September 19, 2003

Perspective

The H2 is a military vehicle. Keep it on the battlefield

By Perlita R. Dicochea

Humvees, the military vehicle designed for the battlefield, is the symbol of devastation in Iraq’s incessant guerrilla warfare. A recent report in the San Diego Tribune (9/13/03 A1, A21 by Ken Dilanian) describes American soldiers rushing out of their Humvees upon attack who then aimlessly fire at the surrounding homes. As a result, 9 Iraqi police officers were “mistakenly” killed and 9 other civilians wounded. A civilian witnessed the Humvee explode on a neighborhood street. Everyday, Iraqi civilians look outside their windows to the view of passing Humvees and other military wartime apparatuses – a needless reminder that their cities are unsafe and unstable in every way. We see these images of war on the nightly news and morning papers nearly daily. And, yet, the H2 – a vehicle foundationally engineered to match the wartime needs of the Humvee – is the latest coolest vehicle that U.S. consumers want to drive on our arrogant civilian roads. According to the official website, “…the H2 proves that there is still one out there that can drop and give you 20.”

Indeed, the makers of the H1 and H2 are not shy to admit that the central purpose of these vehicles is to excel where all other SUVs only pretend to swiftly travel – off road and onto unstable, rugged terrain. The H2 is built with a Vortec 6000 V8 engine and produces 316 horsepower and 360 lb-ft. of torque (I’m certain some readers are already drooling). At the same time, the H2 is billed as the “perfect vehicle for everyday use.” The makers claim, “We’ve paid tribute to the classic, fiercely utilitarian HUMMER design – from the flat planes of the windows to the huge wheel openings and unusually large and hefty bumpers.” Since when are “unusually large” and “hefty” descriptors of non-commercial utility on civilian roads? And if the incredible ground clearance of the H2 is not enough, the underbody protection will ensure that San Diego’s H2 drivers will make the trip to and from Las Vegas or the Gaslamp, traffic jams permitting.

Practical H2 owners can even sign-up for the Hummer World Driving Academy, which entails several days of H2 training to address the “whole point” of this vehicle. The website reads, “We’ll teach you how to maximize the off-road capabilities of your HUMMER. After all, isn’t that the whole point?” The website continues, “The H1 and H2 were created to handle deep water, nasty side slopes, inclines and harrowing vertical ledges. You bought that freedom. So why not learn how to use it?”

Other vehicles designed first and foremost for off-road excursions, like three-wheelers, are not allowed on our federal and state highways and city streets. But we’ve accepted the H1 and H2 with open arms. While other off-road vehicles are primarily a danger to the driver, the H2 is primarily a danger to every other non-H2 on the road. Hummer dealers are not shy about this fact either. Lynch Hummer, considered the “world’s #1 dealer” in St. Louis, Missouri, places a simple warning on their website: “Never tailgate a Hummer.” Photos on the website show the totaled results of a mid-size car that tailgated and ultimately rear-ended an H2. Of course, the H2 survived the accident with barely a scratch. Not to be outdone, this website also posts photos of what an H2 can do to a thick brick pillar – crumbled to pieces on somebody’s front lawn.

Gas mileage, who knows? The H2 is just too heavy to add the extra weight of a gas mileage figure on its window stickers (“Car ads that are naughty and nice,” September 11, 2003, by Danny Hakim; The New York Times). It takes Coolio three tanks of gas (about 65 gallons total) to get from L.A. to San Francisco (“Hummer mania,” February 3, 2003, by Paul Wilborn; CBSNews.com). And it took Arnold Schwarzenegger, now owner of 6 Hummers, several major blockbusters to convince AM General to sell the initial Hummer to consumers in 1992 (“Hummer mania”). Paul Wilborn, writer for CBSNews.com, reports that Schwarzenegger evaded a question about the H2’s fuel economy, estimated by GM at around 10-13 mpg. Instead, Schwarzenegger responded that the H2 is “an incredibly precise and forceful machine.”

Lawyers as well have insightful things to say about the H2. “They burn gas – so what?” Norman Hoffman said to the New York Times. Hoffman represents the owner of Clippinger dealership, the target of the latest attack on large SUVs in L.A. Hoffman continued, “A lot of people buy these cars because they are safe. A lot of women buy them for that reason. They’ve got a patriotic feel to them, especially after 9/11” (August 31, 2003, by Nick Madigan).

Humvees are often the protagonists of the latest news from Iraq. Last night I watched another burning Humvee in the midst of chaos in Iraq on the news. I suppose in some twisted way, driving an H2 would be like sporting the logo of my favorite football team – Go Team? But not being such a big fan of warfare, I’m not feeling the patriotism in driving an H2.

H2 engineers and fans flaunt the prowess of the largest “SUV” during this tumultuous new era of the Bush and Company’s worldwide “war on terrorism.” Others, namely the Earth Liberation Front, resort to equally unscrupulous acts of domestic “ecoterrorism.” If only it were so simple that the creation or destruction of a mighty SUV would offer a sense of personal freedom or evict us from our compulsively polluting lifestyles. Even so, sales reveal the H2 is the latest, phatest thing we want to maneuver on civilian roads (let’s face it, how many H2 owners are really driving off-road?). Wilborn of CBSNews reports, “Hummer dealers are selling out their inventory with no discounts, rebates or special financing…” But that’s not entirely true, Dick Meyer, also of CBSNews, describes at length the hefty government tax breaks on “business” purchases of the H1 for a total deduction of $87,135. It is all part of the Bush administration’s economic stimulus program. Don’t ask me more about this one, I don’t get it, either.

In the U.S., a military vehicle purports to “buy” us a certain precise and forceful freedom. In Iraq, the presence of a Humvee, whether the target of a grenade or targeting grenade-throwers, only signifies war. Perhaps this is what Hummer dealerships count on, that we just don’t get it.

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