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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Southwest Asia

From AP:
A U.S. Air Force U-2 spy plane involved in a mission in Afghanistan crashed while returning to its base in the United Arab Emirates, killing the pilot, the military said Wednesday.

U.S. Central Command said the crash occurred in "southwest Asia," a term that can be a substitute for the Middle East.
The location of the crash could not be released "due to host nation sensitivities," U.S. Air Force Capt. David W. Small, a Central Command spokesman, said in an e-mail when asked for more information.

In Washington, Lt. Col. Barry Venable, a Pentagon spokesman, said the plane had completed a mission related to Operation Enduring Freedom and crashed while returning to its base.

A U.S. security team was at the site of the crash, he said.
Gee, where could a spy plane supposedly taking part in "Operation Enduring Freedom" (as opposed to "Operation Suffering Liberation" in Iraq) in Afghanistan and heading to base in the UAE possibly have crashed?

The big white place is called Iran. And while it's remotely possible that the U2 was looking for Osama in Pakistan or Afghanistan, it seems more likely that it was looking for bombing targets in Iran. And a U.S. security team is at the crash site? Investigating the evidence or destroying it, I wonder. And did they sneak into Iran after the crash, or were they already there?

Amazing that a U2 might spark another international crisis, 45 years after Gary Powers' plane was shot down over the Soviet Union. The initial American response then was to lie, too, claiming that the spy plane was actually a NASA weather research plane that had lost its way. It turned out, though, that the Russians had captured Powers alive and well and recovered most of his plane, including the spy photos he had taken. (I'm becoming a devotee of Wikipedia--it has very good synopses of events, including recent ones like the Beslan hostage crisis.)

[Update 12:15 pm] CNN reports that the plane crashed in the UAE. They don't mention the "Southwest Asia" and "host nation sensibilities" stuff. Why would the Air Force be worried about that if the plane crashed in the country in which it is based? Most likely this is just incredibly sloppy reporting by CNN, interpreting "crashed while returning to its base in the United Arab Emirates" to mean "crashed in the UAE." Both CNN and AP seem to have turned "a mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom" into "a mission over Afghanistan." (The NY Times doesn't make this mistake.) Both the AP and CNN reports seem to be based on the same short statement from the Air Force, with no corroboration whatsoever. CNN just seems to have jumped to some hasty conclusions (something I'd never do!!!).

[Update two: 12:30 PM] Turns out my suspicions (about the media at least) were correct. Here's the text of the Air Force statement:
6/22/2005 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFPN) -- The pilot of an Air Force U-2 Dragon Lady died when his plane crashed at a forward-deployed location here in the early hours of June 22.

The pilot completed flying a mission supporting Operation Enduring Freedom and was returning to base when the crash occurred. His name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin. He was assigned to the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing.

The cause of the crash is not known.

“The Airmen of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing mourn the loss of a true American hero in the service of his country,” said Col. Darryl Burke, 380th AEW commander.

Colonel Burke appointed an interim investigation board, and a full investigation board will convene to continue the investigation.

The site of the crash has been secured to ensure the safety of local citizens and the integrity of the site for investigation team members.
Note that it doesn't say that the plane crashed in the UAE, nor does it say that it had been flying a mission over Afghanistan. So not only is the media using the US military as their only source as usual (forgiveable for now given how recent the crash was), but they immediately began interpreting the cryptic statement in exactly the direction that the Pentagon would like them to. The Pentagon no longer has to lie and say that the plane was looking for Osama in Afghanistan and crashed where it was supposed to; the media does it for them.