All's not quiet on the military supply front
By Timothy L. O'Brien
The New York Times
A 9-millimeter bullet, erupting from the barrel of a handgun at 1,100 to 1,400 feet per second, can puncture skin, splinter bone and shred internal organs. A 7.62-millimeter rifle slug, flashing along at about 2,750 feet a second, dispatches targets at greater distances and with more accuracy and force than most handgun ammunition. And the human body — essentially a large, mobile sack of water — offers little resistance to bullets of any caliber.
Bulletproof vests, made of Kevlar and other fabrics, are meant to shield vulnerable bodies, giving a veteran cop on the beat or a young soldier on patrol in Baghdad added protection. Most vests, if properly designed, can stop a 9-millimeter handgun bullet. No vest, unless it is supplemented with heavy, brittle ceramic inserts, can stop a high-velocity rifle bullet. Over time, or with repeated exposure to gunfire, all vests degrade and lose their stopping power. Still, well-made vests offer wearers a measure of security in encounters that might otherwise prove fatal.
When the Iraq war began in early 2003, analysts say, the American military hadn't stocked up on body armor because the White House did not intend to send a large occupational force. The White House game plan called for lightning strikes led by lithe, technologically adept forces that would snare a quick victory. A light deployment of troops and a harmonious occupation were to follow, with the Pentagon anticipating relatively little hand-to-hand or house-to-house fighting. But as the breadth and duration of the Iraqi occupation grew, the war became a series of perilous, unpredictable street fights in Baghdad and other cities, leaving soldiers exposed to sniper fire and close-quarters combat — and in urgent need of hundreds of thousands of bulletproof vests.
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