October 11, 2003

BOGUS LETTERS FROM IRAQ? I'd like to know who's behind this. (Parachuting from jumbo jets? Does anybody do that?) With so much good news coming firsthand from Iraq, there's no need to fake it. Unless, perhaps, you're either (1) incredibly stupid; or (2) trying to discredit the real thing. And sending the same letter to the same paper under two different names means you'd have to be incredibly stupid.

Whoever's behind this should be appropriately punished, either way.

UPDATE: My mistake -- it seems that the letter isn't bogus after all. Michael Ubaldi emails:

The article needs about five reads. What seems to have happened is that somebody wrote a letter and asked his buddies to sign it; most of them did. Note that every soldier agrees with the depiction - they should, they signed onto it - and only one guy doesn't remember giving his permission.

All other soldiers quoted as knowing nothing about it are brass - which means little. The only other relevant information is that one of the authorized letters was sent to the wrong place - and that's only according to his anti-war stepmother.

There's a slightly different version of the story in Tulare, which lacks the northwest mixup: Link.

This stinks of nonstory dolled up into anti-war hit.

Sounds like I fell for it. My apologies. Reader Steve Koch emails:

My nephew is in the unit that the form (not bogus) letters were sent from. (I have no reason to believe that he was involved in any way.) They did, in fact parachute from jumbo jets (c-17s). Google "c-17 173rd" and you can read all you want about it and see photos.

You really did them (and us all) a disservice when you concluded:

> Whoever's behind this should be appropriately punished, either way.

The article that you linked to made it pretty clear that it was a form letter that soldiers were being encouraged to send to counter the negative portrayals in the media. They are understandably frustrated that the progess they are making is being ignored. Of course, the wisdom of their approach is questionable, and nobody should have sent a letter with somebody else's name on it.

Nobody, obviously, should be punished for sending non-bogus letters, and that's what this appears to be. Sorry I was fooled by the article in The Olympian -- I should have been more skeptical. (And I never thought of a C-17 as "jumbo jet," but here's a story that backs up the claim. And Donald Sensing has comments, too.)

ANOTHER UPDATE: Spoons says I'll never make a professional journalist. Good thing I've got a day job!

MORE: I should note that if these are manufactured by PR people, it's dumb -- though if the soldiers agree to sign on, and think that the letters are accurate, which appears to be the case, it's not deceptive. But any campaign like this is sure to be tarred by anti-war and anti-Bush people as bogus even if it's not deceptive. Just give the troops the addresses, and let 'em write their own letters -- it's more honest, and more effective. Sort of like blogging as compared to Big Media!

It would be nice, of course, if newspapers gave as much space to genuine good reports from troops in Iraq as they do to addressing claims that some of them are bogus, but that's probably asking too much.

STILL MORE: CBS has picked up the story. Once again, the troops say they agree with the sentiments, but the big story is that it's not in their words.

Hey -- maybe they'll start applying that kind of criticism to the things that news anchors read off the TelePrompters. . . .