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June 26, 2003

Smearing the 3-15th

Seen this story from the June 19th issue of London's Evening Standard yet?

I just pulled the trigger

At first glance they appear to be the archetypal Band Of Brothers of Hollywood myth, brave and honest men united in common purpose.

But a closer look at these American GIs, sweltering in the heat of an unwelcoming Iraq, reveals the glazed eyes and limp expressions of those who have witnessed a war they do not understand and have begun to resent. By their own admission these American soldiers have killed civilians without hesitation, shot wounded fighters and left others to die in agony.

What they told me, in a series of extraordinary interviews, will make uncomfortable reading for US and British politicians and senior military staff desperate to prevent the liberation of Iraq turning into a quagmire of Vietnam proportions, where the behavior of troops feeds the hatred of an occupied people.

Sergeant First Class John Meadows revealed the mindset that has led to hundreds of innocent Iraqi civilians being killed alongside fighters deliberately dressed in civilian clothes. "You can't distinguish between who's trying to kill you and who's not," he said. "Like, the only way to get through s*** like that was to concentrate on getting through it by killing as many people as you can, people you know are trying to kill you. Killing them first and getting home."

There's more, in a similar vein. Copies have been posted around the Net by the usual suspects, because if true, then the story is not only a damning indictment of the war in Iraq and the major media's coverage of it, but something the anti-liberation movement can gleefully point to as proof that they were right all along.

Of course, it's almost certainly not true, as they should have suspected when the article made crowing mention of "a series of extraordinary interviews" while quoting only selectively from them. If they were such extraordinary interviews, then the transcripts themselves are at least as newsworthy as the story about them, something the most rookie J-school grad knows. In this context, failure to publish information so obviously germane to the article at hand makes it look like something is being hidden, as indeed something apparently was.

The soldiers' quotes appear to be in response to questions about the fedayeen's practice of disguising themselves as civilians, quotes that Bob Graham then took out of context in order to gin up his quagmire story.

In the course of Googling around in an attempt to find some support for some of the wilder contentions of the article, like Bob Graham's story of an Iraqi Vassili Zaitsev, I ran across a link to the 3-15th's home page at Intel Dump.

Figuring I had nothing to lose, I called battalion headquarters, finding a Lt. Beerbower on staff duty. According to the good Lieutenant, the 3-15th hadn't heard of the story yet, so I emailed him the story url, along with my suspicions about the selective nature of the quotes.

Today I got this reply;

Sir,

I would like to thank you for the information on this story.

It does indeed appear that things were taken out of context. I am sending a message forward warning them to avoid speaking to representatives of the Evening Standard, specifically Bob Graham.

Thank you for your interest and support.

Respectfully,

LT Beerbower

So, if the next story Bob Graham files is about how the U.S. Army is censoring him, you'll know why.

Of course, none of the above actually disproves Bob Graham's story. He says one thing, the 3-15th says another. As it stands now the story exists in a journalistic limbo of "he said, they said." Think of that what you will, taking into account that Mr. Graham has an obvious axe to grind and that the 3-15th didn't even know the story existed until I asked them about it, hardly the behavior of a unit attempting to keep a tight grip on the media. We report, you decide.

As for myself, I'll choose Lieutenant Beerbower's version of events over Bob Graham's until it's proven wrong. If they are in the right, then all the Evening Standard has to do is release the full transcripts of Mr. Graham's interviews with the Bravo company soldiers, and that will be that. Heck, lots of newspapers have won awards for less.

But if the Evening Standard thought this was award winning journalism, wouldn't that already have happened?

Posted by Bigwig at June 26, 2003 02:59 PM | TrackBack
Postscript:
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Comments

Of course, if true, a few courtmartials are in order.

I lean toward the Dowdizing of the original quotes.

Posted by: Chuck at June 26, 2003 03:31 PM
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