That’s the only word to describe the Board of Audit report on the Cheonan sinking response.
From Korea Times:
State auditors Friday accused Gen. Lee Sang-eui, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), of being absent from the defense ministry’s main command and control center on the night of March 26 when a South Korean Navy ship sank in the West Sea.
The JCS chief is also suspected of pretending that he was present at the control center throughout the night using a falsified document, according to officials at the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI).
On Thursday, the BAI recommended the Ministry of National Defense punish 25 ranking military personnel, including Gen. Lee, for mishandling the North’s attack on the Cheonan.
Lee slept at his office while under the influence of alcohol before showing up at the control center at 5 a.m. the next day, a BAI official said.
On March 26, Lee allegedly drank several shots of whiskey at a dinner with some 30 military officers in Daejeon, after holding a meeting with them on military preparedness.
Lee arrived at the headquarters of the Ministry of National Defense in Seoul, about one and a half hours after the incident was reported, the auditor said.
From Chosun Ilbo:
Watchdog Sees No Merit in ‘Flock of Birds’ Story
The Board of Audit and Inspection on Thursday said there is no very good reason to believe that the Sokcho, the nearest warship to the scene of the sinking of the ill-fated corvette Cheonan, fired at a flock of birds rather than a submarine on the day the Cheonan sank in the West Sea.
The military said the Sokcho had initially thought its target was a North Korean submarine fleeing after attacking the Cheonan and fired 135 shots with 76-mm cannon. However, the military claimed close investigation of the radar tracking device revealed that the shape sailors saw was a flock of birds.
The BAI’s assessment is apparently based on testimony of sailors that the Second Naval Command ordered them to change their stories. The Sokcho initially reported to the Second Naval Command that sailors saw what appeared to be a new type of North Korean submarine, but the command ordered officers to change their testimony to a flock of birds in a briefing to the Joint Chiefs of Staff on March 27.
The BAI pointed out that military regulations ban speculation, addition or omission in initial reports to higher authorities. “Even during the audit, officers on the Sokcho did not change their opinion that it was a submarine and insisted that the radar tracking device did not show the image that could seen as a flock of birds,” a BAI official said. “It is hard to understand how the change was made in reporting procedure.”
He added the board believes the command acted out of fear of punishment over failing to take proper action in the initial stages after the sinking.
I’m not saying the South Korean response was pathetic.
I think the audit is pathetic.
I’m willing to believe that a North Korean mini-sub shadowed by a full-sized sub sank the Cheonan, even though the attack occurred against a modern ASW corvette, allegedly offshore of a joint U.S.-ROK ASW base, in waters with currents so violent that half of the Cheonan wreck was swept almost four miles away before it hit the bottom.
I’m also willing to believe that the South Korean military had a less-than-slam-dunk evidentiary case, and wouldn’t be above using what bent cops in the U.S. call a “throwdown piece”–pitching a North Korean torpedo screw in the ocean to put the onus on the NORKs.
I do not believe that, in the aftermath of the sinking of an ROK naval vessel that claimed 46 lives, the Second Naval Command would suppress the story that its ship had alertly shelled a retreating submarine and instead lie to their Joint Chiefs of Staff that they idiotically fired on a flock of birds.
The audit looks more like an effort to plug some embarrassing holes in the official narrative and provide some pre-emptive sunshine inoculation to some questionable actions–including the ROK military’s apparently serial enthusiasm for falsifying crucial records.
Add to chain-of-custody issues rumors that the survivors of the Cheonan have been sequestered to keep them from talking to the press, and the fact that the fuel is continually added to “friendly fire” allegation by shifting stories on the status of the Foal Eagle joint US-ROK military exercise (I believe the most recent reports have operations going on 75 miles away–just over the horizon, darn it!– on the night of the incident), the South Koreans do not have a particularly sweet-smelling dossier to hand over the UN Security Council.
I wonder if the ROK report on the Cheonan would stand up to intense, critical scrutiny–of the kind that Israel’s assault on the Mavi Marmara would receive–at the UN Security Council.
Maybe that’s why South Korea isn’t asking for censure or condemnation and may just settle for a grumpy letter from the president of the UNSC–their case is far from airtight.
But it’s easier to blame the Chinese for shielding North Korea at the UNSC.