Saturday, March 17, 2012

How inept is the administration?

The headline to Jack Healy's piece says it best "Militans Free American No One Knew Was Missing" (New York Times). So the way the story's being told now Randy Michael Hills, a 59-year-old American, former US military, has been held by Moqtada al-Sadr's forces for at least nine months and was turned of to the United Nations yesterday. While the US Embassy in Baghdad will confirm that the person handed over is an American citizen, they will not confirm his identity or offer any details.

Peter Graff (Reuters) adds that the person "was shown on telievision in a U.S. military univorm with no insignia, flanked by two members of parliament from Sadr's movement." Graff states that the American stated he served in Iraq, starting in 2003, for 15 months and then returned "in a civilian capacity from then until June of 2011 when I was taken hostage by elements of Yom al-Maoud." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports:

Maha al-Douri, a lawmaker and a member of the al-Sadr movement, said Michael had been in captivity for nine months. A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad said officials were working "to verify the information regarding the alleged U.S. captive."
A Pentagon official said the Defense Department is also looking into the reports, but added that to the best of defense officials' knowledge, no active duty military person has been missing in Iraq.
The website of the Defense Prisoner Of War/ Missing Personnel Office on Saturday showed three Defense Department contractors as still missing from Operation Iraqi Freedom. Michael was not among them.

Al Mada's coverage makes clear that the Sadr brigade considers him a soldier and states they captured a US soldier (not contractor) and they state he took part in the 2004 attack on Najaf and Sadr City as well as 2008 attacks in southern and Central Iraq -- what is known as the Charge of the Knights -- that begins March 25th and is a joint US-Iraq operation targeting Moqtada's forces. Healy traces the US citizen via various media interviews he's given over the years.

If indeed a US citizen has been missing for nine months in Iraq (as opposed to, for example, a member of Special Ops) and the US government has been completely in the dark on this, that goes to just how thin the oversight provided by the administration has been. If, in fact, the US government has known of the disappearance but kept silent to avoid bad press, that may be even worse.

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