When ever Israel trades living terrorists for the remains of a soldier people ask why. The reason is simple, the very least a government can do when it sends heroes to fight in a war is to promise to bring them home, hopefully alive but even if they are killed.
The US Military has a Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) headed by a two-star general whose job is to account for tens of thousands of Americans missing MIAs and bring them home. A recent internal investigation described JPAC as woefully inept and possibly even corrupt. The suppressed report says the effort is so inept, mismanaged and wasteful that it risks descending from “dysfunction to total failure.”
Largely beyond the public spotlight, the decades-old pursuit of bones and other MIA evidence is sluggish, often duplicative and subjected to too little scientific rigor, the report says. The command is digging up too few clues on former battlefields, relying on inaccurate databases and engaging in expensive “boondoggles” in Europe, the study concludes.
In North Korea, the JPAC was snookered into digging up remains between 1996 and 2000 that the North Koreans apparently had taken out of storage and planted in former American fighting positions, the report said. Washington paid the North Koreans hundreds of thousands of dollars to “support” these excavations.
Some recovered bones had been drilled or cut, suggesting they had been used by the North Koreans to make a lab skeleton. Some of those remains have since been identified, but their compromised condition added time and expense and “cast doubt over all of the evidence recovered” in North Korea, the study said. This practice of “salting” recovery sites was confirmed to the AP by one U.S. participant.
The study was authorized by JPAC’s leaders authorized the study but the commanding general at the time, Army Maj. Gen. Stephen Tom, disavowed it and suppressed the findings when they were presented by the researcher last year.
General Tom banned its use “for any purpose,” saying the probe went beyond its intended scope. His deputy concurred, calling it a “raw, uncensored draft containing some contentious material.”
But what they didn’t say was the report was false. According to the AP two internal memos described the decision to bury the report.
The memos raised no factual objections but said the command would not consider any of the report’s findings or recommendations.
The failings cited by the report reflect one aspect of a broader challenge to achieving a uniquely American mission — accounting for the estimated 83,348 service members still listed as missing from World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
This is more than just cleaning up the records, its all about fulfilling the basic promise made to our military heroes and their families when we sent them to war–we will find you and bring you home
Over time, the obscure government bureaucracies in charge of the accounting task have largely managed to escape close public scrutiny despite clashing with a growing number of advocacy groups and individuals such as Frank Metersky, a Korean War veteran who has spent decades pressing for a more aggressive and effective U.S. effort.
The outlook for improvement at the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, he says, is not encouraging. “Today it’s worse than ever,” he says.
Shame on the JAPC, shame on every administration who has allowed them to shirk this most important work and break their promise to our military heroes and their families.