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A Letter From The Frontlines In Afghanistan
December 6, 2001 6:19 AM   Subscribe

A Letter From The Frontlines In Afghanistan - This letter was read on the Sully and Scooter Show on KOGO News Radio in San Diego. Supposedly written by a U.S. Marine. Don't know if it is real or not.
posted by radio_mookie (32 comments total)

 
Hey, what's that smell? Bullshit maybe?
posted by Samsonov14 at 6:29 AM on December 6, 2001


The worst thing you guys can do right now is sit around analyzing what we’re doing over here...

Great story, Mr. Rumsfeld.
posted by jpoulos at 6:37 AM on December 6, 2001


I envision while this guy's so engrossed in writing out this wondrous prose into his laptop, Bin Laden's goons sneak around behind him and snicker as they bring in their supplies.

It is well written. Too well written actually. I like when the prose is so character driven that I have no difficulty filling in the (expletitives) with perfect guesses of which cussword has been censored. This guy has a good writing voice and if ever he gives up his job as a bounty hunter he can sit down and compose The Great American Novel.

But this reads to me more like a low caliber radio personality putting pen to paper to come up with something to ramble on about which'll keep listeners listening. We know Howard Stern didn't write this because there's no mention of lesbians. There are some great passages. Case in point:

"I dream of bin Laden waking up to find me standing over him with my boot on his throat as I spit a bloody ear into his face and plunge my nickel-plated Bowie knife through his frontal lobe. But you know me. I’m a romantic."

Or how about this gem?

"Talking to a Taliban warrior about improving his quality of life is like trying to teach an ape how to hold a pen; eventually he just gets frustrated and sticks you in the eye with it."

This is a very good read and I recommend it, but I don't believe it for a minute. I can't find anything else that in any way reinforces the authenticity of this piece. Unless I see more proof that this actually came from Afghanistan, I think it's a disservice to people's intelligence to 'market' it as such. "...Then again, maybe I’m just cranky."
posted by ZachsMind at 6:48 AM on December 6, 2001


Propaganda Tool # 4 : Transfer "a device by which the propagandist carries over the authority, sanction, and prestige of something we respect and revere to something he would have us accept " My guess? A wannabe speech writer. PS great read though.
posted by Voyageman at 6:57 AM on December 6, 2001


Would writing letters on your *laptop/palmtop* whilst on survelance duty not be a naughty, in the eyes of command? Not to mention incredibly reckless.
Or is this character supposed to be a hired gun/SOF?
posted by asok at 7:18 AM on December 6, 2001


it's funny if you imagine the expletives are british expletives.
posted by kliuless at 7:30 AM on December 6, 2001


ZachsMind, as the brother of a career Marine, I suggest it may be authentic after all. One typically picturesque letter of Jim's describing how much he enjoyed an exercise mentioned how he'd much prefer to "staple bologna to my forehead and lean over to feed a tankful of piranha." Also, I'm guessing this is a Force Recon, who are selected among other things for their above-average smarts (and the all-volunteer Marines are choosy about who they induct in the first place, requiring high-school graduates). So it wouldn't suprise me in the least if "Saucy Jack" were the genuine, verbally adept article.

On the other hand, I dunno if I'd carry a nickel-plated knife in an environment where reflections off the sun or moon could give away my position. but maybe he's just waxing lyrical.
posted by alumshubby at 7:44 AM on December 6, 2001


I have no idea whether the letter is real or not. But that said, to call the Taliban incapable of using a Bic lighter seems a bit odd since they know how to use grenade launcerehs, drive tanks and trucks, and the misslews we earlier sent them to knock down planes.
And oh, yes: CNN and ads?
May be a fair writer but he ought to learn a bit about paragraphing.
posted by Postroad at 7:54 AM on December 6, 2001


It also sounds authentic to me. I worked with these guys and guys like them in Bosnia and Haiti, and this sounds like them.

That doesn't mean it's real, or it isn't, but the tone and attitude are right.
posted by Irontom at 8:37 AM on December 6, 2001


"saucy jack... he's a naughty one. saucy jack... he's a haughty one"

-- David St. Hubbins
posted by s10pen at 9:12 AM on December 6, 2001


Survey says? Bzzzzzt.

The writer, though able, conflates imaginings of a forward observation post with the couch potato life of watching a sickening amount of CNN.

Would a real soldier would risk his life, his buddies' lives, and indirectly risk prolonging the conflict, by telling the world (and thereby Taliban/al Quaida supporters) how the U.S. military collects the clues to smoke out its enemies?
posted by sacre_bleu at 9:13 AM on December 6, 2001


It reads like a cheap detective novel.

...and our expletives are second to none - except maybe the australians.
posted by Spoon at 9:16 AM on December 6, 2001


"I just wanted to say one more thing before signing out: if my tour in this hell-hole has taught me anything, it's that the United States government is just about the most wonderful (expletive) thing on Earth. Our fairly-elected president George Walker Bush is keeping this country right on track, despite persistent communist attacks by the gutless wonders on the hippy left (oh man, would I like to put a slug through each of them and blast The Stars and Stripes Forever on the hi-fi while watching them bleed to death!), and Vice President Cheney.. well, all of us boys over here on the front keep saying to each other, "damn, now this is a guy with the country's best interests in mind!" Sometimes, when we get a moment's rest from the heavy, heavy resistence we are facing, I imagine how great it will be once there isn't any more terrorism, and I think to myself, how could any of that happen if don't back and let the president do what it takes to get the job done? Lord knows I've given a lot to my country, but I'm not the brave one; it's you people back in Airstrip One who have to have the courage to stick by President Bush in this time of crisis, and rip these terrorist bastards a new (expletive) by re-electing him in 2004!"
posted by Hildago at 9:38 AM on December 6, 2001


Obviously none of us can prove or disprove whether or not this letter is authentic, but to those of you who discredit it based on the fact that it is well written . . . shame on you. Soldiers selected into SF type units (Force Recon, Special Forces, SEAL, Delta, etc.) are some of the most intelligent people in the armed services. The training for a Special Forces medic leaves a soldier one semester short of being certified as a physician's assistant. These are not a bunch of dumb grunts. The average training cycle for any SF specialty is 2 years or more.

Having served in the armed forces, I can say that Saucy Jack's writing capabilities would not be uncommon. Many of the guys I served with already had 2 or more years of college under their belts before enlisting to earn college money to complete the rest of their degree.

So don't judge the validity of the message based on how well it is written. If you don't believe it, don't believe it. But don't insult the military by displaying your own ignorance.
posted by billman at 2:39 PM on December 6, 2001


good job, billman

what the hell...it made me feel good to read it...that's more than i can say for alot of crap i've read.
posted by vito90 at 5:22 PM on December 6, 2001


In what ways did it make you feel good to read that?
posted by Hildago at 6:01 PM on December 6, 2001


I would take what Billman says with a boulder of salt. He makes it sound like the all-volunteer military is full of phd candidates--Not having served in the armed forces but having had several friends who were Marines and knowing the experiences of a few friends' children who are Marines now, I know illiteracy is rampant among recruits, who come from the lowest economic classes, for the most part, and the institution is saddled with a bloated, corrupt and self-serving bureacracy. And, too, the whole concept of elite forces bothers me. And others, too:

A Civil-Military Crisis?

Do we have such a crisis today? There are two schools of thought on the subject, now joined in lively debate. The most forceful arguments that there is a crisis have come from journalists Thomas Ricks, long of The Wall Street Journal and now with The Washington Post, and James Kitfield of National Journal. Ricks has contended that the military is becoming increasingly politicized and conservative, that there has been a disturbing decline in military professionalism, and that there is a widening gap between the military and society. He quotes retired Admiral Stanley Arthur, who commanded U.S. naval forces during the 1991 Persian Gulf War: "Today the armed forces are no longer representative of the people they serve. More and more, enlisted [men and women] as well as officers are beginning to feel that they are special, better than the society they serve. This is not healthy in an armed force serving a democracy."

Then, too, there is the fact that these roaming packs of savage, heartless beasts who feed on each other’s barbarism are a product of our own Cold War involvement, when we were fighting a proxy war with the Soviet Union, who had installed a Westernized secular albeit Communist state which we fought by funding and arming fundamentalist zealots.

Feel good quote of the letter: We’ve got this one under control. The worst thing you guys can do right now is sit around analyzing what we’re doing over here because you have no idea what we’re doing and, really, you don’t want to know.
posted by y2karl at 10:02 PM on December 6, 2001


Many of the guys I served with already had 2 or more years of college under their belts

As a college instructor who deals with student writing on a daily basis, I can't tell you how underwhelming an argument that is.
posted by rodii at 10:33 PM on December 6, 2001


To respond to both y2karl and rodii:

1. rodii, I agree with you but my argument was that to discredit the letter as not originating from a US armed forces soldier based on the fact that people think soldiers are too stupid to write something that intelligent is an insult. Having two years of college education is not something that a instructor should be wowed by but it is probably more education than is being given credit to, which was my point.

And without trying to be disrespectful to you personally, "As a college instructor who deals with student writing on a daily basis", you have no idea how underwhelming I find those credentials.

2. y2karl, I would not take what I wrote as a grain of salt because unlike you, I actually have first hand knowledge of which I speak. I did not attempt to make it sound like all members of the armed forces have Ph.D.'s. I said that members of the elite armed forces are more educated than is being given credit for. Perhaps it is your own prejudices that cloud your ability to distinguish the two thoughts. Yes, ground pounding grunts are usually not in the highest percentile but compared to making it into special forces units, getting into an ivy league school would seem like a breeze.

And if I had to explain the quote which you take issue with:

We’ve got this one under control. The worst thing you guys can do right now is sit around analyzing what we’re doing over here because you have no idea what we’re doing and, really, you don’t want to know.

I would have to imagine it's being a little more than pissed off at what happened in Somalia. We sent our troops in with their hands tied and then pulled them out as soon as we suffered casualties. I doubt you would find one member of the mission chronicled in Black Hawk Down who would not have stayed and continued to fight, especially after seeing what was done to their captured comrades. The interview I saw had one soldier saying (I'm paraphrasing as best as I can remember it) "We are Rangers. You don't send us into situations where we might not take casualties. We know that. We accept that. If you don't have the resolve to see the situation through, you shouldn't send us in at all."

Your insinuations that SF units are not highly intelligent because you happen to know stupid people who joined the military is like saying Harvard is a sub-rate school because I know some graduates who I wouldn't let manage rush hour at Denny's. Of course don't take it from someone with experience, read about it from people writing politically motivated articles. I'm sure that will make you a more well rounded person.
posted by billman at 12:04 AM on December 7, 2001


Admiral Arthur, General Shalikashvili and General Shelton all would seem to have credentials... As I've said, I have taken it from people with experience--far less political, pompous or patronizing people. Far more concise, too. People I know personally. You're just a stranger with a 'blog and an ax to grind who would seem to embody the attitude to which Admiral Arthur refers. Enlighten him.
posted by y2karl at 3:06 AM on December 7, 2001


I doubt the letter's authenticity, but not because its writer seems to be a fount of effortless, khaki trash talk. These guys trade scatological comedy all day long. A single letter from one of them is apt to include the repetition-refined witticisms of the entire collective - hardly surprising, then, that it might be reasonably entertaining.
posted by Opus Dark at 3:55 AM on December 7, 2001


because unlike you, I actually have first hand knowledge of which I speak.

talk about underwhelming credentials....
posted by jpoulos at 6:22 AM on December 7, 2001


And without trying to be disrespectful to you personally, "As a college instructor who deals with student writing on a daily basis", you have no idea how underwhelming I find those credentials.

"Credentials"? For what? I was getting in a mildly humorous jibe at college students' writing, based on what I do at my job. I have not asked for any respect based on my job, nor have I made any claims about the intelligence of military personnel or expressed any disrespect for them. I have no particular opinion about this letter--though I'm rapidly developing one about you, army boy.
posted by rodii at 7:23 AM on December 7, 2001


Hildago,

Well, for starters, it gave me a boner.

What do you want to hear? The enjoyment I get from reading something isn't tangible. It's just a warm fuzzy feeling. Sometimes, if it's a serious tome like infinite jest or cryptonomicon, it's a sense of accomplishment. But for a short thing, the enjoyment is in the means, not the end...
posted by vito90 at 8:02 AM on December 7, 2001


rodii, like I said, it is nothing personal against you but being a college instructor does not make one qualified to pass judgement on the writing skills of others. If you said, I am an English professor or a professor of literature, then that is your area of expertise. Just being a college instructor doesn't transform one into an expert on writing skills. I apologize if you saw that as an insult but I have run across way too many college instructors who are unable to write well for me to show a great deal of respect for the credentials of "college instructor".
posted by billman at 10:08 AM on December 7, 2001


Enlighten him.

y2karl, perhaps I could if you might point me to *exactly* what he said. You have not put forth his views on this. You have expressed your own views and claimed that Admiral Arthur supports your views but since you have not really given us an example of *exactly* what he said, it's somewhat difficult to address his points. Considering the way you misquoted my post, I would just ask that you let us/me make the determination of whether or not what the Admiral says does or does not support your feelings on the topic.
posted by billman at 10:16 AM on December 7, 2001


"Today the armed forces are no longer representative of the people they serve. More and more, enlisted [men and women] as well as officers are beginning to feel that they are special, better than the society they serve. This is not healthy in an armed force serving a democracy."

Admiral Stanley Arthur
posted by y2karl at 10:51 AM on December 7, 2001


He said that, not me.
posted by y2karl at 10:52 AM on December 7, 2001


Vito -- I was asking whether it was the aesthetics of the letter or the message. No need to get snippy.
posted by Hildago at 10:52 AM on December 7, 2001


I apologize if you saw that as an insult but I have run across way too many college instructors who are unable to write well for me to show a great deal of respect for the credentials of "college instructor".

And again I ask: what do my "credentials" have to do with the subject of this thread? What claim did I make that requires support from my "credentials", except for a minor snark about college students? And what bearing does that have on any of the substantive points in this thread? Are you interested in my judgment on how well the letter-writer structures his argument? Do I have to say again that I wasn't criticizing your precious doughboys?

As it happens, I have taught writing, for the last decade or so, to (mostly) Engineering students at various levels from pre-first-year through dissertation writing, at Michigan, as well as having taught in the English department at another university and worked as an editor and documentation consultant. Feel free not to be impressed--I'm not--but I'm pretty sure, at least, that it's OK for me to be mildly, jokily grumpy about my students without getting a background check from some guy I don't even know on MetaFilter.
posted by rodii at 11:39 AM on December 7, 2001


rodii, much like your comment, it was a "mildly humorous jibe at college" professors. Again, sorry if you saw it as a personal insult. It was not intended to be.

Everybody . . . just cool out.
posted by billman at 11:56 AM on December 7, 2001


y2karl, All I can say is that it's his opinion. What he means by "feel that they are special, better than the society they serve", I guess, is left open to speculate. My only guess would be that many in the military feel that they are "better than" most non-military due to the fact that they live by certain parameters that civilians do not. Duty, honor, country and all of that. Many are in peak physical condition so there is probably a feeling of physical superiority as well. Of course, there are plenty of examples to the contrary but I doubt those people would consider themselves "better than" civilians so . . . I guess I have no idea how to respond to an opinion unsupported by facts or even the communication of observations.
posted by billman at 12:05 PM on December 7, 2001


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