The Death of Ken Ballard

I wrote this to the AP, but it probably won't see the light of day. It probably has some instructive value to patrons of MYDD, so I will post it here.
Dear all,

I was an eyewitness to Ken Ballard's death. I have
noticed some inaccuracies in the article with the
byline

 By ROBERT BURNS
The Associated Press
September 11. 2005 11:21PM

Firstly, Ballard was beginning his move back to base.
He had not already returned as the article states. His
tank tried to cross a meridian in a street in order to
turn around. The opposite side of the street was
strung with concertina wire which, if caught in tank
tracks, can cause the track to come off the tank.
Possibly to avoid this scenario, Ballard et. al. had
to pass very close to a tree. The tree was to the
front and right of the tank as it crossed the meridian
head on. As the tank passed the tree, the Loaders's
240mm machine gun which was ~2m to Ballard's right,
came in sustained contact with tree branches and fired
a five round burst. Obviously, Lt. Ballard was struck
in the head and died.

Immediately upon seeing the five round burst, I
notified my tank commander, the C company commander,
Captain John C. Moore. Moore called to Ballard over
the net, asking for an explanation as to why his tank
had an accidental discharge; accidental discharges are
severly frowned upon in the Army (for obvious
reasons). Ballard did not reply. Moore called him
again asking why he did not reply. Sergeant Smith,
Ballard's gunner, replied over the net that they had a
KIA and that it was Lieutenent Ballard. I believe
that, to a man, our unit felt like it was just slammed
in the stomach with a sledgehammer.

Perhaps in a foolish interperetation of the concept of
honor or camraderie, some in the company and the
batallion felt that it would dishonor Ken Ballard or
his family to tell the truth of how he died. I did
not, nor did my brother serving in our sister company,
A Co. 2-37, nor did Captain Moore.

There are two crimes here. One, the initial cover-up,
motivated probably by embarassment for Ballard,
Ballard's family, and the unit, not any kind of
higher-order loyalty to the Bush Administration. That
is forgiveable, because the field of battle and sudden
death is very hard on people, and they often haven't
the moral fortitude to act right under duress.

The second crime is unforgiveable: the delay in
correcting that initial lie. The truth was known and
accepted in the unit within 24 hours; Army officers
formally solicited our opinions on making the 240
safer, for Christ's sake! We weren't covering it up!
Why wasn't the mother told? Will heads roll? Probably
not, because America is rotting from within. We don't
believe in accountability anymore; in fact, not
holding people accountable for crimes is a leitmotif
of the Bush-led Republican party (Pat Tillman, Karl
Rove, WMD, Katrina... and on and on...)

People die in war. That is unescapable. Lying is not
unescapable, it is a choice. The choice to lie to the
Ken Ballard's beloved mother, which is like pissing on
the man's grave and the Constitution at the same time,
was a cool calculated choice, made by people who are
morally bankrupt throughout the Army leadership, and
who take their cue from the "conservative""movement"
generally. Why are they still drawing pay?

Omid Zehtab
Bronze Star with Valor device: Sadr City, April 4th
2004.
1st Armored Division Soldier of the Year, 2003.
Formerly of C Co. 2-37th Armor Batallion, Friedberg, Germany.

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