AFTER I PUBLISHED “A SOLDIER’S STORY,” A THREAD of extraordinarily interesting and useful comments by others has developed on topics ranging from whether the soldier I was speaking to was feeding me material that was part real and part rumor, all real, or entirely contrived.
My judgment is that this guy gave me a snap-shot of his view of things. That’s all. It’s always a mistake to generalize from a single anecdote, but at the same time, it is clear that the Pentagon is so wrapped up in information control that collective anecdotes often aggregate into the ‘real’ history of an event.
There are two points I would like to seek some further commentary from people if you know of anyone who would like to either publicly post commentary or send me a private email. The first has to do with a private airline transporting a soldier’s remains back to the U.S. The second has to do with the DNA probes used to try and find certain individuals in the rubble at Tora Bora.
First, I know that the military transports bodies, in coffins, to Dover, Delaware. That’s well-known. That is why I was surprised to hear (not from the soldier by the way) but from several people who were working on this airplane that there was a coffin on board with a soldier’s remains. In as respectful a way as possible, I confirmed that this was true with the captain who was walking the aisles and who talked with the stewards and stewardesses (and me) at the back of the plane for a few moments.
I didn’t dig into this. But there have been many who have written that it is just impossible for a United Airlines flight from Frankfurt to have a body of a soldier on board.
My question to all of you is: is it impossible? Are there cases, or not, where soldiers killed in Iraq or Afghanistan, or who have died because of sustained injuries, may be flown back commercially? I would really like to know whether or not collective awareness out there dismisses this possibility. If so, then there is an interesting story here — because there are at least several United Airlines employees quite convinced that there was a coffin and soldier on board being transported back.
I look forward to responses from people who may be in a position to know something beyond the conventional.
Secondly, some people have gone nearly apoplectic at the story the soldier shared about long probes being shoved through rock and dirt to take blood and tissue samples from some killed at Tora Bora. He described long pole like probes with a puncture prick at one end and a box reading device on top. Science fiction writers have even written to me saying that the notion of something like the soldier described was too incredible to believe.
I really have no doubt that the soldier I spoke to believed that these were in-the-field DNA readers and recorders. Whether they were or not is a different question.
Since then (thanks to a reader — badtux — of The Washington Note), I have stumbled across this firm, Nanosphere, which seems to be developing or marketing something exactly along the lines of what the soldier tried to describe but had a tough time articulating.
As the reader of my blog shared, it would be interesting to know whether such a probe as the one from Nanosphere was available after the bombing of Tora Bora. Would this device have been available as a prototype or secret device then?
It would be useful to hear from others who were in the aftermath of Tora Bora and may have been involved in body collection and processing, the search for bin Laden, or other intelligence-related activities to contact me regarding whether these probes are fictional, or real.
I will post some other questions related to “A Soldier’s Story” soon.
Remember to vote.
— Steve Clemons