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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

July, 2005

 

US Smuggles Wounded Troops Home

The Independent Independent reports that the Pentagon has been accused of smuggling wounded soldiers into the US under cover of darkness to avoid bad publicity about the number of troops being injured and maimed in Iraq. Furthermore, the media has been prevented from photographing wounded soldiers when they arrive at hospital.
Records show that flights from military bases in Germany arrive in the US only at night something which officials say is done simply because of flight-scheduling pressures and is not a deliberate tactic to minimise detrimental publicity. They also say that by leaving Europe later in the day soldiers are given a better chance to sleep well the night before.
But campaigners don't believe the reasons given by the US military.
Previously the Bush administration banned the media from taking photographs of the coffins of American troops killed in Iraq as they arrived in the US now opponents say the 'under darkness' maneuver is an attempt to try and cover up the number of wounded.
"The American public has very limited information about the real impact of this war," said Ellen Taylor, a spokeswoman for Code Pink, a peace group that has been protesting outside the Walter Reed military hospital in Washington, where the bulk of the wounded are taken. "I think that a lot of information about this war is being kept from the public. That is what we are protesting about."
It is not even clear how many troops have been injured since the start of President Bush's "war on terror".
According to the Pentagon around 12,000 troops have been evacuated from the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, though because officials only list as casualties those soldiers directly hurt by bombs or bullets, the actual total of injured and wounded is believed to be closer to 25,000.
And a spokesman for the Air Mobility Command said: There are no policies that direct anything about night arrivals or avoiding public contact. Neither public relations nor public perception play a role in flight schedules."
The flights from Germany can take up to 10 hours and given the six-hour time difference between the US and Germany, the wounded soldiers could leave at noon from Ramstein and still arrive at Andrews Air Force base near Washington by 4 pm.
Paul Rieckhoff, founder of Operation Truth, a group set up for veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, said: "[A cover-up] would fit in with everything else they have done. It would be part of an effort to keep the cost of this war away from the American public. It is not surprising, but it is depressing. It should piss people off."
At the beginning of 2003, President Bush issued a presidential order that the media should be banned from photographing the return of troops' coffins when they are flown into the US usually at Dover air base in Delaware.
Parents of dead soldiers have also often been banned from meeting the coffins. Controversy raged last year when the Pentagon released a series of photographs following a Freedom of Information Act filing, but later withdrew them.
But officials have also banned the media from taking pictures of the wounded being delivered to either Walter Reed or the National Naval Medical Centre.
Nancy Lessin of Military Families Speak Out, a group made up of relatives of US troops, said: "The entire Bush administration has been trying to keep the cost of this away from the public. The whole issue of casualties and the toll has been very much hidden."


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