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Wolfowitz: Iraq Knows More About Missing U.S. Airman

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 24, 2003 – Saddam Hussein's government has information it hasn't shared about the fate of a U.S. pilot shot down over Iraq during the Persian Gulf War, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz said here Jan. 21.

Navy Cmdr. Michael Scott Speicher's F/A-18 Hornet fighter was downed by enemy fire during the first day of the air war over Iraq on Jan. 17, 1991, according to DoD.

The flier was listed as "Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered," in May of that year. However, information gained through subsequent investigations of the crash site caused then-Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig to change Speicher's status to "Missing in Action" on Jan. 11, 2001.

"We believe the Iraqi government knows more about Scott Speicher than they are telling. They most certainly know what happened at the crash site," Wolfowitz said in prepared remarks to attendees at a conference sponsored by the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office.

The U.S. government is committed to discovering Speicher's fate, Wolfowitz emphasized, adding, "We're doing everything possible within reason to get him back."

President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld have both declared their concern about finding and returning missing service members. During a Sept. 12, 2002, speech to the U.N. General Assembly, and again, Oct. 16 when he signed Congressional Resolution 114 authorizing possible force against Iraq, Bush noted that Hussein must account for all missing Americans from the Gulf War, in addition to giving up all WMDs.

At a National POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremony held Sept. 20, 2002, at the Pentagon, Rumsfeld pledged that if U.S. service members "should fall on the field of battle, should they be captured or lost, we will do everything in our power to find them and to bring them home."

With thousands of troops shipping out to global locales in support of the war against terrorism and possible war with Iraq, Wolfowitz reiterated that message at the conference. The nation will spare no effort, he emphasized, to find and return captured, missing and fallen service members.

"As men and women in uniform now deploy to the Gulf region, it is vital that they understand that as they venture into harm's way, we support them fully and will not rest until that pledge has been kept in full," he concluded.

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