Disasters unroll without a pattern
Bush says the mishaps are Clinton's legacy but the evidence is not there
Julian Borger in Washington
The Guardian


(The only reason you're seeing an article critical of the appointed snot nose punk
  is because The Guardian is in England. Whatever blackmail Smirk is using
  on our whore press doesn't apply to the Brits, so they're free to speak)

Yesterday's bombing accident in Kuwait is the latest in what appears to be a
worsening series of US military mishaps which the new Bush administration
has said are a legacy of declining readiness and morale left over from the Clinton years.

Over the course of last year's presidential campaign, George Bush portrayed the armed forces
as being at the end of their tether, underpaid, overstretched and no longer able to fight two wars
simultaneously - the Pentagon's benchmark of military strength.

However, a closer examination of recent accidents show no clear pattern. It
was too early yesterday to judge whether the Navy F-18 Hornet which dropped
a 500lb bomb on a group of military observers did so because of pilot error
or a malfunction. A military inquiry was immediately launched.

The accident is unlikely to be the result of a lack of experience. Operation
Southern Watch, in which US and British planes patrol the no-fly zones over
southern Iraq, has been going on for almost a decade.

The al-Udairi range in northern Kuwait has been in use for almost as long.

The last major military accident, involving a collision in February between a US submarine,
the USS Greeneville, and a Japanese fisheries training vessel, the Ehime Maru, in which
nine people were killed, is still the subject of an inquiry.

It seems likely that the presence of 16 civilians on board played a role in
the miscalculations of the crew, who were performing a rapid surfacing
manoeuvre for the benefit of their visitors.

The presence of civilians on military operations like the Greeneville's is
arguably a result of a squeeze on military funds, in which each armed
service must compete for popular support. But arguably, that has always been
true. The US navy may have simply gone too far on this occasion.

The other major accidents in recent years have involved the ill-fated and expensive MV-22 Osprey
which, in a string of crashes, has cost the lives of more than 30 servicemen.

A government report published last week suggested that those crashes were a
result of over-eagerness on the part of the different armed services to
commission the helicopter-plane hybrid before it was fully tested, in order
to secure a $40 billion share of the Pentagon budget for new projects.

In fact, far from being overstretched, some critics of the Pentagon believe
it has become too complacent and set in its cold war ways to adjust to the
requirements of a century in which the principal dangers are terrorists and
"brush-fire" wars in which US soldiers have been called on to keep the peace.

Writing in the Los Angeles Times last week, Lawrence Korb, a senior Pentagon
official in the Reagan years, argued that peacekeeping was not overstretching the US military.
In fact, he said, such operations only took up 2% of the military budget.

"The military does not need to be rebuilt; it needs to be transformed," Mr Korb wrote.
"In the 1990s, the Pentagon invested more than a trillion dollars in developing and procuring
new weapons. But much of it was wasted on cold war relics - $200m fighter planes,
$6bn aircraft carriers, $2bn submarines, $400m artillery pieces-that will be of little use
in the conflicts of the 21st century."

A history of tragic military blunders

February 9 2001 A US navy submarine sank a Japanese fisheries training
vessel by colliding with it, killing people on board. The USS Greeneville, a
109-metre attack submarine based at Pearl Harbour, which was carrying 16
civilians, hit the Japanese ship as it surfaced.

December 9 1999

A Sea Knight helicopter on a training flight crashed 15 miles off the Californian coast
at San Diego, killing seven marines from Miramar naval air station.

April 10 1999 : Two marine jets dropped bombs on a lookout post at the
Vieques training ground in Puerto Rico. One civilian was killed. Four others
were injured, three of them civilians.

February 3 1998 Twenty people were killed when a marine corps EA-6B Prowler
jet on a training mission cut ski lift cables at the Italian resort of
Cavalese, sending a gondola full of skiers plunging into the valley.

October 2 1992 The USS Saratoga accidentally fired at a Turkish destroyer
during a Nato training exercise in the Aegean Sea, killing five men and injuring 18 others.

July 31 1988 The cruiser Vincennes, stationed in the Gulf, shot down Iran
Air Flight 655, killing all 290 people on board.The commander of the ship
ordered a missile attack on the airbus after he was told that it was
descending toward the cruiser at the speed of a fighter jet.

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