Sunday, December 2, 2012

The DOD Report on the Tripoli Graves

The DOD Report on the Tripoli Graves 

As expected the DOD report on the Tripoli graves is against repatriation of the remains, mainly because the US military is unsure the remains are actually those of the Intrepid men, they want to use the cemetery to work with the Libyans and use the graves as a memorial site for those Americans visiting Tripoli. And they don’t want to go beyond the current policy of not repatriating the remains of Americans killed before World War I.

If they were combat fatalities in any other military engagement since World War I the families would have a say, but since they were killed over two hundred years ago, the military is not legally bound to return them. And the top brass do not want to break that policy even though they have done it on previous occasions. 

Regardless of the conclusions of this official report, the US military, specifically the Navy has an obligation to at least try to identify the remains of the Intrepid officers and if they can be positively identified, return them to their families.

Thanks to the Intrepid Project, an organization that represents the families of two of the Intrepid officers - Richard Somers and Henry Wadsworth, for posting the DOD Report on the Tripoli graves as the DOD should have done.

The one and only question is whether this report addresses the threat to the graves posed by radical Islamic extremists who have robbed the remains from graves in Tripoli mosques, desecrated the of British graves at Trobuk and killed US Ambassador Chris Stevens and other Americans in Benghazi? Does the report do mention that?

That's the only issue that matters today and Chipp Reid answers the question in his response to the DOD Report, :

“The DoD report makes no mention of the possibility of an anti-American government or fundamental Islamic government taking control of Libya. It makes no mention of the desecration of the Commonwealth Cemetery in Tobruk, a cemetery that holds the remains of British, Australian and New Zealand troops killed in action in Libya during World War II. Should an anti-American or anti-Western government come to power in Libya, there can be no guarantee of safety for these American graves in the heart of Tripoli. Indeed, it is safe to believe just the opposite would be true – that the same mob-mentality that led to the desecration of the Commonwealth cemetery, that the same terrorist cells that murdered the United States Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, would seek to destroy the graves of any American military in Libya, especially so since the United States Navy still regards Richard Somers and Henry Wadsworth as heroes.”

But they don't need an anti-American or Islamic government to come to power in Tripoli since the current situation, with no law enforcement, makes the situation ripe for anyone to completely destroy the graves before the remains can be secured and put out of harm’s way.

Since current events have overtaken the report’s conclusions since the report does not mention the immediate and present danger to the remains, the threat to the graves must be addressed immediately.

There is a constant military guard standing over the graves of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, where one of the remains, at the request of a family of a soldier Missing in Action (MIA), was positively identified, removed and reburied separately in a marked grave and his remains replaced by those of a truly unknown soldier. The policy is to identify those who can be identified. 

There are no military guards or even a US flag flying over the cemetery in Tripoli, where the clearly marked graves of the Intrepid men are waiting to be desecrated.

The small walled cemetery near the harbor has been nominated by American state department officers to be given international historical status  s  UNESCO World Herit ge site, but that did not save similar sites that have become victims of the Arab Spring civil wars, like Aleppo, Syria Ancient City of Aleppo - UNESCO World Heritage Centre.

The Tripoli cemetery once contained the graves of over one hundred mainly Christians who served at the European embassies in Tripoli, but most of them, more than half, have been repatriated or reburied elsewhere. If the cemetery was not meant to be a permanent gravesite for anyone else, why should it be for the American Naval Heroes?

Most of the objections to repatriation raised in the report have been effectively answered, and the military should recognize that it is in everyone’s best interest, including the Navy, that these remains be rescued and returned home and if positively identified, given a proper burial with full military honors.

Just as Commodore Preble, Steven Decatur and the prisoners of the USS Philadelphia were honored on their return home from the Barbary Wars, the remains of John Paul Jones were retrieved from under a Paris street, and the men of the Henley were recovered, identified and reburied, it is now time for the men of the Intrepid to end their duty in Tripoli and return home to a the hero’s welcome and the proper burial they deserve.

At a time when the US military could use some good public relations, the return of the remains of these men can be conducted publicly with a formal repatriation ceremony held on the deck of the namesake USS Intrepid in New York Harbor and the men escorted  by veterans to their final and permanent  resting place. That ceremony would call attention to our longstanding mutual history with Libya, honor the men who have died in combat in every war, focus a spotlight on the men and women of the POW/MP Office who routinely repatriate the honored dead from their wayward graves abroad, and give veterans and the rank and file, especially those in special operations, something to be proud of being a part of.

Now is the time, after two hundred years, to bring the remains of the men of the Intrepid home. It’s a mission that can and should be done before it is too late. Just do it. 

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