Steve Otto Columns
Otto: Inept search for MIAs is an outrage
It was ironic that on the same day Nick Schneider called me, the story of a breakdown in our search for soldiers still missing in action from foreign wars ran on the Associated Press wires. It isn't a good story, and it's one guaranteed to leave you angry and wondering if it's possible to do anything right anymore. Schneider is a Shriner at Egypt Temple. He belongs to a group within the Shriners called the Legion of Honor, made up of veterans. Their duties include the handling of the colors and especially the "Table for One" banquet held once a year on national POW/MIA recognition day (this year on Sept. 20). It's a very emotional affair that includes the "Table for One," an empty place set at a small table as a remembrance of those still missing. Schneider called to see if I would be a speaker at the affair, which, of course, I will. There are so many families in the area that are affected by POW\MIA issues, some going back to Vietnam and Korea.The story Sunday from the Associated Press must have been discouraging and should be the cause of some outrage, not only among the thousands of affected families across the country, but with all of us. What makes it worse is that the story was being hidden by the military, and it was only after Freedom of Information Act requests were used that it was released to the press. v vThe report is a study of the joint POW\MIA Accounting Command, a group headed by a two-star general. The group's mission is not that well publicized but very American. Its job is to account for the estimated 73,661 service members still listed as missing from World War II, Korea and Vietnam. According to the study, the group is not only miserably flailing away at its assignment, but its current commander, Air Force Major Gen. Kelly K. McKeague, said he would not dispute those who say his organization is dysfunctional. The study claims the JPAC does not even have a comprehensive list of the people for whom it is searching. Apparently the "search teams" sent to Europe have become completely unaccountable for expenses or any defined strategies for their searches. "In recent years,'' the study claims, "the process by which JPAC gathers bones and other material useful for identification has 'collapsed' and is now 'acutely dysfunctional.'?" It's an ugly report, with stories of mismanagement, possible corruption and generally a pattern of just going through the motions. Sadly, other than "entitlements," we have come to expect so little from any level of government anymore. But this cannot stand. The return of all Americans to their homeland should be at the top of every priority list. This isn't a question of technology or money. It is who we are and it is a promise that we make. You want to get angry at something? Here is your chance.