The Army said Friday it would apologize to the families of about 275 officers killed or wounded in action who were mistakenly sent letters urging them to return to active duty.
The letters were sent a few days after Christmas to more than 5,100 Army officers who had recently left the service. Included were letters to about 75 officers killed in action and about 200 wounded in action.
“Army personnel officials are contacting those officers’ families now to personally apologize for erroneously sending the letters,” the Army said in a brief news release issued Friday night.
The Army did not say how or when the mistake was discovered. It said the database normally used for such correspondence with former officers had been “thoroughly reviewed” to remove the names of wounded or dead soldiers.
“But an earlier list was used inadvertently for the December mailings,” the Army statement said, adding that the Army is apologizing to those officers and families affected and “regrets any confusion.”
While a tragic mistake, it is understandable. The Army is composed of humans, and those humans have huge databases to contend with, and inevitably something like this happens. Drawing a larger point about the competence of the military from this incident would be silly and unfair. It was a mistake, and mistakes happen. While regrettable, it can be explained and, to some extent, excused.
What can’t be excused are the future letters that will be sent to the parents of children killed in Iraq. It is pretty clear to everyone but the most addle-brained that our Iraq policy is and has been a disaster. The region is slipping further and further into chaos, aided by administration incompetence, Congressional indifference, and Presidential inadequacies. We have pursued a failed policy for nearly four years, and we have pursued this flawed policy in the most ham-handed manner possible. In short, we took a bad idea, added a little incompetence, and made it worse.
As I write this, the President is, in secret, mulling over a plan. Putting aside the fact that I have no confidence whatsoever in his or his administration’s decision making capacity, I find that it is disgusting that the plan is being crafted behind closed doors rather than in the open. Each day another ‘leak’ appears highlighting what the President is ‘planning’ to do, and to date, the plan appears to range from a slight increase of troops so small that it would be inconsequential to a larger increase in troops that we simply do not have.
That is, apparently, the deep-thinking being done behind closed doors, and it is disgusting. That is no plan- that is more of the same. Presenting those options as if they represent some breakthrough is borderline criminal, and almost as bad as the fact that this ‘plan’ is being crafted behind closed doors for purely political reasons. There is no need for secrecy in this situation; it is being in private solely to stop any criticism or vocal opposition. Saner heads will have no say until the decider presents us his new folly during the State of the Union, and by then, as it almost always is with this administration, it will be too late. The decider will have made his decision, and more young men and women will march onward into the meatgrinder in Iraq in pursuit of Bush’s legacy.
And unlike the accidental mailings this week by the Army, that will be no accident.