Was Rummy blindsided?
According to drudgereport.com, the soldier who asked the pointed question to Donald Rumsfeld yesterday (in Kuwait, not Iraq, as I had written) was coached to speak up by a reporter from the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Edward Lee Pitts. This doesn't detract from the basic grievance, but it does put the incident in better perspective. The soldier, Spec. Thomas Wilson, was also from Tennessee. He complained that his men had to scrounge through junkyards to find scrap metal plate to protect their vehicles. As Rush Limbaugh pointed out today, it's a lot like U.S. Army troops in Normandy who rigged their Sherman tanks with devices to cut through the hedgerows. Such resourceful adaptation under fire is the stuff of military legend.
UPDATE: Lefty cartoonist Dan Perkins (of This Modern World fame) made a good observation about the "unfair questioning" by the reporter: "only one question is relevant--did the reporter also engineer the spontaneous roar of applause from the rest of the troops in the audience?" Indeed, it would be hard to interpret that as anything else but a clear indication of discontent within the ranks. It's worth mentioning that other soldiers complained about the lack of supplies and "antiquated equipment" made available to National Guard units, and delays in paycheck delivery. Guard and Reserve units, composed of older civilians who are more likely to speak their mind without regard to military protocol, currently account for 45 percent of all U.S. forces in Iraq. (See the transcript of Rumsfeld's meeting with troops; link via Washington Post.)