Saturday, June 24, 2006


A mother awaits answers on GI murders
Associated Press
TRACY, Calif. - The Pentagon waited nine months after completing its investigation into the deaths of two California National Guardsmen before notifying the families this week that they were murdered by the Iraqi soldiers they were training.

Army Spc. Patrick R. McCaffrey Sr., 34, and 2nd Lt. Andre D. Tyson, 33, of Riverside, died in an ambush two years ago Thursday. Until now, however, the circumstances of their deaths were shrouded amid a military investigation.

The Army said Tuesday that McCaffrey and Tyson were murdered by Iraqi civil defense officers attached to their patrol. A Pentagon spokesman knew of no other incident like it.

Military officials visited Tyson's family on Tuesday and McCaffrey's on Wednesday to deliver the report, which was completed on Sept. 30, 2005, according to Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. She called the nine-month delay troubling.

"If the American people knew that the people we are directly helping train turned on our soldiers, support for this war would slip," said Boxer, a critic of the Iraq war who helped spur the military briefings for the families.

"It's very disturbing to think that the Pentagon might be told to keep this kind of thing close to the vest," she said.

A Pentagon spokesman confirmed Boxer's timetable on Wednesday.

"There was a time gap, no doubt about it," Army spokesman Paul Boyce said. "The Army regrets any delay in notifying the family, and we took immediate steps to do so once those facts were determined."

Since her son's death, Nadia McCaffrey has emerged as an anti-war activist. Brig. Gen. Oscar Hilman, her son's former commander, presented her with the findings of the investigation by the Army Criminal Investigation Command.

"My son would have wanted the truth," she told The Associated Press in an interview at her home. "He would have asked a lot of questions, and he did - he spoke out over there."

Soldiers who witnessed the attack have told Nadia McCaffrey that two Iraqi patrolmen opened fire on her son's unit. The witnesses also said a third gunman simultaneously drove up to the American unit in a van, climbed onto the vehicle and fired at the Americans, she said.

One of the trainees has been arrested and imprisoned by the Iraqi government, according to Boyce, but he could not say which prison or when he was arrested. The second trainee is believed to be dead, he said.

Key pieces of the episode remained a mystery to Nadia McCaffrey, who wondered why the Army was not more wary of the Iraqi trainees when her son had reported that they previously tried to attack Americans.

Why was her son's unit split in two during the patrol, possibly weakening its defenses against an ambush? And why were the trainees patrolling slightly behind the Americans, leaving the U.S. soldiers vulnerable?

Was her son, a combat lifesaver, left by medics to bleed to death?

Pictures of her son fill the house where Nadia McCaffrey now lives, in the remote suburbs east of San Francisco, with Patrick McCaffrey's daughter.

She retained two lawyers to attend the session with Hilman and other officers, including one with expertise in military law.

"If I'm not satisfied, they're going to hear it," she said. She intended to speak out on the case and the plight of U.S. soldiers in Iraq, she said, "until my voice is gone."

Tyson's relatives told the AP they were not surprised to learn new details about his death when the Army officers briefed them on Tuesday.

"They never tell the family the truth. You know how politics is," said Ophelia Tyson, grandmother of Andre Tyson. "They probably knew what happened in the beginning."

"People are getting killed over there for no reason," Tyson said.

Boyce said the U.S. military remained confident in its operations with Iraqis.

"We continue to have confidence in our operations with Iraqi soldiers and have witnessed the evolution of a stronger fighting army for the Iraqi people," he said.

"The Army is committed to investigating each battlefield death and providing accurate information to families," he said.

Question Girl