Platoon Defies Orders In
Missippi soldier calls home, cites safety concerns.
By Jeremy Hudson
A 17-member Army Reserve platoon with troops from Jackson
and around the Southeast deployed to Iraq is under arrest for refusing
a "suicide mission" to deliver fuel, the troops' relatives said
The soldiers refused an order on Wednesday to go to Taji,
Iraq - north of Baghdad - because their vehicles were considered "deadlined"
or extremely unsafe, said Patricia McCook of Jackson, wife of Sgt. Larry
Sgt. McCook, a deputy at the Hinds County Detention Center,
and the 16 other members of the 343rd Quartermaster Company from Rock
Hill, S.C., were read their rights and moved from the military barracks
into tents, Patricia McCook said her husband told her during a panicked
phone call about 5 a.m. Thursday.
The platoon could be charged with the willful disobeying
of orders, punishable by dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of pay and
up to five years confinement, said military law expert Mark Stevens, an
associate professor of justice studies at Wesleyan College in Rocky Mount,
No military officials were able to confirm or deny the
detainment of the platoon Thursday.
But today, Sgt. Salju Thomas of the Combined Press Information
Center in Baghdad issued a statement saying that an investigation has
"The Commander General of the 13 Corps Support Group
has appointed a deputy commander to lead an investigation into allegations
that members of the 343 Quartermaster Company refused to participate in
theri assigned convoy mission on Oct. 13," Thomas' statement said.
The investigation team is currently in Tallil taking
statements and interviewing those involved, Thomas said in the statement.
U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson said he plans to submit a congressional
inquiry today on behalf of the Mississippi soldiers to launch an investigation
into whether they are being treated improperly.
"I would not want any member of the military to
be put in a dangerous situation ill-equipped," said Thompson, who
was contacted by families. "I have had similar complaints from military
families about vehicles that weren't armor-plated, or bullet-proof vests
that are outdated. It concerns me because we made over $150 billion in
funds available to equip our forces in Iraq.
"President Bush takes the position that the troops
are well-armed, but if this situation is true, it calls into question
how honest he has been with the country," Thompson said.
The 343rd is a supply unit whose general mission is to
deliver fuel and water. The unit includes three women and 14 men and those
with ranking up to sergeant first class.
"I got a call from an officer in another unit early
(Thursday) morning who told me that my husband and his platoon had been
arrested on a bogus charge because they refused to go on a suicide mission,"
said Jackie Butler of Jackson, wife of Sgt. Michael Butler, a 24-year
reservist. "When my husband refuses to follow an order, it has to
be something major."
The platoon being held has troops from Alabama, Kentucky,
North Carolina, Mississippi and South Carolina, said Teresa Hill of Dothan,
Ala., whose daughter Amber McClenny is among those being detained.
McClenny, 21, pleaded for help in a message left on her
mother's answering machine early Thursday morning.
"They are holding us against our will," McClenny
said. "We are now prisoners."
McClenny told her mother her unit tried to deliver fuel
to another base in Iraq Wednesday, but was sent back because the fuel
had been contaminated with water. The platoon returned to its base, where
it was told to take the fuel to another base, McClenny told her mother.
The platoon is normally escorted by armed Humvees and
helicopters, but did not have that support Wednesday, McClenny told her
The convoy trucks the platoon was driving had experienced
problems in the past and were not being properly maintained, Hill said
her daughter told her.
The situation mirrors other tales of troops being sent
on missions without proper equipment.
Aviation regiments have complained of being forced to
fly dangerous missions over Iraq with outdated night-vision goggles and
old missile-avoidance systems. Stories of troops' families purchasing
body armor because the military didn't provide them with adequate equipment
have been included in recent presidential debates.
Patricia McCook said her husband, a staff sergeant, understands
well the severity of disobeying orders. But he did not feel comfortable
taking his soldiers on another trip.
"He told me that three of the vehicles they were
to use were deadlines ... not safe to go in a hotbed like that,"
Patricia McCook said.
Hill said the trucks her daughter's unit was driving
could not top 40 mph.
"They knew there was a 99 percent chance they were
going to get ambushed or fired at," Hill said her daughter told her.
"They would have had no way to fight back."
Kathy Harris of Vicksburg is the mother of Aaron Gordon,
20, who is among those being detained. Her primary concern is that she
has been told the soldiers have not been provided access to a judge advocate
Stevens said if the soldiers are being confined, law
requires them to have a hearing before a magistrate within seven days.
Harris said conditions for the platoon have been difficult
of late. Her son e-mailed her earlier this week to ask what the penalty
would be if he became physical with a commanding officer, she said.
But Nadine Stratford of Rock Hill, S.C., said her godson
Colin Durham, 20, has been happy with his time in Iraq. She has not heard
from him since the platoon was detained.
"When I talked to him about a month ago, he was
fine," Stratford said. "He said it was like being at home."
Iraqi nuclear sites looted 'professionally'.
ISN SECURITY WATCH (15/10/04) - Officials of the
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) believe that the stripping of
several Iraqi dual-use nuclear facilities, from which significant quantities
of equipment and material have been removed since the country was occupied
by the US in 2003, must have been carried out by professionals with access
to heavy moving and demolition machinery, unnamed diplomats told Reuters
news agency on Friday.
The revelation that the sites were not taken apart by random looters,
but seemed to have been carefully and systematically dismantled by experts
using professional equipment, raised fears of proliferation and that some
of the technology could be converted for military use.
The IAEA informed the UN Security Council this week that raw materials
as well as machines, including milling machines and electron beam welders,
had been removed from several Iraqi sites, and that neither the US occupation
forces nor the US-installed interim Iraqi administration had been aware
of the disappearances. One diplomat close to the IAEA told Reuters that
dozens of sites were being dismantled, with many buildings taken down
and warehouses emptied, in operations that would require a certain degree
Iraq's interim minister of science and technology Rashad Umar was quoted
as saying that all nuclear sites and stores under his supervision were
accounted for, and that no material had recently gone missing, although
there was some looting in March and April 2003. However, it appeared that
he was referring mainly to the Tuweitha research complex near Baghdad,
which is overseen by his ministry, but one diplomat close to the IAEA
was quoted as saying that the UN agency was more concerned about other
nuclear installations that were under the control of the interim Iraqi
IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei recently warned that material that could be
used or converted for use in weapons had gone missing from Iraq unnoticed
since the country was occupied by a US-led international coalition last
year, ostensibly in order to remove the country's alleged "weapons
of mass destruction" stockpiles. The IAEA dismantled the Iraqi nuclear
weapons program between 1991 and 1998, and determined during inspections
carried out between November 2002 and March 2003 that the only relevant
material remaining in Iraq was dual-use equipment that was not being used
in military research. None of the alleged weapons stockpiles have been
found in Iraq.
ElBaradei's nuclear arms experts rely on satellite images to assess the
state of nuclear facilities in Iraq, as the US has prevented them from
returning to the country since the invasion. The IAEA signaled earlier
this week that it might return to Iraq, after Iraqi officials had said
that the UN agency would be welcome to conduct any inspections.