Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

This blog is devoted to a variety of topics including politics, current events, legal issues, and we even take the time to have some occasional fun. After all, blogging is about having a little fun, right?

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

Who are we? We're a married couple who has a passion for politics and current events. That's what this site is about. If you read us, you know what we stand for.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

A Commander Responds to the New Republic Diarist

This story is far from over, and another gauntlet has been dropped before the New Republic. It comes in the form of a letter from Major Kirk Luedeke and he is the public affairs officer at FOB Falcon. Here is what Major Luedeke has to say in response to the New Republic piece:

Via Matt Sanchez, we've received this statement from Major Kirk Luedeke, the Public Affairs Officer at FOB Falcon, the base where "Scott Thomas" claims that he and his buddies ridiculed a woman who was badly disfigured by an IED blast (no one has yet come forward to claim they either have seen or heard of such a woman at the base, despite "Thomas"'s claim that she was a regular).

Hey Matt:

Here are the facts as best I have established them, along with the actions I have taken here at Falcon.

1. I was notified of the New Republic blog entries yesterday (Friday) by documentarian JD Johannes, who had spent time with us as an embed in May. He was concerned about the reports, but also expressed doubt in their veracity. He provided the New Republic and Weekly Standard response to the blog entry links.

2. I was able to immediately refute the assertion that a mass graveyard of children's skeletons was found; an event such as this would have been reported during the construction of Coalition Outpost Ellis, the only such COP that exists in the area the blogger described (rural, south of BIAP).

3. The stories of the burned woman and hitting dogs with Bradleys can't be as decisively disputed, however, I have not encountered a woman matching that description at any time on Falcon since arriving here on 17 Feb. You would think that someone with such visible wounds would stand out in memorable fashion. This doesn't mean that she wasn't a visitor at some point, but I find the account of Soldiers mocking her dubious at best.

4. I immediately notified MAJ Lamb of MND-B PAO, who advised me to send him the link and pertinent information on the New Republic's blog posts, which I did. He informed me of his intent to engage the CENTCOM blog team to see if they could take action, and at the very least, make them aware of the situation.

5. I contacted the only unit in our brigade that has Bradleys, 1-18 IN, and advised their XO of the situation, recommending that they talk to their Soldiers about Army values and the Warrior ethos, reminding them of the rules for blogging in uniform and also reminding them of integrity and telling the truth. The bottom line: If you put something out there you should be willing to put your name next to it and stand by it. That he and New Rpublic are insisting on anonymity is very telling here.

Per COL Boylan's request, I have prepared the following:

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.

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.

Major Kirk Luedeke
Public Affairs Officer
4th IBCT, 1st ID

You can choose to believe the diarist if you wish but as the infomration continues to pour in, this is looking more and more like either a person pulling the wool over the eyes fo the New Republic, or a soldier in Iraq that likes to lie and/or embellish his tales for a liberal rag. The major makes it clear that he has reservations accepting the diarist's allegations, and rightly so. Much of what is said goes to conduct unbecoming. It is disrespectful and reckless.

With the Bradley incident alone, I cannot fathom any group of soldiers tolerating the driver putting them in danger with his behavior. He puts them at risk as much as he puts himself at risk. If, during his "hunting" excursions he had hit an IED, or had one detonated next to his Bradley, the explanation given would have warranted an immediate reprimand, if not removal from such duty.

The debunking of the so-called "mass-grave" is an interesting one. It goes from a children's cemetary to a "mass-grave," by which the description sounds more like an archeological dig rather than either of the former two descriptions. Why would there be "layers" of objects on top of dirt, and then bodies? Over in Iraq, to disturb a cememtary like that is seen as disrepectful. Had such a cemetary been unearthed in the construction of the outpost that Major Luedeke describes, the Iraqis nearest the cemetary would have been contacted, and the request would have been made to move it. Stephen Spruiell @ NRO's Corner,/li> also took note of another letter that Major Luedeke sent to Mr. Goldfarb: (This one was sent prior to the one above.)

I've been watching the events on the New Republic's "Scott Thomas" piece with interest.

As the 4th IBCT Public Affairs Officer- I can tell you unequivocally: there was NO mass grave discovered in this area of operations in conjunction with the building of a coalition outpost anytime in the past 12 months. None. Zero. Zip. And Frank Foer's assertions to the contrary, there is no way that his mystery soldier "Scott Thomas" can prove it. Foer can produce all of the alleged "eyewitnesses" he wants- unless these individuals are willing to back up their claims with real evidence, it's just so much garbage on a computer screen. Some people seem to forget that the burden of proof should be on the New Republic to back up his unsubstantiated claims and not the other way around.

If the story *is* true, then "Scott" and whomever else is purporting to back up his assertions should come forward, identify themselves and submit their report through official channels. We are not in the business of suppressing his right to free speech...on the contrary- he's free to submit whatever he wants, so long as it doesn't put others at risk for operational security (OPSEC). Of course- by putting his name on such outlandish claims, he then has to account for what is clearly a series of false statements. So- obviously- it is left to reasonable people to decide who is telling the truth here.

I invite Mr. Foer and the New Republic to actually give us something to go on. Proof. Any kind will do- and something more than one anonymous soldier's claims and a nebulous "we've heard from others who can corroborate it," kinds of responses he provided Howard Kurtz. It's kind of hard to take these allegations seriously, when you're hiding behind the cloak of anonymity. Just about every Soldier these days has his or her own digital camera or video camera. Talk to anyone here- every unit down to squad level in our brigade is *required* to have a camera on every mission. It's all part of being prepared for such a discovery. Surely- there would be photos of the skulls and mass grave if it truly existed, would there not? The reason there isn't any photos, is because simply- the story isn't true.

There may be small grains of truth to what Scott Thomas has written. But, I can tell you that at least one event he's described as "fact" could not have occurred. To claim that an entire chain of command was complicit in keeping quiet such a grisly and important discovery of such magnitude stretches the realm of believability and is a grave insult to the professionalism and dedication of so many fine Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines serving here.

I know that if my organization claimed to have unearthed a sizeable cache of hundreds of explosives, rockets, nitric acid and other key components to make roadside bombs, otherwise known here in these parts as a "good news story," media outlets would rightfully demand some kind of proof to substantiate our claims. That's why we take pictures of such things and provide them along with our press releases. The inability of the New Republic and Scott Thomas to provide any kind of photographic evidence whatsoever, and the fact that "Scott" isn't willing to come forward and identify himself, pretty much says it all, doesn't it?

If he is in fact speaking the truth- he should have no problem putting his real name next to it. It's called integrity, and it's one of the seven Army Values. That neither he nor the New Republic want to do that, and then hide behind the need to protect him from "retribution" (when I would add that he *is* in fact breaking a DoD directive with his actions) merely underscores the dubious nature of this whole story.

I invite Scott Thomas to come by the Dragon PAO shop at FOB Falcon- Bldg 301, Rm 119, and I'd be happy to share the DoD media policy with him. While he's here, I'd love to discuss with him the mass graves, Bradley IFV dog hunting and IED burn victim he's so intent on stating is fact. If he can provide the evidence, I will gladly retract every word I've posted on the subject. If he's not willing to do that, then it kind of makes you wonder about his credibility, and that of the New Republic's doesn't it?

Best regards,

Major Kirk Luedeke
Public Affairs Officer
4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division DRAGONS FOB Falcon

In other words, the ball is clearly back in the New Republic's court. Prove the assertions, or accept the fact that the people in the know will simply chalk this up to more media-driven fantasy over incidents that simply did not, and could not, have occurred.



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