Magazine article Editor & Publisher

'Plain Dealer' Updates Friendly Fire Tragedy in Iraq

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

'Plain Dealer' Updates Friendly Fire Tragedy in Iraq

Article excerpt

Last December, E&P'S Greg Mitchell reported on recent revelations about a friendly fire case in Iraq and the ordeal the dead soldier's parents were enduring.

Today, the Plain Dealer of Cleveland updated the story, although, sadly, the parents seem to be no closer to the truth than they were last year, despite promises from President Bush and others.

The new story, by Kathleen Sullivan, can be found at www.cleveland.com.

"Today, after four Army investigations, the military says it still cannot get to the bottom of who exactly killed the easy-going, musically minded, would-be cop in a hail of 'friendly' fire," that story concludes.

Mitchell's original piece follows.

*Over and over, the press -- and parents and spouses -- have been lied to about how young Americans in the military have died. Now another case, this one involving Jesse Buryj, a soldier from Canton, Ohio, who (it turns out) died in a friendly fire incident - shot in the back - has gained some attention.

The U.S. military has tried to blame Polish soldiers for his death, but a soldier who served with Buryi told his parents an American G.I. was actually at fault. Buryj's father was so shaken by the alleged cover-up that he came to question whether the body they buried was even their son's.

The Associated Press had announced the death of the soldier back in March 2004, asserting that he had died "while heroically trying to stop an attack on an Army checkpoint." Of course, they are at the mercy of the military for any information.

"Jesse Buryj, 21, of Canton, fired more than 400 rounds at a dump truck trying to crash the checkpoint near Karbala," AP related. "He shot the driver of the truck, which then crashed into the Humvee in which he was riding, an Army sergeant told his mother, Peggy Buryj, on Wednesday morning."

The official U.S. casualty report said that Buryj had died of "a back injury" caused by "hostile enemy activity." Actually,the dump truck was filled with dirt or sand, not explosives, and was driven by civilians who had no weapons.

Buryj had a new wife named Amber. On one of the "fallen heroes" message boards on the Web, she wrote: "I want to thank all of you for your lovely comments. I would also like to just tell you all Jesse was an absolutely amazing man, of which no one could ever compare. A wonderful husband, son, brother, soldier,and friend to so many! I love you forever and always Jesse."

But later his mother would write at the same site: "I am Peggy Buryj, the mother of Jesse. My son was promoted to Specialist the day he died. My son died as the result of friendly fire." The death certificate now called it "homicide."

Yet even after his mother learned of the shot in the back, the lies continued.

Yesterday, Josh White in the Washington Post reported that U.S. Army officials destroyed critical evidence that could have determined who shot and killed Buryj, "one of several problems with the friendly-fire inquiry that may permanently shroud Buryj's death in mystery, according to an Army inspector general's review."

The inquiry, which produced a 47-page document recently delivered to the dead man's parents, "found that criminal investigators destroyed bullet fragments, agents failed to collect ballistic evidence from weapons at the checkpoint, medical personnel made incorrect notations on Buryj's records and military officials knew his death was a friendly-fire case months before they officially notified his family," White writes.

"As a result, Buryj's family buried him believing he was killed when his vehicle was rammed by a dump truck. They did not learn that he was shot by friendly forces until nine months after his death, and a lack of physical evidence means it is nearly impossible to know what happened that night."

Investigators ruled that the Poles "probably" fired the fatal shot, but the Poles strongly deny it. …

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