The following e-mail was received from Dino Carluccio, aide to Senator Bob Smith (R-NH) - we think it important that we share the full text with you.
Subject: Re: Here we go again... U.S. POWs in Yugoslavia --- Review this timeline, which I think shows that the Administration has done a POOR job in dealing with and reacting to the capture of three U.S. Army personnel by Serb-Yugoslav forces this week.
Despite all the laws (both U.S. and international), all our collective work, and all the proclamations by Administration policy-makers about how on top of POW/MIA and personnel recovery issues they are, even in regard to Kosovo (see this week's DPMO weekly update from Deputy Asst. Secretary of Defense for POW/Missing Personnel Affairs, Robert Jones), we are nonetheless witnessing an inexcusable performance and public relations disaster so far this week, let alone the terrible signals being sent to active duty U.S. military personnel. (I'm still keeping my fingers crossed, and hoping for some good luck and skill by our men in uniform, with respect to Personnel Recovery planning and operations on this matter.)
Dino L. Carluccio
(All times EST and approximate)
Wednesday, 7 a.m. -- U.S. Army three-man patrol reported missing along Macedonia/Kosovo border in the Balkans.
-- Last radio transmission is that they are receiving fire and surrounded by enemy forces.
-- (Note: Under Missing Persons Act, as amended, the U.S. Army Commander of the unit or area to which the missing patrol was assigned is required to "recommend" that the persons be placed in a "missing status." I'm assuming this happened.)
Wednesday, 9 p.m. -- U.S. media outlets report the U.S. Army 3-man patrol as missing.
Thursday, 2 a.m. -- President Clinton informed by National Security Advisor Berger that the 3 U.S. Army personnel are being held by Serb forces and that a video of the three men has appeared on Yugoslav television in which they appear to be making statements, and in which they also appear to have been beaten with obvious bruises.
Thursday, 7 a.m. -- America awakes to morning news programs showing the Serb video of the 3 captured U.S. Army personnel.
Thursday, 10 a.m. -- Senator Smith's office places call to contacts in Defense Department Office of General Counsel with simple question -- is the United States of America engaged in an armed conflict of an international character against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia? Under the Geneva Conventions of 1949 on the Treatment of Prisoners of War (Part One, Article Two) - of which both Yugoslavia and the United States are signatories - if the answer is yes, then "any member of the Armed Forces of a party to the conflict who has fallen into the power of the enemy" is a "Prisoner of War" (Part One, Article 4, Section 1) "from the time they fall into the power of the enemy and until their final release and repatriation" (Part One, Article 5). It doesn't matter what side of the Kosovo/Macedonia border they were on, or in what capacity they were operating under in the region (ie: NATO, U.N., U.S., etc...).
-- Senator Smith's office is informed that the lawyers within the Pentagon have not reached a decision on the above-referenced question, but that they have been meeting on it all morning with DoD's General Counsel and her staff. We are incredulous at this statement, which potentially means none of the U.S. pilots flying bombing missions over Yugoslavia the last week have been informed by their own Government that, if captured, we will insist that they be treated as "POWS" in accordance with the Geneva Conventions, not just that they be treated humanely as individuals as a matter of U.S. policy alone. In view of Milesovic's inhumane atrocities in Kosovo, one would think the Administration would have thought this question through prior to launching Operation Allied Force last Wednesday.
Thursday, 12 noon -- Appearing at an event led by President Clinton for military personnel and their families at Norfolk Naval Air Station in Virginia, Secretary of Defense Cohen is asked by a reporter "do you consider them (the 3 US Army personnel) prisoners of war?" Cohen responds:
"At this point, their status is that of being illegally detained, and so they are illegal detainees at this point, and whether that status changes will depend upon the legal interpretation of what their -- where they were, what circumstances under which they came into Serb hands, and that will take some time to resolve."
(Note: as previously noted, it does NOT matter WHERE they were and the circumstances under which they CAME INTO SERB HANDS, in order for the prisoner of war terminology and protections under the Geneva Conventions on Treatment of Prisoners of War to apply. Moreover, under current U.S. law applicable to U.S. military personnel (Missing Persons Act, as amended, Title 10, Section 1513), there is no legal status "illegal detainees." The term is "missing status" which includes subcategories such as "captured, interned, detained, besieged, beleaguered, missing in action, etc...)
Thursday, 12:15 p.m. -- President Clinton speaking at Norfolk Naval Air Station, with Secretary Cohen, states that he holds Yugoslav President Milesovic responsible for the "safety and well-being" of the 3 US Army personnel. He does NOT refer to requirements concerning their release, but more importantly, he does NOT reference Yugoslavia's obligations under the international Geneva Conventions on the Treatment of Prisoners of War, and does not call on Yugoslavia to adhere to this international agreement which protects POWs.
President Clinton further states there is "no basis for them to be held and no basis for them to be tried" within Yugoslavia.
But, in point of fact, the Geneva Convention on the Treatment of Prisoners of War allows for these 3 US Army personnel to be held until "after the cessation of active hostilities" (Part 4, Section 2, Article 118), and allows for their trial by Yugoslavia provided certain procedures are followed - Part 3, Section 6, Chapter 3, III-Judicial Proceedings, Articles 99-108.
Thursday, 12:30 p.m. -- Reuters wire service reports, via London, that the feared Serbian paramilitary leader known as Arkin has stated, "The Yugoslav army is keeping them (the 3 US Army personnel) and they'll be treated under the Geneva Convention regulating the treatment of prisoners of war."
Thursday, 2:00 p.m. -- State Department spokesperson Jamie Rubin dodges questions from reporters about the status of the 3 US Army personnel, instead referring to them as "abducted" personnel - a term not found in U.S. or international laws relative to military personnel. Rubin further indicates Rubin further refers to any trial by Yugoslavia as a violation of international law (which it is NOT).
(See transcript of press briefing, www.state.gov - what a disaster!)
Thursday, 5:00 p.m. -- A full 15 hours after the President was informed the 3 US Army personnel had indeed been captured by Serb forces, and 5 hours after Secretary Cohen's comment that the men's status was "illegal detainees" not prisoners of war, Pentagon spokesperson Kenneth Bacon was finally able to announce at a Pentagon news conference, in response to Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz' question, that "WE CONSIDER THEM TO BE POWS."
Imagine that. Their picture has been splashed over Yugoslav TV monitored in the West, yet 15 additional hours go by before the U.S. is willing to acknowledge them as Prisoners of War protected under the Geneva Conventions.
For a good website to help you monitor whether our Government is now finally going to ensure that it takes full advantage of the provisions of the Geneva Conventions concerning POWs, check out --
You don't need Pentagon "legal interpretations that will take some time" as referenced by Secretary Cohen at 12 noon Thursday to figure out for yourself that these men were immediately POWs protected by the Geneva Conventions. The U.S. should have been already prepared to deal with this situation clearly and concisely the second the Serb video of the men appeared, especially given all the alleged attention the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for POW/Missing Personnel Affairs has been giving to "future conflicts" these last few years.
Moreover, these men should not have been left wondering the last two days whether they would be viewed as POWs by their own Government in accordance with the Geneva Conventions, in the event their capture was made known. The sad irony is that Yugoslav government officials publicly acknowledged their obligations under the POW Geneva Conventions at a time when the Clinton Administration was not even willing to call on Yugoslavia to honor this specific convention earlier today (Thursday). U.S. military personnel engaged in the region deserve much better from their Government leaders than what happened on Thursday.
For information on U.S. law relating to missing military personnel, see Title 10. Armed Forces, U.S. Code Annotated, Subtitle A-General Military Law, Part II-Personnel, Chapter 76, Missing Persons. (the so-called Missing Persons Act).
End of Message from Dino Carluccio