By: Greg Mitchell
For years, the deaths of U.S. military personnel in Iraq have often been reported to the press and public by the Pentagon on extremely sketchy ways, while remaining “under investigation.” These are often cases, it turns out, involving death by illness or accident or suicide. In many cases, only the efforts, or at least proximity, of local newspapers brings out the truth while the lengthy investigations go on.
Yesterday, The Huntsville (Ala.) Times reported that Col. Stephen Scott, 54, had died while working out on a treadmill in the U.S. Embassy in the Green Zone after it was rocketed by insurgents earlier this week, according to his sister. He was only the ninth officer at his level killed in the war to date.
Another officer, Maj. Stuart Wolfer, 36, who leaves behind a wife and three young children, died in the same place at the same time while exercising. He had been serving in the Army Reserves when called to duty. His name was invoked by Rep. Robert Wexler in questioning Gen. David Petraeus in Washington, D.C. yesterday.
The Associated Press earlier this week carried an item, based on the Pentagon’s release, which stated only that “two soldiers have died in Iraq of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked their unit with indirect fire.”
Wexler said that he had talked to Len Wolfer of Boca Raton, Fla., the night before and asked what he wanted to ask Petraeus. Wexler said the father wanted to know: “For what? For what had he lost his son?” Wexler urged Petraeus not to simply say it had been “to remove a brutal dictator.”
“That’s not good enough,” Wexler said. “There are many dictators in the world. For what did Stuart Wolfer and the other 4,024 sons and daughters (killed in Iraq) die for? And how do we define victory so we can bring this never-ending war to a close?”
Petraeus, told Wexler and members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that “what we are fighting for is national interest.”
Greg Mitchell’s new book is “So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits — and the President — Failed on Iraq.”