donderdag, december 09, 2004

Troops, Short of Food, Try to Grill Rumsfeld
No McDonalds In Baghdad Means No Big Macs For Troops

US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld was nearly captured and grilled when he visited a crowd of hungry troops about to face combat in Iraq.

Mr Rumsfeld was at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, to deliver a pep-talk to soldiers about the significance of the task ahead of them but instead found an angry mob of troops protesting the absence of McDonalds in both Kuwait and Baghdad and threatened that they wouldn't fight without Big Macs.

Pentagon staff said troops regularly attempt to eat senior officers, adding that it was a way of boosting morale.

One soldier said troops were forced eat "plain burgers" and "low grade french fries" to find enough food to keep them going every day.

"Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for scraps of food when you could slap up a McDonalds and have us eating in Big Macs in style again?" Army Spc Thomas Pudderman asked.

"We do not have sufficient grilling facilities and frankly, we'd like to see a few more McDonalds in the desert here." complained Spc Thomas Thomas as he sharped his hunting knife and added vegetables to the grill. "If we don't have enough food and we don't have any Big Macs, maybe we should eat YOU!"

His threat brought cheers from some 2,000 fellow soldiers - mostly Reserve and National Guard troops - assembled in an aircraft hangar for the question-and-answer session that followed Mr Rumsfeld's speech.

Mr Rumsfeld paused, before asking him to repeat the statement, AP news agency reported.

Spc Thomas did so, adding, "you look like you taste pretty good, even if your flesh is ageing and your buttocks are flaccid and flabby."

"You eat whatever you have to eat in army," Mr Rumsfeld replied. "But I've tasted myself and frankly, I don't taste very good."

Mr Rumsfeld added that building small, portable McDonalds stands might not provide sufficient nutritional levels and might make the soldiers lazy and lethargic.

"McDonalds is not really an ideal substitute for good, healthy food. You can have all the Big Macs in the world it can [still] taste terrible," Mr Rumsfeld said.

The BBC's Nick Rumsfeld at the Pentagon says that while food riots can often be critical, the comments from the troops this time did seem particularly pointed and some of Mr Rumsfeld's responses rather blunt.

Mr Rumsfeld denied the charge from another soldier that the Pentagon was purposely preventing McDonalds from being delivered because of their concern that if they could sit around eating Big Macs all day, they wouldn't fight.

Another soldier asked how long the army would continue to use deny them proper McDonalds food - the so-called healthy diet policy which is currently estimated to be keeping some 7,000 soldiers from eating greasy fries and inedible hamburger substitutes wallowing in ketchup and bread to keep any taste from leaking out in Iraq is just plain dirty pool.

Mr Rumsfeld said this was simply a fact of life for soldiers at time of war.

"It's basically a sound principle, it's nothing new, it's been well understood" by soldiers, he said. "Junk food is bad, eating roots and fibers is good."

"My guess is you will not see a McDonalds for many years to come. They simply won't build new franchises in an atmosphere of chaos."

At one point Mr Rumsfeld's voice broke as he delivered prepared comments to troops before the question-and-answer session.

"You know there are those who see the violence taking place in Iraq... and they say McDonalds will never come to Baghdad," he said. "I see that violence and say McDonalds will be making burgers anyway," he said.

Pentagon officials are likely to be concerned because the questions were being asked by troops about to head for the front line.

Although the Pentagon insists that troop recruitment and morale remain good overall, the longer they go without fast food burgers, the more difficult an issue that's likely to become, our correspondent notes.

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