Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Let sleeping sea dogs lie - for now

Over 200 years ago, 13 sailors died in a battle near Tripoli. Their bodies were desecrated and their remains were buried in two sites in Tripoli. For some reason, it seems that the U.S. never took any actions to bring these men home to be buried according their descendant's wishes. Granted, our relations with region have been spotty over the years, but there have been periods of time when this could and should have happened.

After all of this time, however, Congress has been trying to take action. Supported by the families and other groups, such as the American Legion, some members of the House tried to add HR 1497 to the 2011 NDAA a couple of months ago (the Senate did not take any action on the issue). This amendment would have required the Secretary of Defense of take whatever steps that may be necessary to exhume and return these remains. While it didn't make it into the final NDAA, supporters are still pushing to have the bill made law.

Look, I get it. These families should have their ancestors back - I'd like for nothing more. But this is ridiculous. In case these Congressmen, families, and veterans groups didn't know, we're kind of in a non-war war with Libya at the moment. You know what's probably not going to happen any time soon? The Libyan government letting us waltz right into Tripoli to get our boys back. So why would anyone want to force the DoD to act now, without so much as a caveat such as "as soon as the political situation stabilizes" or some such thing. A veterans' group should be especially sensitive to the idea that such a law may require putting soldiers into harms way over something that has been mishandled for 200 years. And there's all the issue of the current regime getting wind of this business and using it as a political football.

So yeah, let's get these men home, but let's do it when the time is right. That time is not now.

(And residents of Somers Point, NJ - you might want to tell your mayor that Germany hasn't always been our ally (check the video on the American Legion site around the 1:30 mark). Which is why we have a couple of cemeteries there to begin with.)


  1. Leave no man behind... It is ridiculous and shameful that these men have been buried in a mass grave for all of these years in Libya. They are Americans, and they deserve to be buried on US soil.

  2. @ Matt:

    "It is ridiculous and shameful that these men have been buried in a mass grave for all of these years in Libya."

    Yes it is.

    "They are Americans, and they deserve to be buried on US soil."

    Yes they are and do.

    "Leave no man behind..."

    Totally with you, but they've already been left behind. We should recover their remains as soon as we can. But it doesn't meet requirements for DoD Personnel Recovery actions. We've bollixed this up for 200 years - is it worth putting lives at risk now for it? I'd argue no. We can do this when things calm down.

  3. Never let reality get in the way of scoring a few political points.

    Then there is the opposite side of the coin with John Shalikashvili and LtCdr Scott Speicher....

    At a meeting in December 1994 in the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense William Perry and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General John Shalikashvili, decided how to approach the site.

    Tim Connolly, who was then the deputy secretary of defense in charge of special operations as well as a Gulf War veteran with a Bronze Star, argued the case at the meeting. "I closed by saying, 'I will go out the door of this conference room and I will stand in the hall, and I will stop the first five people who walk by in military uniform, regardless of service or gender,'" Connolly recalls. "'I will explain to them what we are trying to do and ask them if they will get on the helicopter. And I will guarantee you that all five will get on the helicopter.' And then I shut my mouth. And the chairman said, 'I do not want to have to write letters home to the parents to tell them that their son or daughter died looking for old bones.'"

    The Pentagon nixed the covert mission. General Shalikashvili would not talk to 60 Minutes II about his decision.

    On March 1, 1995, Saddam agreed to allow American experts to visit the crash site. But because of what Baghdad called "unforeseen bureaucratic delays," the Americans didn't visit for nine months.

    When members of the U.S. team got there, they found the site had been tampered with. The cockpit was missing an dso was the ejection seat. The Iraqis had gotten there first.


  4. Well, that I don't get. Speicher still could have been alive and DoD should have done something about it. Granted, DoD didn't exactly have its ducks in a row with regard to PR then, but still. This was three years and one administration later following the war. This Intrepid case happened during the Jefferson administration.

  5. not now, wait til libya becomes another one of our gas stations, then we can do whatever, like in jordan, ksa and before in egypt.