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The Straight Story

An American soldier tries to get PepsiCo to answer a simple question.

12:00 AM, Jun 3, 2005 • By SCOTT W. JOHNSON
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I have attached a photo [omitted here] that I took when patrolling in a Baghdad neighborhood just a few days before the January 30th elections. As you can see, the children are running towards our vehicle waving and smiling. To be candid, the kids probably like candy and toys at least as much as their new freedom, but they were not running and smiling previously when insurgents were terrorizing their neighborhood. That change is due to the efforts, and sacrifices, of U.S. troops to make their neighborhoods safe. Still, does PepsiCo consider the effort that U.S. troops have made in these neighborhoods, including taking casualties, as "lending a hand" or "giving the finger?"

Sorry to repeat myself, but as someone who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other places in the war on terror, I would like to know how the leadership of PepsiCo answers that rather clear question. Since your president, in a prepared public speech to a high-profile university, clearly, methodically explained a point of view, I am asking if that represents the view of PepsiCo Board of Directors. If I may be so bold, I think you owe an answer to the troops on the ground.

I respectfully ask for a personal reply. If that is not possible, then I simply thank you for the form reply that you distributed and the opportunity to be heard.

At this point Major E. received a personal reply, though not one that answered his question. Suzanne Gooley of PepsiCo public relations responded that "we understand that you feel Indra's apology is not satisfactory. We will share your sentiments with her, and deeply regret that you have been disappointed in this way."

Major E. responded:

Thank you for your message. Ms. Nooyi is certainly entitled to her detailed opinion that the United States these days is "giving the finger" to the rest of the world, rather than "lending a hand." Having friends who have recently graduated from Columbia, I would imagine that the audience found her remarks pleasing while I, on the other hand, did not because of the underlying values and obvious political subtext. Without question, the dominant issue of American involvement in the world is the Global War on Terror, including the liberation and continuing stabilization efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, where myself and over 130,00 other Americans are serving.

The question that I have asked since my first communication on this topic is whether PepsiCo agrees with the values that underlie Ms. Nooyi's statement made as the president of PepsiCo, not as a private citizen, since she is the company's president who made the remarks from a prepared text before a high-profile graduate school with media present. In regard to our relations with the rest of the world, does PepsiCo believe that America is "giving the finger," or "lending a hand?"

This is the third time I have asked the question and though it seems quite straightforward, I have yet to receive an answer, only polite responses promising to "forward" my message. Please advise whom I can contact to find out if PepsiCo accepts or rejects Ms. Nooyi's assessment. If getting such an answer continues to be a challenge, I am prepared to beg if necessary.

Giving up PepsiCo products has constituted a special sacrifice for Major E. Until Ms. Nooyi's speech, he had counted on PepsiCo's Gatorade to replenish himself after the drenching sweat he experiences while serving in his tank. Pending a response to his question from PepsiCo, he relies on an unsatisfactory combination of fruit punch and water. It would be nice if they'd just answer his question.

Scott Johnson is a contributor to the blog Power Line and a contributing writer to The Daily Standard.