By The Patriot Ledger
The initial reports of Ciara Durkin’s death in Afghanistan are a byproduct of the Bush administration’s wrongheaded intent to shape the public perception of this fight and the war in Iraq.
But it is a disgrace that grieving families of those killed in service to their country have to endure painfully slow trickles of information - and misinformation - that pose more questions than answers.
The Massachusetts Army National Guard told Durkin’s family and released a statement that the 30-year-old finance specialist from Quincy was ‘‘killed in action’’ last Friday, traumatic news to anyone but not wholly unexpected when a loved one is serving in a combat theater.
But on Monday, family members learned she was killed by a single gunshot wound and her death was termed non-combat related. Suddenly, the Durkin family’s grief was compounded with the unspeakable pain that their daughter and sister, who felt fate intervened in her choosing to enlist in the military, may have been killed either by accidental friendly fire or, even more horrendous, murdered.
Family members immediately dismissed thoughts of suicide and the area where her body was found is deemed very secure and an unlikely spot for sniper attack.
A spokesman for the National Guard said the KIA term was used initially because Durkin died in Afghanistan and she was not at home. That, however, conflicts with the definition of ‘‘killed in action,’’ laid out in the Department of Defense dictionary.
‘‘A casualty category applicable to a hostile casualty, other than the victim of a terrorist activity, who is killed outright or who dies as a result of wounds or other injuries before reaching a medical treatment facility,’’ is how the military defines KIA.
Given the history of this administration’s selling of the war on terror, it is not beyond the pale to make the leap that the choice of that phrase was an intentional attempt to mislead either the family or the public or both.
The bungled public relations attempts over the death of former NFL player Pat Tillman while on patrol with his Army Ranger unit and the false hero picture painted of Army PFC Jessica Lynch are two of the more prominent cases.
There’s also the inflationary claims of Saddam Hussein housing weapons of mass destruction and tying Iraq to the Sept. 11 attacks as rationales for involving our military in this growing quagmire, all showing that those in charge of this war are portioning out information ‘‘from a public relations mindset not a principled one,’’ as Durkin’s brother, Pierce Durkin, said.
Complete answers are hard enough to come by during times of war and news of a loved one’s death are painful enough to receive. But when a young person volunteers for and dies in service to her country, it is an act that should be honored with the highest commitment to truth. To do less dishonors them and their families.
How much information should the military release when a soldier dies?
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Copyright 2007 The Patriot Ledger
Transmitted Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Reprinted with permission.