How Bush Used Lt Cmdr Speicher

In September 12, 2002 Bush addressed the UN General Assembly.  He was laying out his case for the UN taking action against Iraq.  In one of the little noticed parts of Bush's speech he made the following claim "In 1991, the U.N. Security Council . . . demanded that Iraq return all prisoners from Kuwait and other lands. Iraq's regime agreed. It broke its promise. . .. One American pilot is among them."  The pilot that Bush was referring to was Lt Cmdr (Michael) Scott Speicher who was shot down in Iraq during the first Gulf War.  By making this claim Bush was using Speicher to help push our country into going to war with Iraq.  

Like Bush's claims about Saddam's WMDs, the claim that Saddam was holding Lt Cmdr Speicher captive is now generally believed to be false.  It was another example of Bush's "fixing the facts around the policy".  Bush used Speicher to help sell his war against Saddam.  That the Bush administration would do this to a serviceman who gave his life for his life for our country was, in my opinion, one of the most shameful things that the Bush administration has done.

Here is a brief timeline regarding the Speicher case:

Jan 17, 1991 Speicher shot down over Iraq during the First Gulf War.

May 22, 1991 after reviewing the evidence the Navy Review Board classified Speicher as KIA/BNR - killed in action/body not recovered.

1999 a defector provided by Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress claims that Speicher is alive and being held prisoner in Iraq.  

Jan 11, 2001 Secretary of the Navy Danzig changed Speicher's classification from KIA/BNR to MIA.  Per Scott Ritter, this was "the first time the Pentagon ever made such a reversal".

March 2002 The Washington Times ran five front page articles based on leaks from the DOD that suggested that Speicher was alive and being held by Saddam.

March 2002 According to Wolfowitz there was pretty hard evidence that Speicher was alive.  In response to a question regarding Iraq's claim that they were not holding Speicher captive Rumsfeld responded "I don't believe much the regime puts out."

September 12, 2002 Almost a year to the day from the first anniversary of 9/11 Bush addresses the UN General Assemby asking to "hold Iraq to account."  Among Bush's  accusations is that Saddam is holding Scott Speicher captive.

October 2002 Congress authorizes the use of force against Saddam.

October 11, 2002 The Navy changes Speicher's status from MIA to missing in action to missing in action/captured despite intelligence agencies admitting that there was "no known physical evidence that Speicher was captured."  According to ABC News, Navy officials were pressured to make this change.

January 10, 2003 Reuters and the Washington Times run stories leaked by the DOD that Speicher is alive and being held captive.

March 20, 2003 The US invades Iraq.

April, 2003 The initials "MSS" are found on a wall in a prison in Iraq.  DNA of hair fibers do not match Speichers.

June 24, 2003 In a news conference Rumsfeld admits that "nothing turned up" regarding the whereabouts of Scott Speicher.

July 16, 2003 The Washington Times reports that there are now doubts about the credibility of the defector.

May 25, 2004 According to Newsweek "Though the INC and other (Iraqi) exile groups stoked prewar rumors among U.S. conservatives that Speicher was alive and being held by Saddam's regime in a secret Iraqi prison cell, most U.S. intelligence officials, including senior DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) officials, believe that Speicher probably died years ago.  Current and former U.S. intelligence officials say that the DIA concluded shortly after major combat operations ended in Iraq last year that Speicher almost certainly was dead and that prewar reports from exiles and defectors that he was still alive were probably hoaxes."

After all was said and done the original determination by the US Navy Review Board that Lt Cmdr Speicher was killed in action/body not recovered was correct.  The reclassification of Speicher's status was based on the flimsy evidence from the defector supplied by Ahmed Chalabi group, the Iraqi National Congress.  This was the same group that provided American intelligence with the now discredited Curveball, the Iraqi defector that the US based its WMD claims on.

In my opinion it was not a coincidence that Speicher's status was changed during the period that the Bush administration was trying to convince our country that we should go to war with Iraq.  Congress should investigate whether the Bush administration reclassified Speicher's status in order to help market the case for going to war with Saddam.  They should investigate whether there was any pressure put on US Navy department officials by the Bush administration to reclassify Speicher.  

When we use servicemen who have given there life for our country for propaganda purposes we dishonor their sacrifice.  Speicher was not the first serviceman to be used this way.  For example there was the way that the Bush administration used Pat Tillman.  According to author H. Bruce Franklin, Nixon administration and conservative groups manufactured the POW/MIA issue in order to "deflect attention from American atrocities in Vietnam, to undermine the burgeoning anti-war movement, and to stymie the Paris peace talks, resulting in the prolongation of the Vietnam War for another four years."  There are still Americans today who believe that Vietnam is holding Americans captive.  

Speicher may not be the first serviceman to be used by politicians but hopefully he will be the last.

Some of my sources:

Timeline came mainly from Colonel Sam Gardiner's website.

Rethinking the Chalabi Connection: Why the Pentagon cut off funding to the Iraqi National Congress - Newsweek (May 2004)

M.I.A. or Mythmaking In America: How and Why Belief in Live POWs has Possessed A Nation by H. Bruce Franklin

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