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An element of Irony from the story of Janis Karpinski's accusations of rape and death in Iraq. It seems Karpinski told an earlier version of her story to David Hackworth of "Soldiers For the Truth" in a September 2004 interview. This version makes no mention of deaths by dehydration; either Karpinski added that detail later or, if it was included in her original version, Hackworth deleted it from the final version - perhaps recognizing it immediately as proof positive that Karpinski's story was beyond belief. We'll never know. Hackworth himself has moved on to that big FOB in the sky, and Karpinski's credibility leaves much to be desired.
The irony is that Hackworth's organization was in no small way responsible for the shameful and well-deserved end of Karpinski's military career - it was Soldiers for the Truth that brought the Abu Ghraib photos before the eyes of the world. Declaring to this day her complete ignorance of events at her prison, it's possible Karpinski is not aware of this fact either.
Coincidentally, the Washington Post ran a profile of Hackworth's replacement at the helm of the organization he founded just last week
Kids. That's what Roger Charles calls the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting what the Pentagon calls the Global War on Terrorism, the young grunts on their first tours of duty in combat zones. The green first-term officers who now must put theory into practice to stay alive. The cannon fodder. These kids are the reason that Charles runs an organization called Soldiers for the Truth from his unassuming home in Alexandria's Del Ray area.Hackworth, Charles and other retired military personnel launched Soldiers for the Truth in February 1997. Charles was a natural fit; after retiring from the Marine Corps in 1990 his post-military career was in journalism. He had worked with Newsweek, ABC, CNN the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, U.S. News & World Report, the New Yorker, and CBS' 60 Minutes. With those credentials he was the perfect conduit, ensuring wide mainstream media coverage for any 'scandal' that Soldiers for the Truth could expose.
For the average American, the name means little. But for many soldiers in the field, the group's Web site ( http://www.sftt.org/ ) and online newsletter (DefenseWatch -- The Voice of the Grunt) have been invaluable, giving the world a glimpse of the war from their vantage point. For defense reporters, it has been a source for the unvarnished, unspun truth about what's happening on the ground. And for the Pentagon brass, at times, a thorn in the side.
"We try to short-circuit the barriers to the truth," Charles said.
In was in his capacity of consultant for 60 Minutes that he helped "break" the story that turned the course of the war in Iraq. The Army had already announced the investigation into the abuses, and CNN had reported as early as January 2004:
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. military's criminal investigation into potential abuse of Iraqi detainees by U.S. soldiers at Abu Gharib prison in Iraq now includes reports from soldiers that military police took photographs showing soldiers hitting detainees, CNN has learned.Mary Mapes (whose career with CBS 60 Minutes would ultimately end in the wake of Rathergate) picks up the story in her book Truth and Duty : The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power
Earlier, several Pentagon officials who declined to be identified by name confirmed to CNN that investigators were looking into the reports -- all coming from fellow soldiers -- of photographs showing male and female detainees with some of their clothing removed.
Here was our original tip: American military officials were investigating reports of abuse at Abu Ghraib. We were told that a number of US soldiers were involved and that an extensive collection of photographs, taken by the soldiers, was part of the investigation.By this time someone was smiling - without those pictures CBS had nothing but an echo of the other stories - with them they could tell any story they wanted - the pictures were all that would matter.
We were not told who the soldiers were, where they were from, or what they had done. All we knew was that the unit had already come back from Iraq and the soldiers under investigation were left behind in Baghdad.
We knew we could not call the Pentagon with questions because that would sound the red alert and likely end our chances of getting the story. So we turned to old fashioned, tried and true techniques to get the answers we needed. We found there had been a short, generally worded Department of Defense announcement made in Iraq about soldiers under investigation at Abu Ghraib. There were virtually no details given on the case, which was characterized as an ongoing disciplinary action.
With my less-skilled assistance, Roger Charles, our military consultant, set out to find which units had been at Abu Ghraib and when they had been there.
In his spare time (not that he had any), Roger worked with Col. David Hackworth on his advocacy Web site, Soldiers for the Truth.
The site advocated a number of changes in Pentagon policy regarding the war, usually on issues such as up-armoring of military vehicles in Iraq. In return, SFTT received countless e-mail messages of support and chunks of raw information from soldiers in the field, their families, and sometimes people inside the Pentagon.
I wondered aloud if we might use the web site in a slightly different way. Why not use the information we had to put out an internet alert on the Abu Ghraib case?
Within hours of our posting our alert on March 23, Roger got an e-mail from a man named Bill Lawson. He was the uncle of one of the men being held in preparation for a court martial.
...Lawson left a phone number where he could be reached. Roger called Lawson back so fast his fingers nearly burst into flames.
Roger listened to details of Chip Fredericks case and then asked the big questions: Had Lawson heard anything about the photographs? Lawson said that Frederick had acknowledged that pictures were part of the evidence against him. "Chip says that he is in only one of the pictures," Lawson told Roger. "I just hope he's not smiling"
The rest, as they say, is history. It's likely that few people passing information to "Soldiers for the Truth" know they are actually feeding stories to the mainstream media; SFTT presents itself as a simple grassroots advocacy group for the troops. The Washington Post quotes Charles: "That's all our agenda is, the well-being of the grunts who are on the bloody end of the spear"
But the Post article also notes another well-known motivating factor behind the organization:
Hackworth began writing missives that his supporters admire for their candor and searing criticism of the Pentagon brass he often dismissed as careerist "perfumed princes" more interested in political connections and promotions than in the troops in the field.But Soldiers for the Truth didn't hesitate to help the only true "perfumed" member of the brass they ever nailed publicize fables of widespread rape among those grunts on the bloody end of the spear. Likewise their "exposure" of the Abu Ghraib photos left no doubt as to the guilt of the defendants, and ensured the sadistic guards at Abu Ghraib - including Bill Lawson's nephew Ivan Frederick - became the faces associated with the word "torture" around the world.
Currently Soldiers for the Truth is working to get more armor to the troops. They need it. Excluding casualty figures for major combat operations, prior to the 60 Minutes broadcast of the Abu Ghraib photos US forces averaged 45 deaths per month in Iraq. Since then, only two months have seen numbers that low.
(Think you know what happened at Abu Ghraib? Take the Torture Test and find out.)
(Original post: 2006-02-08 23:07:24)
All I can say for anyone writing to SFFT for any help or assistance or to bitch about something just be prepared to lose your anonymity. I know of two people specifically where this happened. Both had requested their name, unit, division etc. be left out of the information and that was not honored.Posted by toni at February 9, 2006 03:27 AM
Its funny Hackworth and I emailed back and forth a lot, mostly about Vietnam. He was a true champion of soldiers and always remained true to his "mustang roots." But at some point he simply lost it. I think it was after he got beat up over the death of the Adm Boorda.Posted by NOTR at February 16, 2006 02:56 AM
Roger Charles was also the guy who Mary Mapes relied upon as her military expert on the National Guard during the Rathergate fiasco.
His ignorance on how the Guard operated and his vetting of the Killian memos as accurate and truthful was one of the big reasons Mapes and Rather went on with the hoax.
This guy is not as bright as you are making him out to be.Posted by Izzy Stewpud at February 16, 2006 05:29 AM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(3) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)