Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Military misleads on deaths in Fallujah

Unbelievable. Or, frankly, not:

NEW YORK Why did the U.S. military mislead the media and the families of ten Marines killed near the Iraqi city of Falluja while "on patrol" last week about how they were killed? The military announced on Tuesday that it actually happened at a "promotion" ceremony and they were not on foot patrol as initially reported.

Families of the victims immediately raised questions about the incident and it was unclear whether the site had been properly swept for explosive devices.

The Marines were in a disused flour mill on the outskirts of the city to celebrate the promotion of three soldiers, a military statement said on Tuesday.

As the ceremony ended, the Marines dispersed and one of them is thought to have stepped on a buried pressure plate linked to explosives that caused the devastating blast.

But CNN, for example, reported four days ago, based on military reports, that the dead Marines "were conducting a nighttime foot patrol when a roadside bomb fashioned with large artillery shells detonated."

A spokesman blamed the mix-up on "misreporting up the chain of command". As Tbogg notes: "Because in the fog of war 'nightime foot patrol' sounds remarkably like 'party'. It's interesting, because in the days after the explosion, the NYT's John Burns essentially called bullshit on the military for withholding information on the circumstances of the Marine's deaths.

Details of the Falluja bombing were sparse, with the Marine Corps' command officially holding to a policy of releasing few facts about the circumstances of combat deaths in their statement on Friday.

But an American official in Falluja said Friday that the attack that killed the 10 marines occurred at or near an abandoned factory on a peninsula that juts into the Euphrates River on the city's western edge, an area that was the target of the first Marine attack in the eight-day offensive last November that reduced much of Falluja to rubble.

In other words, the official policy was not to release, which of course, is a policy that is violated all the time. The next day, Edward Wong wrote this:

Col. Dave Lapan, a spokesman for the Marine force charged with controlling western Iraq, said in an e-mail message Saturday evening that "lots of rumors" were out there and that most of the ones he had heard were inaccurate.

"However, this incident is no different from an operational security perspective than any other one," Colonel Lapan continued. "We don't provide details of the attacks so as not to provide information that might help our enemies."

Yeah, right. I think this bears some more reporting, other than the scant attention it was given today.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 9:48 AM

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