Military’s Snow Job

Thanks to Will Parker at Channeling Cupertino for the pointer to the following news from Washington State’s The Olympian about a case of military monkey business: It appears a host of US newspapers are receiving letters to the editor from happy, positive US soldiers stationed in Iraq. Problem is, they’re all the same letter.

Turns out they’re form letters — and while some GIs did affix their John Hancocks to the ghostwritten missives, others are ticked off because their names appear on the missives even though they did not sign them.

A Gannett News Service search found identical letters from different soldiers with the 2nd Battalion of the 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment, also known as “The Rock,” in 11 newspapers, including Snohomish, Wash.

The Olympian received two identical letters signed by different hometown soldiers: Spc. Joshua Ackler and Spc. Alex Marois, who is now a sergeant. The paper declined to run either because of a policy not to publish form letters.

The five-paragraph letter talks about the soldiers’ efforts to re-establish police and fire departments, and build water and sewer plants in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, where the unit is based.

“The quality of life and security for the citizens has been largely restored, and we are a large part of why that has happened,” the letter reads.

It describes people waving at passing troops and children running up to shake their hands and say thank you.

It’s not clear who wrote the letter or organized sending it to soldiers’ hometown papers.

Six soldiers reached by GNS directly or through their families said they agreed with the letter’s thrust. But none of the soldiers said he wrote it, and one said he didn’t even sign it.

Marois, 23, told his family he signed the letter, said Moya Marois, his stepmother. But she said he was puzzled why it was sent to the newspaper in Olympia. He attended high school in Olympia but no longer considers the city home, she said. Moya Marois and Alex’s father, Les, now live near Kooskia, Idaho.

A seventh soldier didn’t know about the letter until his father congratulated him for getting it published in the local newspaper in Beckley, W.Va.

“When I told him he wrote such a good letter, he said: ‘What letter?’ ” Timothy Deaconson said Friday, recalling the phone conversation he had with his son, Nick. “This is just not his (writing) style.”

One soldier, who said he agrees with the letter’s content, told The Olympian that the whole episode shows a lack of integrity. “It makes it look like you cheated on a test, and everybody got the same grade,” he said.

A comment on the blog Jarrett House North makes a good point: “Compare this with the GOP astroturf campaign a few months back. [Tom Tomorrow talked about it last May.] I know it’s common practice, but you know, it still smells. A few of the papers did features on the letters from the front, as though the boys that signed them had actually written the letters.”

And the US military boasts about being an honorable operation. Apparently it takes lessons in honesty from its Commander-in-Thief.

UPDATE: Mark A.R. Kleiman offers more info on the Death Brigade’s deceptive deed.

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One thought on “Military’s Snow Job

  1. Uh-oh! Looks like the operation was a leetle more grandiose than originally reported. USA Today is reporting that at least *500* form letters got sent out across the country. Check out http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2003-10-14-letters-usat_x.htm.

    ====
    An Army battalion commander has taken responsibility for a public-relations campaign that sent hundreds of identical letters to hometown newspapers promoting his soldiers’ rebuilding efforts in Iraq.

    Lt. Col. Dominic Caraccilo said he wanted to highlight his unit’s work and “share that pride with people back home.”

    Caraccilo said he meant no harm. “The letter was purely an effort made by soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry to afford our soldiers an opportunity to let their respective hometowns know what they are accomplishing here in Kirkuk,” he wrote in an e-mail to the 4th Infantry Division public affairs office. Attempts to reach Caraccilo directly were unsuccessful.
    =====

    I’m sorry, Mr. Lieutent Colonel Spamalot, but if *you* had the letter typed up and then sent it out to your troops for signature (or not, as the case may be), it wasn’t their effort – it was *your* effort to promote your success as a commander.

    Gee. That kinda sucks…Sir.

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