Thursday, February 28, 2008

Those Unfortunate Incidents

The Bush team loves outcomes while deriding process. War has its predictable bad outcomes. Enemy identification isn't anywhere close to 100% accurate. Methods used to vanquish opponents have an error rate. Mistakes in taking down an insurgency can add fuel to the fire of their cause, however evil. Take the following examples:

U. S. soldiers killed an elderly man with mental disabilities who also was hard of hearing. The man's broken arm made his jacket look bulky, leading soldiers to believe he had an explosives vest. A military spokesman said, ""It was a mistake... an unfortunate incident."

Similar language can be found in an Israeli Defense Forces investigation into a wayward shell that killed 21 Palestinians and injured 35 more, mostly women and children. "The incident was unintentional and stemmed from a grave and atypical malfunction in the control mechanism of the artillery machinery being used at the time. The malfunction fed incorrect data into the system used to calculate the trajectory of the shells. Upon investigation the malfunction was determined to be extremely rare and unfamiliar even to the expert artillery technicians trained to deal with that specific system. Therefore, the military advocacy determined, there was nothing to link any possible human error to the outcome of the incident. Mendleblit ruled that the conduct of those involved in the event was not negligent."

If they did a credible investigation, it was another mistake, an unfortunate incident. Yet, people died from all these errors. The greatest costs are unknown and unknowable.