The Magazine

The Wellstone Effect and Chief Wiggles.

From the November 10, 2003 issue: The Scrapbook looks at the Wellstone memorial revisionists.

Nov 10, 2003, Vol. 9, No. 09
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In a story in last week's Newsweek online about Iraqi reconstruction, there was a glancing mention of an important grassroots effort to reach out to Iraqi children. The article talks about safety improvements in parts of Baghdad: "There are motor pools, and Internet cafes, cafeterias and video lounges." And in an almost dismissive manner, it continues: "There's even a blog from inside the Green Zone, put out by someone who says he's a military intelligence soldier using the pseudonym Chief Wiggles ( Lately the boosterish Chief Wiggles has been using his blog to find donors to give him bicycles so soldiers can pedal around the zone giving out toys to children."

Boosterish? We understand the writer probably bears no malice towards the chief, but this operation is no ordinary "toys for tots" program. Wiggles's efforts to make life a little easier for the children of Iraq is on a scale with Gail Halvorsen, the celebrated "candy bomber" who dropped chocolates down to German children during the 1948 Berlin airlift. And despite doubts expressed in the Newsweek piece about Wiggles's identity ("someone who says he's a military intelligence soldier"), the man is authentic. The Chief (whose real name is classified for security reasons) serves in Utah's 141st military intelligence battalion (National Guard) and is currently working as an interrogator and debriefer at a palace in Baghdad. But on one occasion, he witnessed a poor girl crying and was so moved he wanted to gather up some toys for her. He then made mention of this idea of giving even more toys to more children on his blog, and thousands of people from around the world responded, all wanting to know how they could help.

To date, the Chief's "Operation Give," a newly set-up nonprofit organization, and "Share Joys Through Toys" effort has yielded more than 800 packages from overseas. Even Federal Express has gotten involved by shipping some of the packages from the United States free of charge.

Hundreds of toys have been distributed to a children's hospital in Baghdad, among other venues. "As we went down each hall and ward of the hospital, our following grew behind us as the word of our arrival spread like wild fire," writes Wiggles. "Unfortunately, due to the sheer number of people, we were unable to deliver toys to every employee or family member who desired something. We were there to make sure each and every sick child got a toy. The kids were great. Yes, there were many very sad situations causing me to cry inside for the kids, but there were smiles indicating their happiness to see us with the toys."

Wiggles humbly describes himself as "one individual trying to make a difference" and believes that "one person's seemingly insignificant positive actions can exponentially initiate a rippling of positive energy." Call him benevolent, noble, or selfless. Just don't call him boosterish.