Saturday, November 26, 2005

Body burning investigation update: In which someone gets hung out to dry 
Centcom has just released its executive summary of the investigation into the body burning incident in Afghanistan.

There were four separate investigations launched, including a criminal investigation.

The bottom line: The investigation found that U.S. Coalition forces did not violate the Law of War.

(Well, geez, we could have told you that right here!)

"The Law of War requires the internment of enemy remains by burial or cremation. In particular, Article 17 of the 1949 Geneva Convention allows for the cremation of enemy remains for hygiene reasons and religious purposes."

Yep. It took me about 25 seconds of Googling to figure that one out.

"Finally, CJTF-76 investigation shows that there was no intent to desecrate, only to hygienically dispose of the enemy remains. The weather was hot, the remains were heavily damaged by gunfire, laying exposed for 24 hours and beginning to rapidly decompose. The unit planned to remain on that hill for 48 to 72 more hours and thus made the decision to dispose of the remains in this manner for hygiene reasons only. THe investigation alos found that there was no action taken to hide this incident."

Gee. Might that have had something to do with the fact that the media's cameras were pointed at the burning bodies anyway?

When ordered to extinguish the remains by a senior officer who was at the time coordinating with local villagers to take custody of the enemy remains for burial, the unit complied immediately.

Ok now comes the wierd part:

CJTF-76 Soldiers are given basic training on the Law of War which only covers that enemy combatants may be buried or cremated, but does not go into the procedures that are to be followed. Procedures for cremation are much more extensive than what the Soldiers on the ground understood.

Translation: CJTF-76 training was inadequate.

While not a violation of the Law of War, the burning of remains is not an acceptable practice according to Islamic religious beliefs and customs. CJTF-76 acknowledges that Islamic custom calls for the burial of the dead within 24 to 72 hours of death, and that any burial should be conducted by Muslims.

True, but these bodies had been dead for more than 24 hours already by the time they were cremated. Local residents already had had ample time to come pick them up. The fact that, unbeknownst to the troops on the ground, a senior officer was arranging for a pickup, does nothing to change the decisionmaking process on the ground. The unit leader had to make a decision with limited knowledge.

The fact that the battalion commander was in the village working on a pickup tells me that the unit had already called higher and said "what do you want to do with these guys, boss?"

Apparently, no one told the unit they were coordinating a pickup if they could just wait a little longer.

I probably would have cremated the bodies when they became a health hazard, too, unless someone told me specifically not to because a pickup was imminent.

There's nothing in the report that suggests that any such communication was sent to the platoon on the hill.

The soldiers at Gumbad did not have a thorough knowledge of the local Afghan traditions with respect to burial. This incident was the first time that this unit had killed enemy combatants at close range and had to determine what to do with the remains.

Translation: Again, CJTF-76 training was inadequate.

And CJTF-76's solution?

Based on the criminal investigation, there was no evidence to substantiate the allegation of desecration or any violation of the Law of War. However, there was evidence of poor decision-making and judgment, poor reporting and lack of knowledge and respect for local Afghan customs and tradition. Two Soldiers displayed poor judgment during this incident. They have receive General Officer Memorandums of Reprimand.

I hope one of the soldiers who received a General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand was one of the guys who let this crap get to the level of a criminal investigation in the first place.

The other would be to whoever was responsible for the inadequate training in cremation procedures received by the unit on the ground. It's not like they could just Google the FM from the field. And it's not like they hadn't already waited 24 hours.

Somehow, I suspect it went to the LT on the ground.

Far be it from me to criticize the CG. So rather than say what I really think about this and earn myself a nastigram from someone, I'm going to say nothing but "duly noted, Sir. I see how it works."

And then be very careful about which commands I work for in the future.

Readers will understand what I'm saying.

Splash, out

UPDATE: The Associated Press makes sure to get a comment from a "Taliban commander."

Fuck them.

If I was the AP reporter and I got the Taliban commander on the phone wonder if the AP reporter asked him why the Taliban leaves the bodies of their own dead to rot, and why he's a good muslim if he disrespects his dead like that.

I'd also mention a few women his men had raped and murdered along the way, and ask just how halal that was, and how come his ratfucks didn't give them a proper burial after they were through with them?

I think that would have made for a more compelling news story, don't you?

UPDATE: More at RantingProfs. An National Nitwit has the inside story you WON'T hear about in the news.

Which brings us right back to science class: S**t flows downhill!

Go figure!
"Two Soldiers displayed poor judgment during this incident. They have receive General Officer Memorandums of Reprimand."

I'm lating even money the GOMOR's went to the 2 PSYOP guys...
Nope. 2 ADDITIONAL GOMORs went to the psyop guys. Two of them went to the grunts on the hill, according to the AP.
I did my 'lating' (s/h/b 'betting', duh!) before reading the articles. I do think the quoted sentence refers to PSYOP, though, because it talks about 'judgment'. If the 2 officers were 'ignorant' of Islamic burial rite, they couldn't have used bad judgment. The PSYOP guys, on the other hand, should know better - at least by textbook theory. (Throwing the book out to deliberately piss off the target audience to achieve a greater goal is not unheard of...)
The CENTCOM report cites: "However, the investigation did reveal that the loudspeaker operator did willfully violate known standards for message content and standards for reporting his activities during the conduct of missions. Additionally the operator and his supervisor failed to follow documentation and reporting procedures surrounding this incident."

'Reporting activities/during mission conduct' probably means
they didn't go thru by-the-book channels before broadcasting. "...a psychological
operations loudspeaker team, after hearing about the burning of remains on the tactical

Maybe did it without supported unit approval - a big no-no.
The PSYOPers screwed the pooch.

Any product, to include a loudspeaker broadcast script, must be approved at very high levels unless it's just a minor, unsubstantive twist on something that's already been approved. The message these guys put out was clearly outside the left and right limits of what they could do without approval.

Doctrine calls for product approval to be at JTF or COCOM level in order to avoid precisely the problems these two created (this would have been a non-story if not for the attempt to propagandize the burnings). In OEF & OIF, they've 'powered down' this approval level to the two-star level. While still a little high, there are reasons for it to be that high, as this example illustrates.

They blew it, and they deserve the GOMORs.
Once more, note that training was listed as a deficiency in this investigation.

Sorry, in my book, when training isn't held, it's the guys up the chain that should get the whacking. And "up" should go up to where it belongs, not just the Company Commander.

I spent too much time in the Navy seeing the "little people" get reprimanded, and bad marks at inspections, because the shore based staffs were too lazy to do their jobs. As an inspector, I regularly had to write up deficiencies, then head back to "the beach" to battle the staff weenies, who had the resources to make life easier for the fleet sailors, over the stupidity they had in their directives. On more than one occassion, I was told to "just grade it the right way." I dunno, direction from a staff person to override 3 star signed guidance made my skin crawl, and I let them know.
I have no opinion one way or the other on the Psyops guys. I don't have any special insights as to how psyops messages are concieved or approved.

My post was specifically about the infantry guys on the hill, and not the psyops soldiers.
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CJTF 76 CG is an idiot
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