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Real or Memorex?
July 23, 2003 10:45 AM   Subscribe

A soldier's letter home, or clever propaganda? This "letter" has been making the rounds as an email, supposedly from an officer, stationed in Iraq, named "Mark". He certainly seems to know a lot about what's going on. He loves his job, likes his generals, and admires the Iraqi people, who like him and other Americans; and he hates the press and the foreigners he says are fighting reconstruction. Sounds a little too good to be true.
posted by kablam (45 comments total)

 
It casts a positive light on the US. Therefore, it can't be true, right? Or maybe the CIA planted it. Or the NSA. Or aliens.

Break out the tinfoil tam o'shanter.
posted by mrmanley at 10:56 AM on July 23, 2003


When I was in the service I always loved my generals too. It was the lower ranking officers that annoyed me.
posted by Postroad at 10:57 AM on July 23, 2003


War porn.
posted by shagoth at 11:07 AM on July 23, 2003


The cameras rolled and the idiot started repeating his story, then one of my guys asked him in Arabic where he had left the rag he usually wore around his face that made him look like a girl. He was a local leader of the Feyhadeen. We took the clown in custody and were asked rather indignantly by the twit from BBC if we were trying to shut up "the poor man who had seen his mosque and friends blown up." I told the airy-fairy who the raghead was and if he knew Arabic (which he obviously didn't) he'd know he was a Palestinian. I suggested we take him down to the local jail and we'd lock him and his cameraman in a cell with the "poor man" and they could interview him until we took him to headquarters. They declined the invitation.

I hope it's fake. I know that one can't study history strictly through analogy, but raghead is beginning to sound a lot like gook.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 11:08 AM on July 23, 2003


Whoever he is, he has a marvelous way with words. Some highlights:

Instead of being sitting ducks for the ragheads we now are going after the worthless pieces of fecal matter.

Now wear wrap-around sunglasses, GAP T-shirts, Dockers (or even better Levis with the red tags) and Nikes (or Egyptian knock-offs, but with the "swoosh")
- part of Operation Iraqi Capitalism, I guess?

Mick, he's a big potato eater from Belfast named Huggins

A mosque in that shithole Fallujah

then one of my guys asked him in Arabic where he had left the rag he usually wore around his face that made him look like a girl.

I told the airy-fairy who the raghead was

This place has greater potential than Saudi Arabia (bunch of goat-herders who struck black gold) or Iran (weird dudes who can't run a rug bazaar much less a major country).
posted by witchstone at 11:09 AM on July 23, 2003


Regardless of whether this was written by a real officer or not, this is not a "letter," it is an article on how our "airy-fairy" liberal media is getting the whole story in Iraq wrong.

I stopped reading after he said that the morons at Bullshit Broadcasting couldn't tell the difference between an Iraqi and a Palestinian. This was a couple paragraphs after he displayed his familiarity with different ethnic backgrounds by calling some civilians "ragheads."
posted by zekinskia at 11:11 AM on July 23, 2003


From the article:
My brief love affair with the press, especially the guys who had the cajones to be embedded with the troops during the fighting, is probably over,

Actually, the independent journalists who declined to be "embedded," who travelled on their own, and who refused to allow themselves to be censored and spun are the ones with real cojones. Nice try, Mr. Rumsfeld.
posted by Ty Webb at 11:25 AM on July 23, 2003


mrmanley: You really think this makes the US look good?

The idea that the media is somehow making the US look bad is laughable. The last time the media cheered this hard for our troops was WWII.
posted by jpoulos at 11:25 AM on July 23, 2003


What is true?
US TROOPS ADMIT SHOOTING IRAQI CIVILIANS
posted by lsd4all at 11:36 AM on July 23, 2003


The last time the media cheered this hard for our troops was WWII.

And at least then the troops had overwheming popular support. Nowadays all the rah-rah just seems kinda dissonant against what you hear on the street.

Plus, I think this is a fake too. I've talked with plenty of military people and even the most gung-ho of them wasn't as full of shit as this guy.
posted by jonmc at 11:36 AM on July 23, 2003


( From the San Francisco Chronicle )

"Friday, July 18, 2003

Pentagon may punish GIs who spoke out on TV

Robert Collier, Chronicle Staff Writer

Fallujah, Iraq -- Morale is dipping pretty low among U.S. soldiers as they stew in Iraq's broiling heat, get shot at by an increasingly hostile population and get repeated orders to extend their tours of duty.

Ask any grunt standing guard on a 115-degree day what he or she thinks of the open-ended Iraq occupation, and you'll get an earful of colorful complaints.

But going public isn't always easy, as soldiers of the Army's Second Brigade, Third Infantry Division found out after "Good Morning America" aired their complaints…

The retaliation from Washington was swift…

"It was the end of the world," said one officer Thursday. "It went all the way up to President Bush and back down again on top of us. At least six of us here will lose our careers."


First lesson for the troops, it seemed: Don't ever talk to the media "on the record" -- that is, with your name attached -- unless you're giving the sort of chin-forward, everything's-great message the Pentagon loves to hear…"


I can't say for sure, but I would call the "Soldier's Letter" either 1) A national embarrassment for the U.S. or 2) an especially crude piece of garbage from a PsyOps operative who really should get fired for poor judgement and overall lack of talent: "Things are getting better each day, and
The morale of the troops is A-1, except for the normal bitching and griping."
Any propagandist with more than 800cc's of brain would acknowledge some troop dissatisfaction first, and then proceed to make the case that the worst in Iraq has passed, especially due to PR victory of the (alleged) slaughter of Saddam Hussein's rather loathsome sons.
posted by troutfishing at 11:38 AM on July 23, 2003


As to the troops who spoke out being punished, its because the publically called for the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld on air. I'm not sure if you are well versed in our country's governance troutfishing, but we have something called civilian control of the military here. The military, whether you are a private or a general, cannot publically, in their role as a member of the military, take a political stance like that. Its insubordination, not something any military, anywhere looks pleasantly on.
posted by pjgulliver at 11:55 AM on July 23, 2003


Meanwhile, "HINESVILLE, Georgia, July 18 (AFP) - In the small US town of Hinesville, Georgia, home of the 3rd Infantry Division, patriotism hangs from virtually every corner, where huge signs call for the blessing of the USA and its troops in Iraq.

But amid the flags and the banners, a sour mood is creeping into this town of 30,000 in the southern state of Georgia, where soldiers' relatives are voicing displeasure over the recent announcement that some 10,000 troops of the 3rd ID will remain in Iraq indefinitely."

However....."When the Iraqis see media coverage of disgruntled Americans publicly campaigning for the return of our soldiers from Iraq, they are encouraged and believe their strategy is working," wrote Anita Blount in an open letter to spouses in The Frontline. The publication is a community newspaper in Georgia for Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield, home to the 3rd Infantry.

Anita Blount is the wife of Maj. Gen. Buford Blount, commander of the division, who is in Iraq leading his troops.

She said Iraqis who see complaints by U.S. families could come to believe "that their continued attacks on American soldiers are having the desired effect and are diminishing the resolve of the American people to complete the task in Iraq."

I can't argue with that logic - I've no doubt it's true. But neither can I fault the wives for feeling disgruntled, or the troops of the 3rd for feeling a bit desperate. I blame the Bush administration for a lack of a realistic plan to deal with the postwar situation in Iraq and - true to the tone of it's imperially arrogant, Marie Antoinesque "let the Marines of the 3rd eat sand, bake in the sun, and get shot at for however long it takes - after all it's their job." attitude, it is, as usual, average Americans who pay the price for the mistakes of the Bush ideologues.

Meanwhile, I hear the Halliburton is having a very, very profitable year.
posted by troutfishing at 11:56 AM on July 23, 2003


mrmanley: It casts a positive light on the US. Therefore, it can't be true, right? Or maybe the CIA planted it. Or the NSA. Or aliens.

No, it doesn't cast the US in a good light, I'd have expected you to be jumping up and down about this being a 'leftist-media' fabrication. If you think this is showing the US in a good light then maybe you're a leftist media fabrication.
posted by jamespake at 11:57 AM on July 23, 2003


A guy on the scene seems to think things are going pretty well. (Afghanistan is improving too, confounding the "Quagmire!" shouters of a year ago.) Lt. Smash doesn't seem the doom and gloom troutfishing seems to see, and he's there.
posted by mrmanley at 11:58 AM on July 23, 2003


I thought Lt. Smash was fighting Hulk Hogan in a steel cage in Newark tomorrow night.
posted by COBRA! at 12:01 PM on July 23, 2003


Hey Guys, sorry it's been so long since I've sent anything but a quick note to you individually
The note was long; seems there was more at the beginning too? Also the northern part of Iraq had the most unrest; and may be what he wrote about. The southern part been a lot more quite and easy going from the e-mails I receive about my brother's unit from his Major.

Also the time line of his letter is end of June/beginning of July; yet it made it home that quick?

The morale of the troops is A-1, except for the normal bitching and griping." Any propagandist with more than 800cc's of brain would acknowledge some troop dissatisfaction first, and then proceed to make the case that the worst in Iraq has passed, especially due to PR victory of the (alleged) slaughter of Saddam Hussein's rather loathsome sons.

You have normal bitching and griping at the get go, boot camp. He is a lieutenant so he oversees a lot of men. But was this letter e-mailed. Because if he has e-mail access why such a long letter added what I posted above. Then too, he would not be allowed to talk about operations to a site himself.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:02 PM on July 23, 2003


ragheads? [shuffles over to the next thread...]
posted by VulcanMike at 12:02 PM on July 23, 2003


Ask any grunt standing guard on a 115-degree day what he or she thinks of the open-ended Iraq occupation, and you'll get an earful of colorful complaints.
I can wittness to this, false not true. My brother has phone access at base and in the field. He just called after doing the above and it is much more hotter than that.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:06 PM on July 23, 2003


It could be true. There are jack-asses in every organization. They're usually the ones with the biggest mouths.
posted by spslsausse at 12:15 PM on July 23, 2003


It could be true. There are jack-asses in every organization. They're usually the ones with the biggest mouths.

A very good point - perhaps we should stop focusing on left/right politics and pay more attention to the jackass/non-jackass dimension.
posted by jamespake at 12:22 PM on July 23, 2003


Well, folks, you know me. You know I've never been a friend of the Neo-cons, and they certainly never have been fans of mine.

That being said, I just finished a long night on Sunday talking to a Marine just out of Baghdad. He wasn't a political guy, and we were as concerned about our shuffleboard scores as we were about the conversation.

I have no beef against our troops, and I certainly don't hold the Mass Media up on some sort of pedestal.

I listened to the kid. I believe him. Here's the story, if you're interested.
posted by Perigee at 12:23 PM on July 23, 2003


(Afghanistan is improving too, confounding the "Quagmire!" shouters of a year ago.)

Well, if someone as anti-war as Instapundit says everything's fine in Afghanistan, it must be true. (rolls eyes, laughs ass off)
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:25 PM on July 23, 2003


pjgulliver - Actually I did think that those on air comments were.....ummmm....personally unwise for your very reason that "whether you are a private or a general, cannot publicly, in their role as a member of the military, take a political stance like that." I didn't know that the troop/s who were interviewed by ABC called for Rumsfeld's resignation. That was especially unwise.

What I wonder is - were the soldiers who talked to ABC unaware that their statements constituted a serious breach of military codes of conduct? Or were they aware and yet still talking - out of desperation?

Thomcatspike - So, do you think the letter is real? I'm not sure myself. On the "normal level of bitching and griping" - I'd add also that the measure of what is a "normal" level is very subjective. Meanwhile - maybe your brother is more sweet spoken than some?

mrmanley - over the past six weeks, the BBC has reported

1) The remergence of Kubal as a hot spot of terrorism.

2) That the Taliban is regrouping inside of Afghanistan, and also gaining new recruits: Arid Afghan province proves fertile for Taliban - Some disaffected villagers in Zabul Province now offer shelter and assistance to militants." (CSMonitor )


3) "Afghanistan retakes heroin crown -
Afghanistan retook its place as the world's leading producer of heroin last year, after US-led forces overthrew the Taleban which had banned cultivation of opium poppies." (BBC)

4) Numerous news reports - from a wide array of sources - also report the increasing chaos in Afghanistan.

"KABUL, July 11 (Reuters) - Several Afghan opposition leaders, including senior members of the ousted Taliban, have met near the Pakistan border to plot coordinated attacks on government and foreign troops and aid workers, a governor said on Friday.

The governor said Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, leader of a radical Islamic party, and two commanders of the ousted Taliban -- Jalaluddin Haqqani and Saifur Rahman -- drew up a strategy at a meeting in Pakistan's lawless tribal area near the Afghan border.

"We have reports they met recently and talked over launching coordinated attacks," the governor of Ghazni province, Haji Assadullah, told Reuters by telephone."

Meanwhile: "Most Afghans 'live in fear' under warlords: Amnesty International
KABUL, (AFP) - More than 19 months after the fall of the Taliban, most Afghans still "live in fear" under the rule of local warlords, Amnesty International secretary general Irene Khan said here on Tuesday.
"The people of Afghanistan were promised security, development and human rights for all," she told reporters at a press conference to launch a report on Afghan prisons.
"But with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) confined to Kabul, the real power is back in the hands of feudal power holders and regional commanders," said Khan, who is from Bangladesh.
"The vast majority of the population live in fear under their control," Khan said."
posted by troutfishing at 12:30 PM on July 23, 2003


The overt racism, narrowmindedness, and intolerance of other cultures in this letter reminded me of one of the reasons I left the armed forces as soon as my commitment was up. Unfortunately, this type of attitude was not at all rare; in a way, I'd say it's encouraged by the rest of the organization.
posted by greasepig at 12:31 PM on July 23, 2003


troutfishing:

The Beeb would report that flying monkeys were circling Big Ben holding anti-Blair signs if they could make political book with the story. I won't even bother linking you to the avalanche of stories about the BBC's continuing meltdown; a quick Google search will turn up hundreds.

As for the other stories: are you contending that things are worse or better now than they were before we intervened? If you simply mean to say that problems still exist, I agree -- I'm just saying that life for most people in that country has improved since we gave the Taliban/Al Qaeda folks the boot.
posted by mrmanley at 12:46 PM on July 23, 2003


Perigree - I like this bit from your link:

That being said, his personal stance towards the hot-button topic of Weapons of Mass Destruction is incredibly moderate; he certainly puts me to shame.

"I'm not an intel expert or anything, but I've seen intelligence used. We'd roll towards one town, and be told by the intel guys the inhabitants would be out there cheering; then we get there, and they'd hose us down with bullets instead. We finish there and move on, and intel tells us to expect stiff resistance in the next town, and there the townspeople are out waving welcome banners." He shrugged his shoulders dismissively.


Looks like he's got the hang of US intelligence.
posted by jamespake at 12:53 PM on July 23, 2003


MetaFilter's Judgment:

It isn't critical of the Bush Administration nor critical of this illegal and racist war for oil...

So obviously it must be propaganda... duh!
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 1:24 PM on July 23, 2003


What I find ridiculous is that he simultaneously attempts to portray the American presence as a benficial, caring one, good for the people, while simultaneously calling them ragheads and boasting about making them cower in fear and/or blowing them away.

Real or not: Whatever.
posted by scarabic at 2:06 PM on July 23, 2003


Wow, and I was just wondering whatever happened to that Kaycee Nicole lady ...

Oh, and regarding:
The retaliation from Washington was swift…
"It was the end of the world," said one officer Thursday. "It went all the way up to President Bush"


Dear Troops:
Do as Duhbya says, not as *he* did.
posted by NorthernLite at 2:35 PM on July 23, 2003


Perigee, thank you for your link. Brother is a Marine.

troutfishing, (pressed for time earlier) one agree, something does not seem correct by which it was constructed. Do we know the original source by which Mark sent this? The letter the way it posted did what the site says “rant.”

His first sentence tells me that knowing who(m) the e-mail/letter was sent would add to his comments. I doubt he started off by ranting, most letters to home/family begin by a salutation/greeting of some sort: Hi mom miss your cooking. This did not.

By it being posted like this without a better introduction it did a disservice to him/military, mho. I too think that the post on Rant was more than one letter/e-mail then submitted as one. Some of the things he mentions is not suppose to be talked about openly at that time, too.(no not trying to hide the truth, the operation(s) were in progress)

Feel too it was not submitted to the rant by him but someone that shared what they wanted, not his full words. Again from the first sentance the letter/e-mail is missing more. Then too his letter is obviously addressed to people he mostly associates and them fully understanding his words, like they had been in similar situation(s). Us not knowing Mark or his full background and having no association to him, again a disservice by posting this post like this, imho.

Do not see anything wrong with his letter/e-mail. Feel it was not addressed to the open public, nor is anyone's private mail; were not the FBI yet, or are we. But it did make it to the internet and the messenger may be the one we should tar-n-feather for not having better judgement.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:38 PM on July 23, 2003


Well, this is surprising. Could someone find out when the page linked was last updated? I tried to check with my ancient copy of Netscape, but I couldn't get the page to load.

My father is a veteran reporter with a major network. He sent this letter (same content, nothing extra) to me on July 16 with headers removed and orders not to re-send it or post it anywhere. He said that the letter is "apparently real" and from a confidential source, a special forces guy on duty in Iraq. He's very skeptical by nature, so the letter must have been sent to him by someone he trusts. Sure, it could still be phony, but it seems unlikely to me.

I'm curious about who leaked it, 'cause it wasn't me.
posted by swerve at 3:51 PM on July 23, 2003


Swerve, it was leaked by the time it got to your father, sending things to veteran reporters is how you leak something.
posted by cell divide at 4:05 PM on July 23, 2003


cell divide: sorry, I had a Senior Moment. Let me rephrase: I'm curious about who made it public. It's irrelevant, but I'm curious anyway.

[reminding self to put brain in gear before operating mouth]
posted by swerve at 4:39 PM on July 23, 2003


swerve, some of the things he talked about were mentioned in an E-mails about my brother's activities and we were asked to leave out key words(not facts) if we posted it on the net, so I'm with you.
posted by thomcatspike at 4:57 PM on July 23, 2003


Doesn't take long to propagate.
posted by kablam at 5:00 PM on July 23, 2003


mrmanley - well it's clear you don't trust the BBC. I find they tend to keep their facts straight, and that they often cover news blacked out by the "free" US press.

Perhaps you would prefer the Situation Reports for Afghanistan Humanitarian Crisi website by the World Health Organization - or do you consider the WHO to be part of some conspiracy to promote a biased agenda?
posted by troutfishing at 6:03 PM on July 23, 2003


It's amazing when you actually ask the people there, things seem to be going well. Yes, there are screw ups and problems. There are tempers and a longing to go home. But overall, much better than the way the press seems to want to portray it. As mentioned before, Lt. Smash blogs on this and so do others. Including my own buddy, Chief Wiggles. They get extremely annoyed with the general coverage of things and the way the press seems to grossly exaggerate every small problem to sell their rags.
posted by Plunge at 6:09 PM on July 23, 2003


How do they follow the press from Iraq?
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 7:09 PM on July 23, 2003


From Iraq you can follow the news on satellite televison, giving you CNN International and BBC International, as well as probably Deutschewelle and the French networks, as well as the Arabic stations. Change that to "now that the Hussein regime has fallen"

Also, many American forces have web access, so they can follow the same news we do.
posted by pjgulliver at 8:45 PM on July 23, 2003


What pgjulliver said.

This isn't WWII. While these guys still have it pretty tough, they do have some of the things we have here. They have radios, and they have the internet.

Amazingly, AC is in short supply, you'd think with everything else, they could give these guys someplace cool to sleep...
posted by Plunge at 9:59 PM on July 23, 2003


Illegal wars, prisoner humiliation, secret trials, prisoners of war interrogated, prisoners of war tortured to death... yeah! Woo! Go Team USA!
posted by Blue Stone at 2:35 AM on July 24, 2003


Howdy, noticed this thread from the referral above. On the general authenticity of this, I'd have to say it's pretty high. It certainly sounds like it was written by a special forces bad-ass.

My source for this also tends to push it towards legit, I had to strip off nearly 100 .mils from the header, and since I know what the family of the guy who sent it to me does for a living (def. con.), I gave it more credence. It could certainly be crap, but the reason it made it to me was that it passed muster in front of a bunch of ex-marines and special forces who thought it was legit.

Anyway, it could be fake, but if so, it's a damn good one (better than the Niger receipt). People have different perspectives on things, if you walk in on a surgeon, halfway through an operation, everything is literally going to look like a bloody mess. These guys are surgeons, whether the patient survives or not is another story, and not one they worry about, they just go after the cancer. But the fact remains, without the knowledge of what an operation looks like, it's very tough to judge how things are going, and reporters are not surgeons.

Bah, crappy analogy, I was just excited I got included in a link flood.
posted by wah at 7:19 AM on July 24, 2003


I had to strip off nearly 100 .mils from the header, and since I know what the family of the guy who sent it to me does for a living (def. con.)

Trust me, that means exactly diddly squat. You wouldn't believe the BS that flies across email in my office, which is right down the line of what you're talking about, except a bit spookier.
posted by NortonDC at 8:16 AM on July 24, 2003


REAL.
posted by mcchesnj at 12:00 PM on July 26, 2003


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