Operation George Romero

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Oh, so this is how we're going to surge troops into Iraq.

The Army said on Friday that it will apologize to the families of deceased and wounded officers that it mistakenly encouraged to re-enlist via letters sent out in late December.

About 75 families of deceased officers and 200 families of wounded officers received such letters sent to more than 5,100 officers between December 26 and 28, the Army said in a statement.

Yes, they received them in the days after Christmas. This is seriously heinous for the families of these soldiers, but it should be emblematic of how twisted our Iraq debate has become. Just a couple of weeks ago I heard Wall Street Journal editorial board member and multiple Purple Heart winner (we've got to assume, right?) Robert Pollock assuring that a troop surge would be easy because all it "means is decreasing the length of some breaks from tours of duty and increasing the lengths of some tours of duty." But it's not that easy to turn a volunteer military into an occupying army on the sly.

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  1. Perhaps they are sociopathic…people who deny the notion that morality applies to the collective.

  2. Just a couple of weeks ago I heard Wall Street Journal editorial board member and multiple Purple Heart winner (we’ve got to assume, right?)

    Priceless!!

  3. LOL…Good job with your header, David.

    To hell with increasing body armor. We just need to give all the troops their own fully fueled chainsaw and a double barreled shotgun.

  4. Yet this is the same government that some people trust to “get it right” and only hold the bad guys without trial, and only torture the bad guys?

  5. I’ve sometimes thought that one could base an entire political movement on the precept that government is inherently fallible and not to be relied on to be just or effective. What would we call it?

  6. Yet this is the same government that some people trust to “get it right” and only hold the bad guys without trial, and only torture the bad guys?

    Actually no. It was the Army that sent the letters, not a civilian office-holder.

  7. And it’s the army that the civilian office-holders entrust to execute their orders, TPG.

  8. And it’s the army that the civilian office-holders entrust to execute their orders, TPG.

    I trust them too. I don’t trust the civilians giving the orders. The armed forces normally operate honorably within a code of conduct. Certainly, sometimes people make mistakes, like sending out re-enlistment letters to wounded or dead soliders [which was most likely an error caused by a simple keystroke problem in someone’s personnel database], but they tend to make far fewer mistakes than the average person or organization.

    It’s when civilians intervene and/or give SPECIFIC marching orders to the armed forces that things go awry, from things like the firebombing of Dresden to torture at Abu Ghraib.

  9. Ugh. This is just evil. I mean, it’s not like the Army doesn’t know about deaths or injuries. Actually, I have a friend who’s daughter’s fiance — returned from Iraq after losing an arm — got one of these little invitations. Judging by Lily’s reaction, the Army’s lucky she doens’t take Woody Guthrie’s advice and point the gun for her country at them.

  10. Good joke about the Purple Heart. I mean, only people who have actually served in the military should be allowed to discuss the military.

  11. You know, a loyal zombie army would really do the trick in Iraq.

  12. This is seriously heinous for the families of these soldiers, but it should be emblematic of how twisted our Iraq debate has become.

    No, it is ’emblematic’ of a simple database error.

    Yes, it is a horrible mistake but is there no depth to the pettiness of comments about it?

  13. Wonder what bonuses they were offering…

  14. Maybe you guys didn;t hear about that movie back in 2005 called “Homecoming” where dead soldiers come back and all they want is a chance to vote in the upcoming election so they can vote for someone who’ll end the war.

    Didn’t see it myself so I don’t know if it was any good but this thread brought that one to mind.

  15. No, it is ’emblematic’ of a simple database error.

    Exactly. Either someone didn’t update a status, or the recruiting side of personnel didn’t get the update from the medical side of personnel. Either way, this isn’t malicious, as some here seem to think.

    Get over yourselves people.

  16. Either way, this isn’t malicious, as some here seem to think.

    That’s right, it’s not malice. It’s a screw-up over a name on a list. It shows how fallible the government is. Which is why it’s important to have the government’s more drastic decisions subject to checks and balances.

  17. Hey, if the dead can vote in Cook County they can fight in Iraq.

  18. only people who have actually served in the military should be allowed to discuss the military.

    Nobody here has ever said that. But why the hell shouldn’t we look askance at someone screeching “This war is SUPER-IMPORTANT and horrible things will happen if we lose and it is IMPERATIVE that we win and. . . what, me fight? Fuck that. People are going to have to make sacrifices to win this war, but I’m sure as hell not going to be one of them. By the way, I support the troops so much I want them to spend even longer tours of duty in a war zone–that way they’ll have more time to get the job done.”

  19. Come to think of it, the US uses a zombie army in the first arc of Marvel Comics’ most recent revival of Black Panther.

  20. It’s a screw-up over a name on a list. It shows how fallible the government is.

    I’ve often been surprised by the folks who are the first to condemn teachers, bureaucrats and officials of government agencies they don’t like as lazy and incompetent…but will give anyone wearing a military or law enforcment uniform an unbridled pass and uncontested platitudes of perfection and sacrifice.

    Don’t get me wrong…I lost my dad in Vietnam and I have nothing but respect for anyone who willingly comes in harms way for our country. But there’s a large majority of folks in uniform who’s lives are not on the line and whose screw ups are no less examples of government fallibility than anyone elses.

  21. I’m willing to believe that many screw-ups by people in uniform (are indeed the product of doing a hard job with high stakes under tremendous pressure, rather than bureaucratic laziness and incompetence. (Although I suspect there’s much of that as well.)

    But they are screw-ups nonetheless, and they illustrate the need for oversight by independent authorities.

    And while the stakes here, with these re-enlistment letters, are so much lower than with a terrorism suspect, it all came down to a mistake about a name on a list. The same happened to Khaled El Masri. His name was apparently similar to a name on a watch list, and rather than doing some checking, looking into his background and story, some CIA agent decided not to take any chances. So an innocent German citizen with no terrorist ties was sent to a secret prison and tortured for several months.

    All because some public employee was too lazy to check a few databases and make a few phone calls, maybe do a few interviews.

  22. The armed forces normally operate honorably within a code of conduct. Certainly, sometimes people make mistakes….but they tend to make far fewer mistakes than the average person or organization.

    This is a broad-brush generalization that I dont think has a whole lot of real substance behind it. I mean, you’re right in theory about the nature of the institution, but wrong in practice. Talk to anyone whos been part of any major deployment, and you will hear a litany of stories about institutional incompetence that will leave your head spinning. My dad was a marine in Nam, my best friend died a few years ago from Gulf War related illnesses (he was an air force forward air combat controller), and a number of friends were ROTC with me in school and went on to be career officers… the stories that everyone tells tend to be black comedy pieces about the large scale insanity that emerges from any sort of bureaucratic organization trying to operate under combat conditions… where often the ‘mission’ given to the troops and the realities on the ground are operating in wholly different planes of existance. Neither civilian politicians nor military leadership are particularly different in practice; any large scale beauracracy will produce fuck-ups of a uniquely horrific scale that in retrospect could have been simply averted with a small injection of common sense. But common sense generally gets lost in big systems. I think you are right that the military has a system which is inherently more efficient and effective in execution of tasks, but that means nothing when any one Bad Idea is sent down the pipe from brass, civilian command, or whatever. And there is apparently no shortage of Bad Ideas in the world. From the leg bags that US paratroopers were issued right before the D Day jump (they almost all fell off, leaving thousands of troops unarmed/poorly equipped behind enemy lines on the single most important day of the war), to the PCB pills that the military tested out on troops in the gulf, the non-functioning radios… you really dont have to look far to find stories of massive institutional stupidity in the military. Any good memoir of war, from Catch-22 to Jarhead, tends to be rife with examples of how well-intentioned leadership often and unexpectedly fucks itself in the ass.

    in short, stupidity does not really discriminate between suits and uniforms
    http://www.ecotopia.com/webpress/stupidity/

  23. All because some public employee was too lazy to check a few databases and make a few phone calls, maybe do a few interviews.

    And if any hammer comes down, it won’t fall on the guy who actually screwed this up, I bet. That person will probably have seniority. The hammer’ll fall on someone who ran the batch using a list of “eligible recipients” that probably didn’t even have a “deceased” or “type of discharge” field.

    Just my cynical suspicion.

  24. “The hammer’ll fall on someone who ran the batch using a list of “eligible recipients” that probably didn’t even have a “deceased” or “type of discharge” field.

    Just my cynical suspicion.”

    Check you 100%. SOP in any bureaucracy.

  25. Wow, another topic for general agreement and aw goshing. This should be called the tch, tch blog. How many people are for child molestation and against apple pie? Toothpaste comercials are more interesting than this shit.

  26. Madpad,

    I saw the Homecoming show you were talking about, but I think it was not a movie but an episode of a modern Outer Limits-type show. The zombies kill the Ann Coulter clone, and a Hannity/Limbaugh type gets turned into a zombie himself. It was beautifully cathartic.

  27. Then why don’t you not read this blog, Ted?

    I happen to like hearing what like-minded individuals think about on a certain subject. Then there are some, like joe for instance, who actually keep us honest by asking interesting questions or making interesting comments from a point of view that is not as similar.

    You, on the other hand, provide nothing, so what’s the fucking point?

    You’d probably have a lot more fun watching porn and pulling your pud, but that’s just my opinion.

  28. Lowdog

    This muck isn’t even worth trolling in. Like-minded individuals, my ass. You’re all a bunch of time-wasting mental midgets who just keep babbling the same mind-numbing platitudes. Sayonara, bozos.

  29. Don’t let the door hit your donkey on the way out, Ted. Though I suppose it’s inevitable you’ll be back to troll under a pseudonym – I miss the halcyon days when Cavanaugh used to out these clowns who all had the same IP address !

  30. There’s a dead guy in Yossarian’s tent.

  31. I say like-minded, cuz I don’t think any two people agree on everything 100%, but you’re finally leaving us so I guess I shouldn’t even bother…

    Oh well, I’ve got a house party to go to – night, night…

  32. This tragic screw-up is just another symptom of an ill-conceived war gone completely bad. The only troop surge I want to see is out of Iraq.

  33. This tragic screw-up is just another symptom of an ill-conceived war gone completely bad.

    TRAGIC?!

    Oh come on! A form letter is tragic?!

  34. Sorry, but this is a typical screwup that most service families are used to.

    This one just hurts a lot more that the usual ones do.

  35. The armed forces […] tend to make far fewer mistakes than the average person or organization.

    I’m gonna go ahead and call bullshit on this one. Maybe you were in the military, TPG, but if so, it wasn’t the one I was in.

  36. A much more tragic database error happened inder the KKKlintonista regime when a Chinese embassy was accidentally bombed. It was a failure to update an address in a database. It was a human error of changing a few bits.

    No, I was not a fan of that bunch, but when it happened I made the same sorts of posts that I am making now.

    The ‘Right’ was trying to make juvenile mock and chatter of a mistake, just like David is attempting here in this ‘story’. This is a shameful attempt at using a mistaken form letter to attack the Executive branch for something that the civilian chain most probably had no knowledge at all about.

    Yes, back over at /. I have gotten negative feedback on my take on this story too. So what. We have different takes on the story, but taking shots at the Executive Branch through a true mistake on the part of a uniform member is quite below juvenile. I can not say that I have always been above that, but at least I can see now that it is wrong.

  37. but taking shots at the Executive Branch through a true mistake on the part of a uniform member is quite below juvenile.

    Especially when there’s so many better reasons to criticise this particular executive branch.

  38. Especially when there’s so many better reasons to criticise this particular executive branch.

    If you have reasons bring those rather than picking on (most probably) honest mistakes and transferring them to the civilian chain of command.

  39. Also, hello retards:

    The Army said on Friday that it will apologize to the families of deceased and wounded officers that it mistakenly encouraged to re-enlist . . .

    OFFICERS DO NOT RE-ENLIST BECAUSE WE ARE NOT ENLISTED, WE ARE COMMISSIONED OFFICERS

    This is the last fucking Weigel article I am ever reading on purpose.

  40. Mad, sorry for your dad. I know it was a long time ago. But still. I’ve been to The Wall. Well, okay, I haven’t been real close because as soon as I could read the first name I had to go. Far Away.

  41. Guy, I was agreeing with you (a rare situation unto itself)…and trust me, plenty of folks are throwing out those “better reasons” with great enthusiasm.

    As for your criticism of Weigel, he merely posted the Reuters quote…he didn’t originate it. But for giggles, what would the proper phrasing be? Re-commission? Re-up? (Re-tard?)

    Yes, I know I can be a sarcastic crank, but in this instance I would sincerely like to know.

  42. Thank you, TWC, for the kind thoughts. I’ve been to the wall as well. Needless to say, I have a lot of mixed emotions about American warfare but I appreciate its necessity and am no peacenik nor am I a rabid hawk.

    At best, I am terminally suspicious of the motives of politicians. Beyond the necessity, the more idealistic their notions of using military force, the more suspicious I get.

    War is serious and has long-reaching ramifications. As a tool, American military might deserves more respect than this insipid fool Bush can begin to understand. He is focused on his legacy more than any other single aspect girding this whole enterprise. And that is reason enough to deny him.

  43. As for your criticism of Weigel, he merely posted the Reuters quote…he didn’t originate it. But for giggles, what would the proper phrasing be? Re-commission? Re-up? (Re-tard?)

    We are in until we resign, retire or are otherwise seperated (‘fired’). Enlisted Soldiers have set durations of enlistment, we don’t. Perhaps they were meaning re-assigned to Active Duty vs. remaining in the Individual Ready Reserve (or another non-Active status).

    Now, if one is going to jerk up an article and use a quote as if it were the word of Queen Wicken, or whatever Mr. Weigel believes in, perhaps actually knowing enough about the quote to know if it is correct or not would be good before posting it as if it were from the lips of his favorite satanic priestess?

    It is just as stupid as my finding an article on ‘journalism’ containing the word “irregardless” and using that quote for the basis of my bashing Reason.

  44. Thank you for the response, Guy…if we agree on little else, know that I dig your handle as homage to one of my favorite books.

    Speaking as a former journalist, my pet peeve was always using “impact” as a verb. My second was not realizing the “strangled to death” is redundant. I could go on…

    While I understand your irritation, it’s not unsurprising that someone – even an educated man – would not be aware of the differences as they apply to officers vs enlisted soldiers.

    More importantly, (though I can’t speak with authority) my background suggests that the audience for whom one is writing, probably would be less aware of the distinction.

    But to really split hairs, while “enlist” is a misapplied but not completely inaccurate word in this context, “irregardless” is not even an actual word.

  45. SNAFU

    Definitely FUMTU.

  46. Guy:A much more tragic database error happened inder the KKKlintonista regime when a Chinese embassy was accidentally bombed. It was a failure to update an address in a database. It was a human error of changing a few bits.

    Cute. the “KKKlintonistas”? Then two seconds later you point out how you are now far more mature a person compared to people here, above painting administrations broadly for the inadvertant errors of their subordinates. That must have been some fast growing-up.

    Also, as far as your example goes, 1) why are you so convinced that it was an ‘accident’, and 2) the clintons are fascists or something for accidentally killing chinese diplomats?

    My above mentioned combat air-controller friend spoke to a lot of former colleagues still serving in that service shortly after the chinese embassy bombing, and the rumour going around in those circles was that the official explanation of the ‘mistake’ was patent bullshit. The reason being twofold – 1) precision targets – as opposed to targets of opportunity – arent approved unless they’ve gone through many hands. In this specific case, the target had both CIA and NATO intelligence providing support and active review. Their point was that there was no chance of the kind of single-point ‘database error’ type situation, where any flaw in single information source would result in us hitting the embassy of the world’s leading economic power. They talked at length at how targets like this were always among the first pre-screened locations in a combat environment. These were guys who had blown a lot of shit up, and knew how rigid the target approval process was since the evoltion of precision guided weapons since the first Gulf War. An obvious follow on question was, if we were using ‘the wrong maps’, why was this the only single misdirected precision munition? If we were that compromised, strange we should learn it by hitting a specifc part of an embassy complex, as opposed to some yugoslavian apartment block. The Yugoslav bombing missions were unique in military history for the number of and percentage of precision weapons employed by US forces, and they were in most cases incredibly effective, upping our capabilities significantly beyond any other existing force in the world. There were a few serious errors – but in all cases of these, they were on targets of opportunity, like columns of vehicles, where pilots and air controllers were making on the spot judgement calls, not planned attacks on researched targets,.

    Second, if I understand correctly, the specific weapon delivered to this target required two stages of tracking – both satellite, and a final stage of laser guided targeting that could only have been provided by someone on the ground with a visual, a GPS and laser device, and who’d confirmed the target repeatedly before anything got shipped. If we were using ground assets targeting buildings, we sure as shit knew what we were looking at by the time a trigger got pulled.

    Well before any news sources began following up the story, both my air force buddy and my pop were talking about rumours among people in both the pentagon and active air combat control units that yugoslav command-and-control networks had been traced by NATO electronic surveillance to this particular building – that the Chinese were both a) letting the enemy use their diplomatically-protected ‘bombproof’ communications hub in a surreptitious effort to prolong and exacerbate our conflict there, and b) were using electronic resources there for conducting tests/analysis monitoring of our flight weapons control systems. The word i’d heard was that it wasnt actually interventionary – i.e. they never actually used their resouces in any way that really distupted/affected allied targeting systems, but that they were basically like ‘pinging’ the allied satellite/airborne systems and examining possible types of countermeasures. In short, they were opportunistically using the situation to conduct intelligence gathering on US tactical operations. The specific info i’d heard – before any media started publishing anything related to this – was that there were a few NATO radio/electronics intelligence people who’d reported this stuff up the chain, who were told to shut up about it, and subsequently discovered the site had been ‘accidentally’ bombed. I think one of these people, an italian, later went to a newspaper (the Observer) with the story …

    here’s something that seems to be close to the original = http://www.guardian.co.uk/Kosovo/Story/0,2763,203214,00.html

    Reading this over now, it pretty much hits all the same points i recall from conversations. I dont think it was something anyone was really that confused about, although the US and Chinese press managed to stuff the problem pretty quick down the memory hole. The basic thing was, they tested us, we whacked them, they pretended indignance, but quickly resolved the issue diplomatically, agreeing that maybe it was better for all concerned that we all not really talk about what actually happened. I dont every really subscribe to rumour or conspiracy theory type analyses, but in this specific case, I think the evidence was straightforward enough to assume that this was a genuine case of a double-indemnity situation, where we could get away with our ‘act of war’ attack on their embassy because we’d already had the goods on their black bag work against us. We could apologize for the ‘mistake’, and assure them with a wink that we were really really regretful of the whole thing. They would protest – in fact they stage managed a few – then graciously accept our apology and go back to selling us tons of stuff. And so it goes.

    If you think that’s some BS, fine, I dont claim to have any authority on the situation, but I’d come to this conclusion 7 years ago, and still havent heard anything since that has lead me to think otherwise. If you really think that the whole thing happened because the Clintons themselves were in some way stupid or something, fine, but it sort of undermines your whole point on this particular ‘wrong letters’ incident, which is clearly in a different category, and something that indeed does happen because of dumb flunkys in some remote office.

    JG

  47. GILMORE,

    I plainly wrote what I wrote. Let me make it a little more plain for you.

    When a military error occurred and an embassy was bombed in error I called it as that, just as this error should be seen as an error, no matter what one thinks of the civilian chain.

    Thanks for your rumors. Have anything on that cotton lobby making pot illegal?

  48. Ahem.

    Officers with Reserve Commissions also have a fixed period of service.

    Back in my day, the Navy was also offerring retention bonuses to officers who obligated themselves to stay in for extra years.

    People may be ignorant of the nuances of military terminology, but I think the article is plausible – especially after the comic experience of receiving letters encouraging me to enlist in the Navy when I was a spanking new ensign on my first ship.

  49. tarran,

    I know 2 former Army Reserve Officers who were under the same illusion as you are and were mobilized after their “fixed period of service” was over. One of them was on the same Major’s list as me and she did not know she was a Major until she was mobilized. Well, she would have known if she had remembered that I told her she was promoted at the same time as me.

    After their most recent tours, they both resigned their commissions. Now they are out.

    Perhaps you remember some recent articles where IRR Officers have been sent letters to be mobilized but were offered to resign if they wished not be mobilized?

  50. GILMORE, let me get this straight.

    The Clinton administration took campaign contributions from the Chinese, sold them missile technology, gave them Most Favored Nation trading status, dropped tarrifs right and left and otherwise gave them pretty much anything they wanted that congress would let them have…and then bombed their embassy on purpose?

    Why again exactly?

  51. plainly wrote what I wrote. Let me make it a little more plain for you.

    When a military error occurred and an embassy was bombed in error I called it as that, just as this error should be seen as an error, no matter what one thinks of the civilian chain.,

    Nice ‘plain’ explanation. You maybe need to revisit Strunk & White.

    Forgetting some kind of Clinton v Bush comparison, which I have no interest in, considering them both shitwads – my ‘plain’ point was that this example you’ve given wasnt exactly the kind of clear-cut mistake you characterize it as. If you’re saying the official explanation makes perfect sense to you, then fine. But i’m ‘plainly’ pointing out that there’s more context to consider. And my point was also that my little ‘rumour’ network (ex servicemen in both intelligence and forward air combat control) was confirmed by news sources. Calling it some bullshit without any consideration of the detail is glib. I wouldnt have raised the point if it were substantiatable.

  52. sorry – “Not substantiatable”

    Maybe I need to revist strunk & white. I’m not even entirely sure thats a word. 🙂 Too many years in business now. Bad habits.

  53. GILMORE,

    Why don’t you just use “infinity” and save all the typing?

  54. Madpad =

    The Clinton administration took campaign contributions from the Chinese, sold them missile technology, gave them Most Favored Nation trading status, dropped tarrifs right and left and otherwise gave them pretty much anything they wanted that congress would let them have…and then bombed their embassy on purpose? Why again exactly?

    You’d have to ask Albright or George Tenet exactly why, but I dont have a hard time believing we like to remind our ‘friends’ that we’d like to maintain a reasonable level of military superiority in order to remain friendly. Conditions for healthy negotiation arent always hampered by reminding people what consequences are for potential bad behavior. I think at the time what happened made sense given the changing balances of power at the time… just like the thing with the downed reconnaissance plane off of china 2 years later. We were in a position where we were trying to establish clear lines that each party should not cross. We each tested each others diplomatic and military assets, and how they would react in response to these kinds of situations. There are certainly arguments to make either way, but i think the case is plausable at least, and actually makes much more sense than official explanations to date.

  55. GILMORE,

    Why don’t you just use “infinity” and save all the typing?

    I didnt mean to strain your resources, friend. In future I speak short for you savvy good.

  56. Perhaps General Aragorn can be called out of retirement to command.

  57. Not to quibble but I think General Sauron is the expert in leading Armies of Undead Soldiers.

    Personally, though, I think any American envolvement with undead legions should involve Colonel Ash Williams with his trusty Oldsmobile, ‘Boomstick’ and arm-mounted chainsaw. He eats Deadites for breakfast. Knows how to whip ’em in line.

  58. Yes, they received them in the days after Christmas. This is seriously heinous

    Unless the family is Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, atheist, etc. etc. and places no special significance on that particular holiday. Then it’s just an unremarkable mistake that serves to feed the 24-hour blog cycle. The cycle ever churns. Is all the material newsworthy? Or is it just filler for increasingly sarcastic pundits with no ideas of their own? Sarcasm is impotent and seems to be the only tool left to libertarian bloggers who desperately crave relevance. But it’s never very funny, especially not to those individuals intimately involved in the conflict.

  59. No one of consequence,

    Interesting take. It struck me as more of a petty attack that could be found from any political stripe with the only requirement being a juvenile sense of observation.

    Same as you would find in The Plank or at Ezra Klein’s ‘blog, perhaps even at The Free Republic.

  60. Guy,

    I’ve even heard of stop loss orders for enlisted. Both enlisted and officers can be grabbed by the government in certain situtations and be held in bondage beyond their expected periods of active service. Point?

    Dude, I think you are looking for an excuse to be pissed at Weigel and the people who wrote the Reuter’s article.

    Personally, I agree this is a tempest in a teapot. The same organization that is so incompetent that it would try to recruit someone who is already in it is likely to make other similar mistakes. It clearly is an error attributable to having multiple databases that are not uniformly updated. There is no cackling gnome in BUPERS rubbing its hands with glee as it twists the knife in the guts of the families of the dead.

    However, I seriously think you are reading way too much into the misuse of ‘reenlist’. But hey, it’s a free country (officially), so knock youself out.

  61. I am half-inclined to agree with the “typical but ultimately unimportant screw-up” sentiment. However, I fear the inevitability of future reports like the one imagined below …

    “The Attorney General said on Friday that DOJ will apologize to the families of detained citizens that it mistakenly arrested based on errors in the Terrorist Information Database. About 75 people from 11 states were arrested and rendered to at least 3 different foreign nations between December 26 and 28, the AG said in a statement. ‘We are studying exactly how and when to release the detainees but are concerned that the effects of special interrogation measures might have aroused hostility – not only among those detained but also among their friends and family – such that they will in the future be inclined to conduct terrorist acts against the United States,’ a DOJ official said.”

    It takes little more than a “juvenile sense of observation” to see the larger danger in the much smaller controversy.

  62. madpad | January 7, 2007, 10:21am | #

    Not to quibble but I think General Sauron is the expert in leading Armies of Undead Soldiers.

    General Aragorn picked up an army of wraiths when he walked the Paths of the Dead.

    The armed forces normally operate honorably within a code of conduct. Certainly, sometimes people make mistakes….but they tend to make far fewer mistakes than the average person or organization.

    Where does the term SNAFU come from, again?

  63. I love how “database errors” are considered perfectly normal and unavoidable. Being a database administrator is so totally awesome. I can make incredibly bad mistakes and people will just say “Darn those computers!”.

    I won’t say for sure whose fault this mishap was, but I can say that I, being someone with a certain amount of authority over what I do, would probably have at least wondered if all the people in that dataset belonged there.

  64. Thanks for the reminder, Syd. I’d forgotten about that.

    I echo your sentiments, mk. I was a DBA for about 5 years and date integrity was a constant issue. Incompetent management and brain dead data entry people were the norm. It also wasn’t unusual for list management to be performed by a person who knows their way around an Excel spreadsheet and thinks they’re a database expert.

    Frequently, situations put things like pulling a list or running a database query in the hands of people with very little training or experience. Depending on how the database is set up, it’s very possible for them to not know the various things they need to exclude.

    Experience would have told me to – at the very least – spot check the list by pulling up a few random entries on the computer to verify things like ‘hey, this guy’s dead.’

    I trained every list person under me to spot check for obvious problems.

    Ultimately, I hated to job and moved into multimedia.

  65. “The armed forces normally operate honorably within a code of conduct. Certainly, sometimes people make mistakes….but they tend to make far fewer mistakes than the average person or organization.”

    This being the same military that has misplaced billions of dollars worth of equipment and weapons, including little things like TANKS.

    A business that made so “few” errors wouldn’t be around long.

  66. About 75 families of deceased officers and 200 families of wounded officers received such letters sent to more than 5,100 officers between December 26 and 28, the Army said in a statement.

    Anyone else notice these numbers?

    Out of the “more than 5,100” officers mailed notices (say 5,150) 275 were either dead or wounded. That’s five percent. Now, it doesn’t say how much earlier the “earlier version” was, but even if it was six months it means the Army’s “officers we want back” list is rapidly getting chewed up.

    Granted, it could easily be aimed at company grade combat officers, but five percent of such officers? I’d hate to see the grunt list.

    especially after the comic experience of receiving letters encouraging me to enlist in the Navy when I was a spanking new ensign on my first ship.

    I completed ROTC at Texas A&M University, was commissioned, completed Ranger School, got promoted to first lieutenant, and transferred to the First Cavalry in Vietnam. Four months later I received my notice to report for a physical so the Army could draft me.

    No, they didn’t let me go back home for it.

  67. Four months later I received my notice to report for a physical so the Army could draft me.

    No, they didn’t let me go back home for it.

    Did you get in trouble for not reporting for the physical? I wouldn’t put it past the bureaucracy.

  68. Despite what the armed forces recruiters might say, nothing says “you’re just a meaningless number” than letters like that.

  69. Did you get in trouble for not reporting for the physical?

    I sent it back with my current APO address. They took the hint.

  70. madpad,

    The last time I dealt with the “Alpha Roster” (the roster of all Army personnel since some point in history) it had several million names to include those retired, those discharged, and every other status. Best I could tell, it was everybody who had reported for basic training (had some people with only a few weeks of service). It also had some “fake” data for testing. All in a huge flat file that I got a new *copy* of monthly.

    I hope that they are now using something more efficient that that, but I somehow doubt that they are.

    Anyway, the errors need to be looked at in light of how many records there were to choose from, how old they were and how they were coded when the operator got the mission to create the mailing list.

    No, this is not an excuse for a dead person’s family getting this in the mail.

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