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Canadian Families Ask for Impunity

June 28, 2002

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TORONTO (AP) _ Two U.S. fighter pilots involved in a mistaken bombing that killed four Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan should not be punished, families of the victims said Friday.

U.S. and Canadian officials announced Friday that inquiries into the accidental bombing have determined that the two F-16 pilots failed to exercise proper caution.

In Washington, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Michael DeLong said that a U.S. military panel recommended ``appropriate disciplinary action″ against the pilots for the April 18 incident in which a 500-pound, laser-guided bomb was dropped on the soldiers.

Joyce Clooney, whose grandson Pvt. Ricky Green died in the bombing, said punishing the pilots is not the answer.

``Nothing is going to bring Ricky home or the other boys back so I don’t see that punishing the pilot will do any good except I wouldn’t want him flying again,″ Clooney said.

``I don’t think Ricky would be the kind that would say punish him and hang him out to dry.″

Lloyd Smith, whose son Nathan was killed, doesn’t think the pilots should face criminal charges.

``If sending him to jail would bring my son back, I’d say do it,″ Smith said. ``But my son’s death has got to mean more than that. Some good’s got to come out of it.″

Howard Michitsch, a Canadian military analyst, said: ``No one wants to see these pilots suffer unduly in the justice system. There’s a lot more pressure to make sure it doesn’t happen again.″

The two U.S. fighter planes were returning to base shortly after midnight April 18 when they saw what looked like fireworks on the ground and believed it to be ground-to-air fire, the Canadian report said.

In Washington, DeLong said the pilot who mistakenly bombed the Canadian troops had been told to hold his fire shortly before the deadly blunder.

Maurice Baril, the retired general who led the Canadian inquiry, said the Canadians did everything in accordance with the rules, including notifying American military officials of where the troops were and what they were doing.

The actions of the pilots, said Baril, ``represented a failure of airmanship and technique for the wingman and a failure of leadership for the flight leader.″

Canadian Defense Minister John McCallum said the mistaken bombing hasn’t affected relations between Canada and U.S. He said Canada has no say in whether to prosecute the pilots.

``The decision on whether they face judicial or discipline action rests entirely with the United States,″ McCallum said.

The bombing caused the Canadian military’s first deaths in a combat operation since the Korean War, when 516 soldiers were killed, though 78 Canadians serving with the U.S. military died during the Vietnam War.

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