Friday, October 15, 2004

Platoon risks imprisonment rather than go on "suicide mission"

Fighting the war in Iraq on the cheap, that is, except for the thousands of expensive hired mercenaries, the inflated prices paid to Halliburton and other Bush cronies, and the billions of dollars that have simply slipped through the cracks without a trace, one of the cheapest of Bush's assets appears to be the lives of our kids serving in his military.

The Clarion-Ledger

A 17-member Army Reserve platoon with troops from Jackson[,Mississippi] and around the Southeast deployed to Iraq is under arrest for refusing a "suicide mission" to deliver fuel, the troops' relatives said Thursday.

The soldiers refused an order on Wednesday to go to Taji, Iraq — north of Baghdad — because their vehicles were considered "deadlined" or extremely unsafe
, said Patricia McCook of Jackson, wife of Sgt. Larry O. McCook. ...

The platoon could be charged with the willful disobeying of orders, punishable by dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of pay and up to five years confinement, said military law expert Mark Stevens, an associate professor of justice studies at Wesleyan College in Rocky Mount, N.C. ...

"President Bush takes the position that the troops are well-armed, but if this situation is true, it calls into question how honest he has been with the country," [U.S. Rep. Bennie] Thompson said.

The 343rd is a supply unit whose general mission is to deliver fuel and water. The unit includes three women and 14 men and those with ranking up to sergeant first class.

"I got a call from an officer in another unit early (Thursday) morning who told me that my husband and his platoon had been arrested on a bogus charge because they refused to go on a suicide mission," said Jackie Butler of Jackson, wife of Sgt. Michael Butler, a 24-year reservist. "When my husband refuses to follow an order, it has to be something major." ...

The platoon is normally escorted by armed Humvees and helicopters, but did not have that support Wednesday, McClenny told her mother.

The convoy trucks the platoon was driving had experienced problems in the past and were not being properly maintained, Hill said her daughter told her.

The situation mirrors other tales of troops being sent on missions without proper equipment.

Aviation regiments have complained of being forced to fly dangerous missions over Iraq with outdated night-vision goggles and old missile-avoidance systems. Stories of troops' families purchasing body armor because the military didn't provide them with adequate equipment have been included in recent presidential debates. ...

"He told me that three of the vehicles they were to use were deadlines ... not safe to go in a hotbed like that," Patricia McCook said.

Hill said the trucks her daughter's unit was driving could not top 40 mph.

"They knew there was a 99 percent chance they were going to get ambushed or fired at," Hill said her daughter told her. "They would have had no way to fight back." ...

Update 10-16-04

Soldiers "detained", not "arrested". Army spokesman says preliminary findings show the soldiers raised "valid concerns."

Update 10-17-04

Soldiers Saw Refusing Order as Their Last Stand