Volume 96, Issue 13
Thursday September 19, 2002

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Someone's gotta pay

Fuh getta 'bout it
Paolo Zinatelli
News Editor

On Apr. 17, 2002, a United States F-16 pilot dropped a 225 kilogram bomb on Canadian soldiers engaged in training exercises in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

This action resulted in the death of four Canadian soldiers – eight more were severely wounded. Both Canada and the United States set up military inquiries to discover what factors contributed to the horrible and accidental tragedy.

The death of these four soldiers marked the first time since the Korean War that Canada has suffered casualties in combat. The two inquiries into the incident went on for months and, when released, found U.S. Air Force Major Harry Schmidt had acted improperly and against military protocol.

Last week, Schmidt, along with flight commander William Umbach, were charged with four counts of manslaughter and eight counts of assault.

When the "friendly fire" incident first occurred last April, Americans reacted in horror and shock, with an outpouring of sympathy for Canadians.

Now, all that has changed. While Americans still feel sympathetic, since the charges were laid, many of their attitudes are much different.

This change in belief has even reached levels inside the American government, with the Governor of Illinois telling citizens to donate money to pay for the U.S. soldiers' legal bills.

What is wrong with this picture? A hell of a lot.

These two men acted improperly and it cost four lives. Two inquiries, led by their own superiors and Canadian officials, found them at fault. Even the public condemned them for acting inappropriately.

They are finally being prosecuted, yet sentiment has changed from, "That's horrible, how could that have happened?" to "That's horrible, we feel bad, but mistakes happen."

Yes, mistakes do happen, but someone must pay for them. Were they really thinking: they killed four men, acted incorrectly, went against all military orders, but no, they shouldn't be charged or go to jail for it?

They should be hauled in front of the court, found guilty, if that's what the evidence indicates, and be sentenced to a very long jail term.

That is the only justice for what happened. The families of the four men killed, and the eight men wounded, are still grieving and will never be able to overcome their loss.

The only way to begin the healing process is for some kind of legal action to take place – and it has. Good for the American justice system for recognizing that. Shame on the American public for not.

If the situation had been reversed and American soldiers were killed, allies or not, the U.S. would have demanded our pilots' heads on a silver platter.

It is a sad, sad day when four lives can be looked at and shrugged off as if it were really no big deal.

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2002 THE GAZETTE