Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Female GI Likely Homicide Victim

The Good News is: it's been awhile since a female GI from Ft. Bragg was murdered by her peers.
The Bad News: It's apparently happened again.
The Predictable additional bad news: looks like another Army coverup has been in pl

Fayetteville NC Observer - November 17, 2010 .

Murder in Iraq? -- Soldier’s death not an accident

By John Ramsey, Staff writer

The death in July of a Fort Bragg paratrooper in Iraq was originally considered an accident, but investigators say they’re now treating it as a homicide.
Spc. Morganne Marie McBeth, 19, died in Asad, Iraq, on July 2, according to Army news releases that first announced her death.
Investigators were first told the death was accidental, said Chris Grey, a spokesman for the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command, also known as CID.
“However, as the criminal investigation progressed, our special agents came to disbelieve the report of an accident,” Grey said in an e-mail response to questions. “We take the death of this soldier very seriously and are investigating it as a homicide.”
McBeth deployed to Iraq in August 2009 as a combat medic assigned to the 1st Special Troops Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. During its yearlong deployment, none of the brigade’s soldiers died in combat.
McBeth’s parents, Leonard and Sylvia McBeth of Fredericksburg, Va., said they’re frustrated that authorities have been slow to charge for their daughter’s death.
Sylvia McBeth said she’s now been told three different stories about how their daughter died.
The first soldiers who notified the McBeths told them that Morganne McBeth had accidentally stabbed herself while playing with a knife in a tent.
Later, they were told she was tossing a knife against a board with two other soldiers. The knife got lodged in the board, and one of the soldiers accidentally stabbed McBeth when pulling out the knife.
Finally, Slyvia McBeth said, investigators told them she was murdered. The suspects were friends of McBeth’s, Sylvia said.
Sylvia McBeth said investigators told them one soldier will be charged with murder, conspiracy and obstruction of justice while another will be charged with conspiracy and obstruction.
Those soldiers may be at Fort Bragg.
Soldiers from the 1st Brigade Combat Team returned to Fort Bragg in August.
An 82nd Airborne Division spokesman confirmed that no arrests have been made and directed all other questions about the investigation to CID.
“As far as we know, these individuals are not arrested, they are not charged with any crime. They told us they are not a danger to anybody or themselves and they are not a flight risk,” Sylvia McBeth said. “We don’t know what the problem is, why they’re not being charged or why they’re not being held accountable for what they did.”
She said investigators haven’t updated the family in more than two months. That’s why she and her husband decided to start talking to reporters.
McBeth said she spoke to her daughter days before her death. She said McBeth was unhappy with her unit and planned to seek another assignment after the deployment ended.
McBeth joined the Army on July 9, 2008, and had been stationed at Fort Bragg since Feb 25, 2009.
Sylvia McBeth said investigators told her that her daughter was able to give a full statement to military police before she died. She said she hasn’t been told what her daughter said, except that there was some type of struggle.
Grey, the CID spokesman, said family members are kept in the loop on investigations, but for investigative purposes he couldn’t discuss details of what they were told.
He said the first death notification to the family would have come from Army notification officers, not crime investigators. Grey said he has no way of knowing what those soldiers told the McBeth family.
As the criminal case progressed, Grey said, the reports to family members would have changed to reflect new findings.
“Keep in mind that only at the conclusion of the investigation will there be conclusive findings based on final lab results, witness statements and other issues that significantly affect a death investigation of this importance,” Grey said.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Wikileaks & Torture: Hold The Mayo?

Our local paper published this piece today. Feel free to pass it on if you are so moved.
Fayetteville NC Observer –Thursday November 4, 2010
Op-ed: An order of war news, hold the mayo
By Chuck Fager
Fayetteville NC

Tom Ricks was a heckuva war reporter in his Washington Post days. He's
the furthest thing from a peacenik, but his book, "Fiasco," told the awful truth about the Iraq occupation's disastrous early years, and earned him mountains of respect.

Now he runs his own influential blog, "The Best Defense," where he's still telling it like he sees it.

And what Rick saw in the big Wikileaks document release [about the Iraq War] was, in a word, "crap."

"Maybe I'm going soft," he wrote recently, "but the Wikileaks dump kind of makes me ill."

Why? "If the leaks brought great revelations," he wrote, "I might think
differently, but so far I don't think I have been surprised by a single thing I've read."

But that's too mild. Tom's ultimate verdict is that "adding mayonnaise doesn't turn chicken [poop] into chic
ken salad. Here's my test: Tell me one thing we didn't know last week that we know now about the Iraq war."

Well, I hate to differ with one of my war reporter heroes, but here I have to stop and ask: Just who is included in this "we" you're talking about, Tom? Who knew all this already?

No doubt war-weary veteran reporters such as Ricks know tons more about what's happened "dow
nrange" than I ever will.

But I have been paying attention these last eight years. And since the Wikileaks cascades, I've learned many things I didn't know before. To judge by the reaction of informed observers in many places, a lot of other people learned things, too, beyond what Ricks shrugged off as an "Iraqi version of a dog bites man story."

Here's a short list of some items this other "we" just learned, from the Wikileaks disclosures:

-- That U.S. forces were keeping detailed track of civilian casualties, even while loudly denying it. Which makes the denials a pack of lies, Tom. (OK, there were lots of such packs.)

-- That these civilian casualties were much higher than previously reported. So much higher that eve
n the Iraq Body Count, always very conservative in its estimates, is adding more than 15,000 to its total. Is that truly a so-what, Tom? Fifteen thousand extra dead civilians, and counting?

-- Then there's the documentation of massive torture and murder of civilians, not by insurgents but by U.S. "allies," including many women and children. And that U.S. commanders turned the victims over wholesale to Iraqi units notorious for such barbarous savagery.

-- More, we learned that this neglect of torture was a matter of policy, with top-down instructions for U.S. troops to ignore the carnage.
But wait a minute - could that mean it wasn't just a few low-rank "bad apples" such as the hapless Lynndie England and the sadistic Charles Graner, who were responsible for "abuses"? Really? Did Ricks know that, too?

Which brings us to the subject of power drills. No doubt Tom was aware of their deployment as instrum
ents of torture and murder.

Actually, I knew about them too, since the months of 2005-06 when I monitored dozens of obscure news reports every night for news of my doomed hostage friend, Tom Fox. I recall that particularly, because it was also when the Pentagon was consistently denying that there was a civil war raging around Baghdad.

But those were the bad guys, right? The ones our forces were there to stop? Only now I learn that the power drills were widely in use by U.S. "allies" against thousands of Iraqis, mainly civilians.

OK, I admit it: homicide-by-power drill gives me the creeps. Maybe I'm going soft.

If so, that Wikileaks video of the laughing helicopter massacre had something to do with it. Sure, people get killed in war, and trigger judgments are often split-second. But face it - the laughter is what pushed that video past horrible to shameful.

So maybe the U.N. torture investigator's call for a U.S. investigation of all this is just showboating. But then again, maybe not.

Ricks worries that "great newspapers are getting played" by all the Wikileaks fuss. And no doubt many documents do no more than confirm the adage, "War is hell."

But that chestnut can be a truth, or it can be an excuse.
For my part, dismissing the new hellish depths Wikileaks exposed sounds more like an excuse. No amount of mayonnaise will sweeten that verdict.

And by the way, what does mayonnaise do to a power drill?

Chuck Fager is director of Quaker House in Fayetteville NC.