No justice for the families.
June 18, 2003 7:22 PM   Subscribe

Friendly fire pilots cleared. Even though a joint US-Canada investigation found that there was sufficient evidence to proceed with court-martial proceedings against the two pilots, no military charges will be filed.

Now, while charging these two pilots will not bring the dead Canadians back, I don't think that it's too much to ask that these two hotshots be required to face the consequences of their lethal actions.

Frankly, a court-martial is not too much to expect, in the face of the fact that these officers disobeyed a direct order.
posted by Dipsomaniac (16 comments total)
I don't think I needed anything terrible to happen to them (Umbach and Schmidt) but an apology would've been really, really nice and would've gone a long way towards making a whole lot of people feel better.

How sad is that? Not even an apology.
posted by btwillig at 7:31 PM on June 18, 2003

Not really "cleared", just "let off".
But what can you expect? The victims were only Canadians.

*** cynicism at +5 ***
posted by wendell at 7:39 PM on June 18, 2003

In all seriousness, that's war for you. Chalk up a couple more deaths directly attributable to Shrub.
posted by mischief at 7:39 PM on June 18, 2003

But what can you expect? The victims were only Canadians.

Heck, the sad thing is if the victims were American it would have probably been swept under the rug, as another "friendly fire" accident.

After those incidents with the jet hitting a gondola in Italy and that Japanese fishing boat that was destroyed by a submarine, I wonder what it takes for any U.S. soldier to be found guilty of anything.
posted by bobo123 at 7:45 PM on June 18, 2003

This is interesting. I haven't/wasn't following this story closely, but it was a pretty major news piece here in Canada. I seem to remember that in a lot of the reports I read there speculation that the lethal mistake had been made further up the chain of command and the pilots were being scapegoated. It was the first explanation that occurred to me, actually, so there might be selective memory involved here, but did anyone else get that impression?
posted by slipperywhenwet at 7:52 PM on June 18, 2003

Pure speculation, here....

Going to a court-martial would have meant that the use of 'speed' in combat operations would have been closely examined - and the Pentagon has already given notice that it doesn't want that. So I'd guess that's got a lot to do with it.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 8:00 PM on June 18, 2003

Well, Canadians, I for one apologize that our pilots killed your soldiers. Canada has been among our staunchest allies and Canadian troops have fought alongside Americans in almost every war since WWI. This sucks - I really thought there would be at least some token (even suspended) sentence here.
posted by crunchburger at 8:39 PM on June 18, 2003

I don't believe that suspended sentences exist within the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The legal process for service members is much harsher than that of their civilian counterparts. As far as I know, all jail time equals hard labor. Sentences are easily double. If a court-martial was to take place and the airmen were found guilty, 20 years hard labor sounds entirely reasonable under the UCMJ. That's one huge token.
posted by ttrendel at 10:29 PM on June 18, 2003

The problem is that we've made a grievous error that killed fellow soldiers and we aren't making a single reaction to that. What we've done is send out pilots who were over worked and strung out on speed, who disobeyed direct orders and whose actions resulted in the death of our allies. To blatantly disregard even acknowledging what happened is a huge disgrace to this country.

I think at least a discharge from the army is in order for christ's sake.
posted by velacroix at 12:20 AM on June 19, 2003

I haven't read enough about this case to know whether the pilots just made a stupid decision, or if air force conditions (overworking of airmen, availability of speed, etc.) also contributed significantly. If the latter is the case, then any punishment of the pilots would only be a half measure. These were veteran, top gun pilots after all -- if this could happen, it could well be indicative of bigger problems. Not that I really expect any of that sort of thing to be addressed by the military.
posted by caveday at 1:12 AM on June 19, 2003

This is disgraceful - and Americans in this thread, thanks for your willingness to admit that.

I think bobo123 is probably right and that if it had been Americans accidentally killing Americans it would have been kept quite quiet - but you can bet that if it had been Canadians killing Americans, our government and military would have bent over backwards to make whatever amends were possible.
posted by orange swan at 6:13 AM on June 19, 2003

Blame rarely comes in as compact a form and with as direct a target as we'd like.

Did the pilot disobey a direct order? Yes. Did the pilot act unreasonably? Sure looks like it. Was the thread of vigilante justice that runs through American consciousness a factor in his decision to drop the bomb? Could've easily been.

But: were the enforced drugs also a factor in that decision? Almost definitely. Should the pilots have known about the Canadian training exercises? Absolutely. Was it their fault that they didn't? Not at all. Should their immediate radio contact have known about the exercises? Yes.

Failures at many levels combined for a tragedy; it's unfortunate that we can't seem to be able to assign the blame to multiple causes.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 6:45 AM on June 19, 2003

I'd be interested in finding out how much the foot-dragging of the Pentagon on this issue was responsible for our (Canada's) non-involvement in the third gulf war (the Iraq Attack Superfun Pack, or whatever you want to call it). Canada received a great deal of flack from America over being unwilling to commit combat personnel, but hey, if you're going to blow them up, we aren't going to send them. If America's not going to be part of the ICC, all well and good, but the flip-side of that is the necessity of strict internal enforcement, not willy-nilly cover-ups and obfuscation whenever something bad happens.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 7:06 AM on June 19, 2003

Pseudoephedrine Axis of Weasels indeed! What's a bit of deadly but completely unacknowledged friendly fire between pals?.
posted by magullo at 11:07 AM on June 19, 2003

I thought these guys were with the Reserves.
posted by konolia at 1:43 PM on June 19, 2003

Friendly-fire is something that the US Military seems to excel at.
posted by skinsuit at 10:16 PM on June 19, 2003

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