This is a Priority 1 Urgent UNS in support of OIF EDL. Total AO requirement is 1169.
There is an immediate need for an MRAP vehicle capability to increase survivability and mobility of Marines operating in a hazardous fire area against known threats.
On its face, it seems that the Marine Corps engaged in telling the congressional staffers of the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee a bold-faced lie. The only other possibility is that Senator Levin’s staffers misinterpreted or wrongly portrayed the Marine Corps’ claims.
If it’s the former, Congress should consider prosecuting the responsible parties for making false statements under 18 U.S.C. §
1001. Congress cannot intelligently and adequately perform its legislative and oversight functions if the executive branch is not providing it with truthful information–hence the existence of 18 U.S.C. §
1001. There need to be penalties for willfully misinforming Congress, especially on matters of life and death in wartime. These requests were not made by bureaucrats at the Pentagon, but by Marines in Iraq regarding a vehicles which, if procured sooner, could possibly have saved the lives of hundreds.
If Congress never penalizes or threatens to penalize those who lie to it, then it will only invite more dishonesty and a withering of its own stature.
I think the principle at stake is important. So too is the underlying factual issue: despite desperate pleas from the folks on the ground, the Pentagon decided not to send armored vehicles that could withstand IEDs in Iraq to US soldiers. At the same time, they made sending these vehicles to the Iraqi troops a priority. Why? Not clear — kindest explanation is that they thought we’d be ought of there so quickly there would be no need for the improved armor; the stuff also makes the vehicles slow. Even so, that’s no excuse for lying about it to Congress.