UPDATED 1:11 pm
We have another statement from Major Ludeke at FOB Falcon regarding the "Scott Thomas" "Shock Troops" story in the New Republic:
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 subtantiate 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?
Major Kirk Luedeke
Public Affairs Officer
4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division DRAGONS FOB Falcon
We also have information this morning from another soldier at FOB Falcon who asked that his name be withheld...
I am a U.S. Army officer and have been stationed at FOB Falcon, Baghdad, Iraq since October of 2006. I am currently still here. The stories that "Scott Thomas" describes are completely fictional. From some of the things he talks about I am led to believe that this individual may possibly be in my unit since we are the only ones with Bradley Fighting Vehicles and I recall the child cemetery that was uncovered in our sector while constructing a Combat Outpost.
First: I have never seen a woman on the FOB that was disfigured. FOB Falcon is full of combat Soldiers (men). There are very few female Soldiers on the FOB. After being here a year surrounded by men, I can tell you what every woman on this FOB looks like. IF there had been a woman with burns covering her face, and IF some undisciplined Soldier(s) had done something like described in this guys story, he would have been dealt with swiftly and harshly. The dining facility here is small and usually crowded. Any NCO or officer that had heard or seen someone committing this type behavior would have immediately approached that group and reacted to that situation. Those Soldiers would have had UCMJ actions taken against them. No one I know, NCO, officer, or even lower enlisted, would have tolerated this.
Second: There was a children's cemetery unearthed while constructing a Combat Outpost (COP) in the farm land south of Baghdad International Airport. It was not a mass grave. It was not the result of some inhumane genocide. It was an unmarked cometary where the locals had buried children some years back. There are many such unmarked cemeteries in and around Baghdad. The remains unearthed that day were transported to another location and reburied. While I was not there personally, and can not confirm or deny and actions taken by Soldiers that day, I can tell you that no Soldier put a human skull under his helmet and wore it around. The Army Combat Helmet (ACH) is form fitted to the head. Unlike the old Kevlar helmets, the ACH does not have a gap between the helmet and the liner, only pads. It would have been impossible for him to have placed and human skull, of any size, between his helmet and his head. Further more, no leader would have tolerated this type of behavior. This type of behavior is strictly forbidden in the U.S. Army and would have made the individual involved subject to UCMJ actions.
Third: When the U.S. Army takes to the streets on patrols we do it deliberately, with task and purpose. "Thomas" describes the Bradley slowing down and 'jerking' suddenly to hit dogs. This just isn't possible. If he is slowing down, then the vehicles behind him are slowing down, and there is a gap created between him and the vehicles in front of him. This would violate standard operating procedure (SOP) and make the convoy more susceptible to attack. While no one that has been to Baghdad can deny that there are large packs of wild dogs roaming the streets, to think that that is all a Bradley crew is worried about is absurd. The streets are also filled with IED's and EFP's. They line every street and and every corner. They are the number one killer in Iraq. When we travel in convoys, dogs are not our concern. We watch the streets, we look at curbs, we look at rocks, we look at windows for snipers and trigger men, we don't look at wild dogs. Also, if this guy is driving a Bradley, how is he marking his "dog kill count" in a green book. Again, any leader would have corrected this action immediately, not only because it is subject to UCMJ action, but mainly because it endangers the lives of every man in that convoy.
In a final note I would like to say this. The U.S. Army today is the most disciplined and professional Army in the history of the United States. This is the only war in our nations history where we have not instituted the draft to fill our ranks. Every man in the service today is there because he volunteered. The stood up in the face of danger, knowing we were at war, and said "I'll go". Most of these men are on their second deployment in support of the War on Terrorism, some are on their fourth and fifth. After five years of war with an increasing number of casualties, longer and more frequent deployments, and no end in site, these brave young men continue to volunteer their services, many of them reenlisting. No other Army in our history has been able to do that without the draft. Our military men and women today are true professionals, they are truly America's best and bravest. While there are some bad apples and non-conformist in our ranks, we are quick to identify them and remove them from the service. The author of this story is a bad apple. He is trying to get attention by telling wild stories. He too will be identified and removed from the service.
Ludeke responded to this as well:
The children's cemetery sounds like more of a probable explanation. Something like that is completely different from a "mass grave," where the inference was clearly made that the bodies were murdered. We were not notified of the discovery and movement of the cemetery, but as I said earlier- there is probably a grain of truth to what "Scott Thomas" said. If he was part of the detail, then it would explain the discussion about the bones. But, it still doesn't account for the disrespect allegedly paid to the remains by "Scott's" cohorts.
Also, Gateway Pundit has a statement from MNF-I on the "Scott Thomas" piece.
UPDATE: From a contractor who is currently serving in Iraq and who has spent time at FOB Falcon:
Please withhold my name and position as I am a civilian contractor and do not need to gain any notoriety.
I was at FOB Falcon on and off from 05 through mid 06. While I did not live there, I was a daily guest of the chow hall which was better than the locally procured and prepared Iraqi chow we got provided for us. In addition we usually hung around in between mission times trading pieces of kit and whatnot with the soldiers stationed there.
Not once did I ever notice a female, either active duty or contractor, fitting the rather overblown description in the "Shock Troops" article. Furthermore, even if such a female existed, any Joe would have adjusted the attitudes of those fictional soldiers. Mocking the wounded is simply not done. Period. Full stop. Do not pass "GO". Do not collect 200 dollars. For a soldier to not only mock, but sexually harass a wounded woman would have brought down the wrath of every senior enlisted and officer in the mess hall. Some of us get pretty protective of women over here and the chance of a 4 wall counseling session occurring immediately afterwards is around the 99th percentile.
We contractors hate IEDs as much as the military does, and jokes about them are usually followed by a thorough thrashing somewhere out of sight. For a soldier to be publicly joking about them and the effects on a person is nonsensical. Nobody would have put up with the kind of verbiage attributed to the supposed soldiers at FOB Falcon. Even if the first sentence somehow escaped the brain-mouth checkpoint- he would have been told (and not too politely) to cease and desist.
Bottom line is that this section of the article is total, complete, wholehearted, bovine scatology.