Pvt. Propaganda, First Class


Here's a brief UPI piece that has appeared in several newspapers. It details an apparent fake letter-to-the-editor campaign designed to boost morale for the war back home. To call it disturbing is barely scratching the service

This particularl story comes from the NY Post:

October 13, 2003—Form letters claiming to be from U.S. troops in Iraq and hailing the Army's accomplishments there have cropped up in newspapers across the country—although some of the troops say they either didn't sign them or were forced to by a superior.

One of the soldiers, Nick Deaconson, said he didn't know about the letter—which appeared with his signature in his local hometown paper in Beckley, W.Va.—until his dad spotted it in the paper and praised him for writing it.

"When I told him he wrote such a good letter, he said, 'What letter?' " Nick's dad, Timothy Deaconson, told The Olympian newspaper in Olympia, Wash.

The identical letter was sent to at least 11 newspapers and signed by different members of the 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment, a probe by Gannett News Service found.

The letter specifically touts the army's efforts to rebuild the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, where the unit is stationed.

The form letter states that children routinely run up to the troops to thank them for helping them, while other Iraqi citizens cheer in support.

A Pentagon spokesman said the military is "looking into the matter."

UPDATE: A reader pointed me to a debunking of this story that appeared on Instaundit (scroll down to Bogus Letters From Iraq).

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  1. For some people, the glass is always half full. For others it’s always half empty. And for yet others, the glass is nothing more than government propaganda designed to take our minds off how millions of good Americans are being killed each month in Iraq.

  2. “One soldier, who asked not to be identified, said he was reluctant to sign the letter because he did not agree with the comments in the letter but said he was ordered by a superior officer to sign. ‘When I’m given an order, I obey it,’ he said.”


  3. The baggage these comments have sometimes…

    Ruthless commented: “I find it hard to believe some enlisted schmuck would engage in such elaborate free-lance PR and for no apparent remuneration?”

    There are a number of stories floating about that some soldiers have been dismayed by coverage of the occupation so far on the big media outlets. I don’t find it unbelievable that a group of literate soldiers (apparently from the same unit) got together and agreed to sign on to copies of a form letter to express this dismay at how their duty is being portrayed.

    Kevin wrote, “And according to our credulous and sheeplike anonymous critic, seeing this as a slimy exercise in opinion management puts you in the same category as someone who believes in Icke’s ‘lizard people.'”

    Actually, it does, because there’s no good evidence for either conviction. The administration “spinning” events is a far cry from forging the names of soldiers or forcing them to sign onto a PR document with which they do not agree–much the same as arguing that politicians have different priorities than us common-folk is a far cry from arguing they are actually lizard people.

    It’s a little distressing to see many of you absolutely convinced something nefarious is afoot when there’s absolutely no evidence to support that presumption.

  4. So all those form letters people sign and send to their congressmen (er, congresspeople) are bogus?

    “One soldier, who asked not to be identified”

    more like, “One soldier, who may not actually exist”

    Now look who’s wearing the tin foil hat…(me)

  5. Crank: More proof that Bush and the Corporate media are spinning the fact that it is Vietnam all over again!

    Reader: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The fact that these are the same letter is not proof that it doesn’t reflect the names of those who signed it. We should take these letters at face value.

    Crank: A-HA! So you belive the Government is perfect and never has done anything along! How can they control people with these mind control rays??? Do you think Watergate isn’t a conspiracy?

    Reader: Your Tin-Foil Hat is loose.

    Crank: See that is why you are trying to stop the debate! This proves you think the government is perfect and anyone who disagrees with ME is the idiot!!!!

  6. I did my own investigation for Indymedia on these “letters.” Turns out that one of the guys who “sent” it was the brother-in-law of a cousin of a sister of a friend of….DICK CHENEY.

    Enough said. Let’s see you right-wing shrubbies try to “debunk” that!

  7. Apparently these are not fake. Glenn has covered it over at Instapundit:

    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.

  8. I find it hard to believe some enlisted schmuck would engage in such elaborate free-lance PR and for no apparent remuneration?
    After all there is already some PR company, hired by the Defense Dept, getting big bucks for this sort of thing, right?

  9. I can debunk that no problem. Everyone knows that Dick Cheney’s friend only has all brothers (no sisters) so this can not possibly be true.,

  10. Oh, yeah, InstaHack has gotten to the bottom of it. Because everyone knows he’s never wrong. At least not in his mind.

    The so-called debunking smells fishier than the bogus letters. Someone wrote a letter and asked his buddies to sign it? Why then did the letters arrive at these newspapers with only one person’s signature each? It clearly wasn’t a matter of someone trying to say, “Hey, here’s something that all of us agree with.” It was someone trying to pretend that dozens of separate people wrote separate (presumably different) letters.

    Sounds like the good professor’s debunking is in need of some debunking.

  11. The so-called debunking smells fishier than the bogus letters. Someone wrote a letter and asked his buddies to sign it?

    Read the original article, Fred. Oh, but take off your tinfoil hat first.

    Six soldiers reached by GNS directly or through their families said they agreed with the letter’s thrust.

    “Everything it said is dead accurate. We’ve done a really good job,” he said by phone from Italy, where he was preparing to return to Iraq.

    Sorry to disappoint your hope for the failure of democracy in Iraq.

  12. This is a form letter that someone put together for troops to sign and mail home if they wanted. That’s it. Sum total of “scandal.”

    Pardon me if I am not impressed, either way.

  13. Anon: Questioning the mighty Glenn Reynolds makes one a member of the tinfoil hat brigade now? It makes one an opponent of Iraqi democracy? Why don’t you take your goddamn head out of the microwave.

  14. What I don’t see is why the original article has been “debunked.” All that’s been debunked, as far as I can tell, was Glenn’s initial misuse of the word “bogus.” Am I missing something?

  15. Anon:

    “Tinfoil hat” is the automatic response of a shithead to any suggestion that the government might not be telling the truth. As Jesse said about “idiotarian” a while back, it really means someone who has offended an idiot.

    The Bush administration is on the defensive and circling the wagons over events in Iraq. And the fact that thousands of erstwhile Bush supporters in the Red States are getting angry emails from kids who have found out they’re going to be in hell a year longer than they expected isn’t helping.

    Apparently one idea for putting a positive spin on things was a form letter (probably generated at a fairly low level), designed to give the misleading impression it was actually written on the initiative of soldiers themselves. And according to our credulous and sheeplike anonymous critic, seeing this as a slimy exercise in opinion management puts you in the same category as someone who believes in Icke’s “lizard people.”

    So you’d better get your minds right and take whatever “our leaders” say at face value. Anyone who suggests that a government, of all things, might have an ulterior motive for lying, or that it’s real motives for a policy are something other than those stated, is a tinfoil-hat conspiracy nut.

  16. The analogy Iraq~=VietNam is getting tired, and was never accurate. Who is playing Soviet Union or China this time?

    The whole mess reminds me more of the cession of the Phillipines to the U.S. after the war of 1898. I hope it takes less than 50 years to turn the country over to a homegrown regime.


  17. Glenn’s first argument against the charge that the letters aren’t real: “With so much good news coming firsthand from Iraq, there’s no need to fake it.”

    Republican astroturf is nothing new. Go to the RNC, and you can sign up to get free gifts for putting your name on form letters. They usually start with, “As a lifelong Democrat…”

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