Last night I read with growing dismay a four page story published today above the fold in the Washington Post. The story concerns ongoing Army investigations, courts-martial and discipline concerning events surrounding an enemy prisoner who surrendered (he apparently actually believed he was coming in to parley) to US forces in western Iraq. This man died in US custody and his captors and questioners are either under investigation or have been charged with alleged offenses connected to his death.
I will not comment on that process in which the Army is doing the right thing so far.
There are other things about this that interest me:
1-This story was clearly a major project for the WP. They gave it a lot of attention and broad space right at the top of their front page, but it was not even mentioned on the editorial page. At the Post, as at most newspapers, the editorial page is a separate effort complete with its own editorial staff. It has been clear for some time now that there is a major division of opinion on serious issues at the Post between the newsroom staff and the editorial people. this incident seems to illustrate that difference.
2- As I read the story it is clear to me that the major US force in western Iraq at the time of the incident was an armored cavalry regiment, commanded by a full colonel. The story seems to indicate that the regimental commander and his staff were aware and approved of what was being done in his name and in his Area of Operations (AOR). If that is so, why are nearly all the people mentioned in the article as the targets of Army justice either enlisted people or warrant officers? It will be a travesty if senior people are allowed to skate in this matter or any similar matter while enlisted soldiers and junior officers are held accountable. It has always been an article of faith and basic principle in the Army that a commander is responsible for ALL that his unit does or fails to do. Is this still true? Pat Lang
I have a friend, ‘B’, who has a friend that is a MIT grad and served in Iraq (now in Germany). I’ve read some of his emails to B re. the war but I was told not to post any on my blog. They were always very revealing.
Let me note that B’s friend is a conservative, but not one that is a ‘talking point repeater’ or one that is fully behind the administration. He is pleasant to talk with and a good person to debate with. He is very open minded.
Now, up until recently I assumed that for every death in Iraq and every crime committed on Iraqis; there was some greater number of good being done in that country to help us prevail and win the hearts and minds of our Iraqi hosts.
I was shocked when B, having not heard of this recent story, told me of a recent IM conversation with his friend in which the soldier said that for every school that is built/repaired there is a report of torture. For every road paved there is senseless civilian causality. For every Pro in Iraq there is a Con. It is not 1 for 5, or 1 for 2, but 1 for 1! B’s friend said we aren’t progressing in Iraq, we are just there, and getting nowhere.
I know several people in, going, or coming from Iraq; and I worry about them every day. I am also proud of them and believe they are doing their jobs as best they can despite their objections and inconveniences; but there is something wrong when events of this nature happen, and it is even worse when those in charge aren’t held accountable while those under the command of those in charge are blamed.
It is a sad reality that I just grasped.
Isn’t this a somewhat idealized view? My recollection with Calley is that it never went beyond company commander. And I think that was the pattern when they prosecuted abuses during that war.
Similarly going back to “falling on the sword.” My recollection is that no general officer criticized the SE Asian war, though afterwards the majority claimed to have strongly disagreed with some choices.
Here we’ve had some discontent in upper ranks and lot of criticism from the retired.
I am telling you what the army standard is. Would you like it reduced based on previous shortcomings in execution?
Criticism of US foreign policy by serving military personnel is something you should not want to see. That is a first step on a slippery slope at the bottom of which lies military insistence on a decisive voice in what that policy should be. pl
Unless you don’t believe in due process I don’t see your point about My Lai.
-The platoon leader was tried.
-The company commander was tried.
-The battalion commander could not be tried. He was dead.
-The brigade commander was tried.
Two general officers in the Americal Division were punished for neglect of duty, effectively ending their careers.
What? You don’t like the jury decisions in the trials? pl