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U.S. Spy agencies say Gulf War pilot likely seized.
March 15, 2002 10:47 AM   Subscribe

U.S. Spy agencies say Gulf War pilot likely seized. A U.S. intelligence report on the case of Navy Lt. Cmdr. Michael Scott Speicher provides the most complete explanation by the U.S. government on why the pilot probably was captured alive by Iraqis after ejecting from his F-18 in 1991. Interesting that this story comes out just as the U.S. is preparing to war on Iraq.
posted by Ty Webb (26 comments total)

 
Whether he was captured alive or not we really don't know. But to speculate that he is alive still, is crazy. I mean, what good would he be today? Sure, he'd have lots of useful intel Saddam's people could torture out of him years back, but anything he knew then is obsolete today. And he couldn't be traded back without acknowledging his existence, which would be a disaster for Iraqi PR.
posted by argon405 at 11:18 AM on March 15, 2002


Interesting that this story comes out just as the U.S. is preparing to war on Iraq.

How so?
posted by techgnollogic at 11:21 AM on March 15, 2002


How is it interesting?

Well, this is probably seen as afine way to stir up the country against the big bad Iraqis. And therefore reduce any protest that may erupt while Bush and friends initiate another war.

Maybe they'll even try to get congress to approve and declare war this time....
posted by Red58 at 11:31 AM on March 15, 2002


You really have to as how? It smacks of pure propaganda. It's sad to give the soldier's family false hope just to curry political support.
posted by fleener at 11:36 AM on March 15, 2002


I remember listening to the radio broadcast the (apparent) loss of Mr. Speicher. Ever since then, I've remembered his name, and the announcement of any new conflict brings it quickly to mind.

Gotta be the Freak Age Factor (tm) at work here again.
posted by Kikkoman at 11:45 AM on March 15, 2002


This news has been around for a while. He very well could be alive, but it's obviously being used now as a way to gain support for the impending invasion of Iraq.

"Never believe anything until it has officially been denied"
posted by insomnyuk at 11:47 AM on March 15, 2002


Kikkoman, same here. For some reason I committed his name to memory when I first heard about his death. I don't know why I did that. Or why I stop to read stories about him when they pop up.
posted by perplexed at 11:54 AM on March 15, 2002


Well, there's little doubt that officials were pleased to have this leaked now, but as noted, this has been an issue for a number of years. The Red Cross visit to the site was in 1995; the family finally obtained information from the Pentagon on that visit in 1999; and in January, 2001, while Clinton was still President, the Pentagon changed his status to MIA. This did receive brief media attention at that time. Subsequently during the current session of Congress an investigation was requested and now the results -- presented to Congress last March -- are being released. It's actually fairly coincidental, though certainly happily timed from the administration's perspective. Is it really that surprising that we continue to have unsolved issues with Saddam's régime?

The story is now out because the United States is legitimately pressing Iraq for more information at one of the few diplomatic venues we hold in common with them, the irregular Tripartite Commission meetings between the allies, Iraq, and the hosting body, the ICRC. This meeting is why the Washington Times sought a copy of the report.
posted by dhartung at 1:40 PM on March 15, 2002


Cold & heartless indeed. I mean, it is. But I can't help but think back to Albright's comments about the dying Iraqi children "We think it's worth it." comment.
posted by Mondo at 1:43 PM on March 15, 2002


argon405 - to speculate that he is alive still, is crazy. I mean, what good would he be today?

Thats about the most insensitive thing I've ever seen written at MeFi. And if you really want an answer to that question - you might want to look up his family and ask them. Somehow, I doubt you'd be able to get the words past your lips.
posted by schlyer at 1:46 PM on March 15, 2002


It's a shame 'Speicher' doesn't really rhyme with anything catchy. Otherwise I get the feeling Willy Nelson would be recruited to create another folk song akin to 'Good Ole Shoe'...
posted by dogmatic at 1:54 PM on March 15, 2002


Join in support of our man Speicher,
Whether you are a runner, a jogger, or a biker

posted by adampsyche at 1:57 PM on March 15, 2002


It's all so VERY convenient. When Bush et al are looking for reasons to justify going back and "getting Saddam this time" they stir up everything they can. IT's all about propaganda and getting the US masses behind the idea - or at least objecting less to their idea.

And the Washington Times is extremely pastisan and hardly a resource that I respect as a source for much of anything.
posted by Red58 at 2:24 PM on March 15, 2002


argon405 - to speculate that he is alive still, is crazy. I mean, what good would he be today?

Thats about the most insensitive thing I've ever seen written at MeFi.


schlyer - I think argon was referring to "what good would he be" to the Iraqis, as a source of information, etc. not what is his life worth.
posted by m@ at 3:24 PM on March 15, 2002


Red58: I agree with you that the Times is definitely partisan -- but you're jumping to conclusions. There's nothing factually wrong with the piece. See corroborative wire service articles, for example.

Need everything be seen through the lens of propaganda models? Your post seems to indicate that you agree that our business with Iraq is unfinished. Would you say that it is inappropriate for us to press this issue? I assume you would agree that having somebody else running Iraq would be good for somebody -- perhaps even, hope against hope, the people of Iraq. What, then should we do in order to improve the chances of that happening?
posted by dhartung at 5:04 PM on March 15, 2002


Also, I think there's a reverse cause and effect going on with some posters here. News has been coming out about Speicher for years but nobody really paid much attention to it. Could it be that now because we are nearing potential conflict with Iraq that news sources are giving his story more exposure?
posted by billman at 5:18 PM on March 15, 2002


And the Washington Times is extremely pastisan and hardly a resource that I respect as a source for much of anything.

Mhm. Do you read the Guardian? The New York Times?
posted by aaron at 5:20 PM on March 15, 2002


Could it be that now because we are nearing potential conflict with Iraq that news sources are giving his story more exposure?

Yeah. It's not like the US need Speicher as an excuse to invade Iraq. If they could actually prove he's still alive and being held prisoner, it would be icing on the cake, but the invastion of Iraq is going to happen anyway. And the public already supports the war, so the Administration doesn't need to spend a lot of time whipping up propaganda on this.
posted by aaron at 5:23 PM on March 15, 2002


"I assume you would agree that having somebody else running Iraq would be good for somebody -- perhaps even, hope against hope, the people of Iraq. What, then should we do in order to improve the chances of that happening?"

In just 20 minutes on the Internet, I assembled the following measures to promote democracy throughout the Middle East-- including Iraq-- that aren't the "quick-fix covert ops / regime change" alternative.
-- Get Americans to start reading about Islam, Islamists and Democracy; support scholars of Islam and Democracy. "The most common and often most significant tool for promoting democracy is democracy aid: aid specifically designed to foster a democratic opening in a nondemocratic country or to further a democratic transition in a country that has experienced a democratic opening."
-- Support peace research and peace education in Israel.
-- Support conflict prevention and resolution in the Middle East.
-- Support cooperation among women in the Arab World.
-- Support Arab language news on the Internet.
-- Consider changes in US foreign policy.
There's more involved here than "regime change." Someone working on this situation for more than 20 minutes could probably put together an even better plan-- but will they be able to pitch it in 20-second, broadcast news soundbites?
posted by sheauga at 6:07 PM on March 15, 2002


How do you research peace?

Should we really promote democracy in the Middle East, if the fundamentalists would accept it? Do we really want a country with a strong majority of fundamentalist muslims to be run by a democracy? Wouldn't that be a bad thing? I can imagine it would.

Once again we are taking it upon ourselves to be the world's moral authoritarian, invading other countries, toppling their own states, and remaking them in our own image. That's what's happening, whether one thinks it is good or bad is another thing. (I think it's bad)
posted by insomnyuk at 7:23 PM on March 15, 2002


Where's Rambo when ya need him?
posted by spilon at 7:36 PM on March 15, 2002


the Washington Times

aaron, I'd only have one word for you with regards to this "newspaper" .... Moonies!

'Nuff said.
posted by PeteyStock at 9:00 PM on March 15, 2002


sheauga, those are all well and good; and note that I did not say that "quick-fix covert ops" should be the next steps. We should not rule out a military solution -- it should probably be a last resort. (To give an analogy, I'm not a green light on invading Iraq; I'm a flashing yellow.)

Indeed, I'm simply asking why we should not press Iraq on LCDR Speicher's disposition, having been given the run-around multiple times before. Whether or not our goal is regime change, whether or not we have always behaved perfectly, we retain our sovereignty, and Iraq is signatory to the Laws of War as are we. Certainly they have failed to live up to that responsibility. But we have not acted towards Iraq with a real goal except delay and hope for a possible internal rebellion; dithering, if you will, outside the gates. We should instead have a goal in Iraq and a methodology for getting there. So as it happens having a tool, however small, dropped in our lap is a bonus. Spreicher may not be a casus belli but I am much happier making Saddam squirm than finding ways to accomodate him.

But why would you assume that methodology would not include a broad range of techniques? (Indeed, your links themselves show that we have been more multifaceted than you seem to give us credit for.) Certainly the financial aid question is moot, as we have been using oil-for-food dollars in Kurdistan for a decade, and further aid to Iraq in support of democracy is pure feel-good fantasy -- we know that if he gets more money, he spends it on palaces, weapons, and pensions for suicide bombers' wives (not to mention Italian theaters).

Other of your links suggest that we initiate a dialog or change our behavior, which simply doesn't make any sense. We are not the ones who need to accomodate ourselves to the world community; and accomodation without substantive change inside Iraq is appeasement and a grave mistake.

Finally, any approach which counsels delay means two things, at least one of which ought to concern you. First, it is very likely that all Iraq lacks for a nuclear bomb is fissile material. Because of past practice (gassing own people; missile attacks on Israel) he has demonstrated a propensity for using WMD. Delay simply increases the possibility that he will achieve his goal and not only rule his own people as a thug, but exercise even more thuggish behavior in the region. Second, the public health situation in Iraq is grave (whether due to Western sanctions or not). Surely a counsel of delay only sentences more innocent Iraqis to slow, agonizing deaths. No: the only moral counsel can be to end the danger of this man to us, his neighbors, and his own people, as soon as possible, and by any means necessary.

I will endorse anything short of war if it can be demonstrated to achieve those ends. We probably need most of that in any case, whether or not war ends up being the resolution of this problem. We need it in places where we don't need to depose a despot.

Please, though -- you need not imply that those who disagree with you haven't thought about this, even for 20 minutes. It's simply unfair.
posted by dhartung at 11:59 PM on March 15, 2002


Whatever you say about the Guardian, this piece on Iraq and regime change lets a group of experts on both sides of the debate speak for themselves. (Of course, I suspect the rah-rah-war-war crowd won't even bother clicking on the link.) Once you establish 'regime change' by itself as a justification for military action, you open the floodgates. As another piece notes, quite accurately: "Who decides that a threat justifies anticipatory action? How does one protect against opportunistic interventions justified on the basis of pre-emptive self-defence? The UN charter is clear: in the absence of an attack, the security council alone can act." The US has the military obesity and brimming self-confidence to know that international rules of engagement no longer apply. Others may feel encouraged to try their luck at 'regime change' elsewhere. The entire approach is facile. But that's par for the course these days.

Please, though -- you need not imply that those who disagree with you haven't thought about this, even for 20 minutes. It's simply unfair.

True: it's much more of an indictment to suggest that you've devoted hours of thought to this, and still come down in favour of the least thoughtful solution.
posted by riviera at 12:46 AM on March 16, 2002


We are not the ones who need to accomodate ourselves to the world community;

Because of past practice (gassing own people; missile attacks on Israel) he has demonstrated a propensity for using WMD.


Why do people keep bringing up the gas attacks on the Kurds to prove Hussein's evil? The U.S. continued to support his regime even after he did this, so it's just as embarrassing for the U.S. So yes the U.S. does need to accomodate itself to new realities in the world community in that it needs to stop propping up murderous regimes who might serve our short term interests. This is one of the reaons why much of the world laughs uproariously at Bush's good/evil rhetoric, which, granted, is primarily intended for National Enquirer-reading Americans.

And the public already supports the war, so the Administration doesn't need to spend a lot of time whipping up propaganda on this.

The public supports the War on Terror (tm), but I don't know if the public supports, specifically, an invasion of Iraq. Could you provide some support?
posted by Ty Webb at 8:59 AM on March 16, 2002


dhartung: I agree with your analysis but I was curious as to your thoughts about a hypothetical situation. Let's say we decided not to attack Iraq. And then Iraq was able to complete several medium grade nuclear weapons. Without ICBM's he's got a limited range so it's not a US concern in terms of direct attack. But Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Kuwait get a letter from Saddam saying, "Listen, give up the oil fields or I will kill millions of your people with my bombs."

How likely is it that Saudi Arabia, Iran, possibly Kuwait, most of Europe, and big chunks of Asia all blame the US for not taking out Hussien? Personally, I feel that the US is always facing this sort of Catch-22 from people who want their cake and to eat it too. Saudi Arabia wants US troops out of SA but the second it is threatened by someone like Iraq, the US president will be the first outgoing phone call from the Saudi palace.
posted by billman at 11:11 AM on March 16, 2002


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