Whoops. A media outlet has once again been caught in a Jesse MacBeth-esque attempt to falsely smear US soldiers -- this time alleging that troops stationed at FOB Falcon (oh, yes -- my own personal former place of residence when with the 1-4 CAV in Baghdad) ridiculed and shunned a female contractor for her badly burned visage, caused by an IED blast (as well as other "atrocities," like steering out of their way to run over dogs in Baghdad streets).
The outlet, The New Republic, used the account of an admittedly pseuonymous "soldier" (going by the name "Scott Thomas") purportedly stationed at FOB Falcon to raise these questions. (of course, by the second sentence of the article - "She wore an unrecognizable tan uniform, so I couldn't really tell whether she was a soldier or a civilian contractor" - the first red flag had been raised to prominence. The assertion made in that sentence alone is dripping with BS)
Since the story was run two weeks ago, bloggers have torn it down piece by piece - using, in part, emails from soldiers who really live on FOB Falcon - exposing the clearly fraudulent nature of so many of the author's claims. Over at RedState, user .cnI redruM has a great overview of the story.
Michael Goldfarb at the Worldwide Standard (the Weekly Standard's blog) posts an email from an active duty soldier:
In the 11 months I've been here [at FOB Falcon] I've never once seen a female contractor with a burned face. In a compact place like this with only one mess hall I or one of my guys would certainly have noticed someone like that. There are a few female contractors, I think maybe a dozen, but none fit the horrific description given in that article. Further, I've personally seen guys threatened with severe physical harm for making jokes of any kind about IED victims given the number of casualties all the units on this FOB have sustained. It is not a subject we take lightly. Gallows humor jokes do get told, but extremely seldom and never about anyone they actually know or are in the presence of.There is, of course, more. The latest blow comes from MAJ Kirk Luedeke, the Public Affairs Officer for the 1st ID's 4th IBCT, based at FOB Falcon - an honest man, a good soldier, and a friend of mine. He writes:
1. There was no mass grave found during the construction of any of our coalition outposts in the Rashid District at any time. Such a discovery would have prompted an investigation and close attention paid at levels higher than ours to making sure that the victims were properly interred and attempts would have been made to determine their identities. It is difficult to fathom that a unit's leadership would condone Soldiers disrespecting the remains of anyone in the fashion described.(h/t Matt Sanchez)
2. Due to the threat of IEDs, our combat vehicles are driven professionally and in control at all times. To be driving erratically so as to hit dogs or other things would be to put the entire vehicle's crew at risk and would be gross dereliction of duty by the noncommissioned officer or officer in charge of the vehicle. Drivers aren't allowed to simply free-wheel their vehicles however they see fit, and they are *not* allowed to be moved anywhere with out a vehicle commander present to supervise the movement. Therefore- claims of vehicles leaving the roadways to hit animals are highly dubious, given the very real threat of IEDs and normal standards of conduct.
3. As for the alleged woman with severe burn scars, we have nobody matching that description here at FOB Falcon. As Soldiers, we practice the value of Respect: "Treat people as you want to be treated." If the blogger and his friends can't live the Army value of respect, I have little doubt that someone around them who does would have made an on-the-spot correction. The Falcon dining facility is not a spacious one. Anyone being rude, loud or raucous calls immediate attention to himself. It is hard to fathom that anyone would be able to get away with such callous behavior without somebody intervening and stopping it from happening.
Look, American soldiers are human. They make mistakes, they do things wrong, and, as is true with the rest of the population, there will always be some very bad apples within the group. However, if there's a population who more deserves (a) the benefit of the doubt, and (b) freedom from allegation and made-up atrocities in the absence of absolute proof and necessity, then I can't think of it.
Further, FOB Falcon, where this is alleged to have taken place, is constantly populated with journalists; the 4th IBCT is as great a destination for reporters as MNF-I offers. Embeds like myself and my good friends Michael Yon, JD Johannes, and David Beriain, among many, many others, have passed through there, and none of us have ever seen the soldiers there act even remotely in such a way - and you can rest assured that we would be the first to report it if we did.
Note: Regarding the running-over-dogs story, I have only this to add: There are so many wild dogs running around the streets of Baghdad that some are bound to get hit by vehicles. They bark at the trucks doing covert patrols, they move freely through the streets and ruins virtually unmolested, and they run across the road - as dogs are wont to do - at the most inopportune times.
That being said, to chase one down and hit it, purposely, in a giant truck?