Less than 12 hours since arriving home, and I find that I am forced to defend my honor, and that of every US soldier and Marine in Iraq, from what appears to me to be another fraud.
From Greyhawk at the MudvilleGazette comes a story from the New Republic. It is supposedly the diary of a soldier stationed in Baghdad, and it recounts some awful stuff.
Now, I will be honest with you, I haven't read the whole article, because it is for subscribers only. But Micheal Goldfarb at the Weekly Standard has the breakdown, and I have to say my first reaction was to pull out the bulls**t card.
First, I never saw an instance of soldiers in Iraq digging anything, let alone the outlines for a combat outpost, or COP. First off, even small COP's are larger than any house in the US. The notion of US soldiers digging thru the hard pack in Iraq is silly-we have engineer units for that. And if the engineers aren't available, we would call KBR or even the local sheik before passing out e-tools.
Second, even my least intelligent soldiers could identify, at a glance, the uniform of any female on base. Army ACU's, Army DCU's, Army mechanic's coveralls, Marine cammies, Marine flight suit, Marine mechanic's coveralls, it didn't matter. Natural curiosity was the main factor, but my guys desire to not say something stupid in front of a higher rank was a close second. The thought that these guys would poke fun at someone who could, for all they knew, be a US general, is patently absurd. And in black and white, military personnel carry weapons, while almost all of the civilians do not. Someone who he "saw every day" would be categorized quickly on this basis alone.
Third, while I don't doubt the black humor contained in the story, I do doubt that the US military would have someone obviously disfigured by an IED on a US base. My experience was that the coalition gets wounded troops out of country fast, not only for medical reasons, but for morale. Wounded troops make soldiers wonder and worry. A person disfigured as described in the article, if in theater, would be well known and described to all the troops so as to avoid the awkward situations that were described. I can easily hear the warning coming from my battalion CSM, thru my company 1SG, thru my PSG, down to me-there's a local Iraqi who is disfigured, don't you f***ing stare or you'll spend the day in the front leaning rest.
Fourth, while you and I might call them Bradley Fighting Vehicles, joes that drive them call them BFV's, or Brad's. Brad's are a light armored gun platform crossed with a infantry carrier. They do NOT take to cornering out buildings with ease. This more than anything was enough to make me disbelieve the story. A Brad could, in theory, take out a corner of a building and still continue, but there is plenty of stuff on the outside that will break. Like turn signals and headlights and mirrors. Any accident has to be accounted for. The Army always has to have someone to blame, even if only for paperwork purposes.
Stray dogs in Iraq are numerous, and I don't discount joes killing them on purpose. At Trebil, killing stray dogs with your rifle was almost a duty responsibility. But killing them by running over them with your Brad means washing the remains off, which is difficult since washpoints are hard to come by in Iraq. In 16 months, I had the privilege of washing my truck just once. Otherwise, the smell quickly becomes a problem.
And as to the notion that a young soldier wore a 'trophy' human skull on his head, well, I can only speak for my unit, but such a person would have been quickly squashed. We put up with a lot from our guys in Iraq, from bad attitudes to poor performance after our extension was announced, but no one in my unit ever put up with the disgusting desecration described. Any NCO worth his stripes would have stomped on that soldier or reported it. Any officer worth his salt would have smoked the guy senseless, and then given him to the NCO's for his real punishment. Either way, the story rings hollow to me.
And lastly, the soldier seems to revel in the announcement of his own twisted deeds. Let's keep in mind that we aren't talking about a soldier reporting on his buddies, embarressed to describe his own involvement. We are talking about a soldier who seems proud to display his own ignorance, who describes his own actions without any remorse. A soldier such as this is hardly fit to critique or represent the war effort in general. If this account is true, we are in fact talking about a soldier who has comitted and covered up numerous violations of the UCMJ, and would likely face lengthy jail time. Yet he freely shares his stories with the media. Surely there are soldiers who can confirm or deny his story.
Truthfully told, a soldier's stories of war crimes can be the welcome light of day in an area of perpetual darkness. But a soldier must accept the benefit of doubt against him, since the overwhelming number of troops have behaved exactly as we expect US troops to behave in combat. But even if you stipulate a 1% chance of US troops being as depraved as was described, you are looking at about one thousand troops in Iraq in that category, spread out thru the entire country. But to get away with any of this, you have to further stipulate that 30 ( a platoon's worth, at minimum) were all stationed together, and that the officer and senior NCO in that platoon were co-conspiritors. If you can believe all of this, then I would strongly encourage you to purchase 5 tickets for the next Powerball drawing, and quit your job on the assumption that you will win. I think I have worse odds of being wrong than you do of being right.