WASHINGTON -- Louie Castro is a 28-year-old religion major at Florida State University who should have started the final semester of his senior year last month. Instead, he spent 12 days in jail after being arrested at Miami International Airport because of an administrative error the Army apparently made when he left the service more than nine years ago.
The Army considered him absent without leave.
Okay, thus far the story is about ordinary, every day mindless government incompetence. A bored, inattentive file clerk in the bowels of the Pentagon hits the wrong button and everybody else is Just Doing Their Jobs.
But from here, the story crosses into full-afterburner incompetence:
Castro was told he must fly to Fort Carson, Colo. — a base where he never served, but where his old Fort Hood unit, the 4th Infantry Division, relocated in 2009 — to resume his old life as an Army private long enough for military personnel officers to fix his paperwork. In the meantime, he missed the start of classes and was forced to withdraw, costing him his financial aid. He will not graduate on schedule.
Just so we’re clear on this, an unnamed adult of legal age, given power and authority by the United States government, decided with all deliberation that the rational solution to the Army’s screw-up was to pull an honorably discharged veteran back into the Army while the information was fixed.
Now you might think that some level of the military chain of command would realize that further detaining a private citizen in contravention of his constitutional rights over what no one disputes is an Army screw-up might be, ya’ know, illegal, unethical, and abuse of power, etc., and put a high priority on finding competent people to make decisions on the government’s behalf. And of course you would be wrong, because it turns out the government has bigger fish to fry:
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has asked the Marine Corps to investigate the photo in which a group of Marine scout snipers posed before a flag bearing the lightning-bolt double S of the Nazi SS.
"Racist and anti-Semitic symbols have absolutely no place alongside the men and women of America's armed forces," Panetta spokesman George Little said in a brief statement this afternoon.
Oops, that’s not it. But given the dismal state of historical knowledge, it’s pretty obvious what these guys are referring to.
Which is pretty much what the Army originally decided.
The investigation being ordered by Panetta follows one carried out quietly by the Corps in 2010, when the photo was taken in Afghanistan. The Marines in the photo were with Charlie Company, 1st Marine Battalion, which is based at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
The Corps said Thursday that none of the Marines in the photo are currently assigned to Charlie Company, but did not say if any of the Marines were disciplined. The Nazi SS flag in the photo is spread just below an American flag.
Panetta's decision to take a deeper dive into the embarrassing photo comes as civil and human rights groups, among them the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, turned up the heat on the Pentagon Thursday, within hours of the image going viral over the Internet.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of Simon Wiesenthal Center, told The Associated Press he does not believe it was an innocent mistake and insisted the American public has a right to know what happened.