Sunday, January 04, 2009
Missing in Action and other Missing Persons
Today's Washington Post mentions the case of Navy Lieutenant Michael Speicher. Lieutenant Speicher was shot down over Iraq in the first Gulf War. There are so many different possibilities in the Speicher case. Here are just a few:
1. The long silence from Iraqi sources, who could possibly reap a reward, makes it almost certain that this man died from injuries or in prison not long after being shot down.
2. Iraq has been turned upside down looking for WMDs and U.S., British or other foreign captives with no sign of Speicher. Three letters on a prison wall does not make a case.
3. In Islamic society deceased people are buried quickly, usually the next day, no matter who you are.
4. It is likely that only a very few people knew anything about the fate of this pilot. Many Iraqis have died in the violence and from natural causes in the meantime.
5. The massive shock and awe bombings destroyed hundreds of government structures, burying many of the occupants, including prisoners and their guards in some cases.
6. There are many cases of prisoners being held for decades, like the Japanese citizens kidnapped by Korea. But there has been no change of government in North Korea during that time. Secrets often are only revealed when those who torture are finally removed from power.
7. Prisoners sometimes "go native" and adopt their new culture. This happened to a few people captured during the Korean War and even World War II. After many years they really do not want to be discovered, perhaps due to shame or simply because they are now content where they are. While I seriously doubt this is the case with Speicher it remains a slim possibility.
8. Years ago a relative of mine in the service disappeared from a beach in Saudi Arabia while preparing to go scuba diving. Evidence seemed to indicate murder but the Saudi government, like most, do not like bad publicity. The Saudis suggested that my relative went scuba diving alone instead of waiting a few more minutes for his diving buddies to arrive. Anyone experienced with scuba diving knows how absurd that story sounds. My point is, the real story often gets buried with the body so that some bureaucrat can save face.
American servicemen go missing and get killed during overseas non-combat assignments more often than the general public is aware of. A significant percentage of those cases, like missing persons cases in every city, never get solved. Our government also does not like to parade statistics related to missing servicemen or citizens. Unlike many places however, this data is available for research in our country. News sources are more likely to publicize these details than civil servants.
The Washington Post on Navy Lieutenant Michael Scott Speicher.