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Using the Troops: How Low Can You Go?

October 13th, 2003

A local newspaper in Beckley, West Virginia, got a ‘letter to the editor’ from a soldier in Iraq. “I have been serving in Iraq for over five months as a soldier with Company A, 2nd Battalion of the 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment, otherwise known as ‘The Rock,'” wrote 19-year-old Pfc. Nick Deaconson, son of Dr. Timothy Deaconson, a Lt. Col. who served in the first Gulf War.

“Things have changed tremendously for our battalion since those first cold, wet weeks spent in the mountain city of Bashur. … The majority of the city has welcomed our presence with open arms.” The letter went on to tell how well things are going in Iraq, contrary to news reports.

When Dr. Deaconson read this letter in the paper, he was so proud. The writing style was excellent, better than he expected from his son. He decided to call Nick to congratulate him on getting published.

When he did so, his son simply asked, “What letter?”

Pfc. Nick Deaconson was recovering from shrapnel wounds in his legs at a hospital. He said he didn’t send any letters to the newspaper.

And soon, newspapers across the country were beginning to notice that the same letter was running in “Letters to the Editor” sections nationwide. Each one was identical.

According to one soldier, the company’s platoon sergeant passed out the form letters, bearing the name of each soldier, and asked everyone for the name of his hometown newspaper. The soldiers were then asked to read the letters, and if they agreed with them, to sign them. The company administration, apparently, then took care of mailing each one to the hometown newspaper. So far, at least a dozen newspapers have been found to run the letter (I found them in New Mexico, Pittsburgh, and Charleston; I have seen reports of the letter in New Jersey, Montana, Washington, and the above-mentioned West Virginia. Two letters so far found were unsigned, and both soldiers whose names were used report that they did not give consent.

Now, there are a few things about this that are pretty despicable. First, some of the letters were sent out unsigned, but bearing the name of soldiers who never consented to have their names used in a propaganda offensive. And second, it should be illegal for any superior officer to “suggest” that any soldier write letters saying anything at all. Each soldier knows that if they decline, it will be noticed and they may be disciplined or looked down upon as disloyal. You don’t want to put a soldier in that position. Every soldier has been trained to be loyal to the military authority, and this action is a crass violation of the trust that said authority will not be abused.

It is bad enough that this administration is taking these young men and women, putting them in harm’s way, getting so many killed and injured… then lowering their pay, cutting their insurance and educational benefits, even making some pay for the food they eat while recovering in hospitals–the list of how badly this administration has been treating our men and women goes on and on…

And now this.

I’m sorry, but this sickens me.

Thanks to Sako for pointing this story out to me.
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