In consequence of transparency and potential conflicts of interest, I need to state up front that I have in the past done work for and with DoD PAO operations. It is, in fact, one of the reasons that I have a low opinion of many DoD PAO activities, operations, and even people. I have indeed met Scott Beauchamp, corresponded with his wife, and have met Major Luedeke and others mentioned in the reports and articles. With one exception, I do not plan to say anything about any of these people at this time. I note yet again that my goal in doing my embed was not to deal with this issue or the people involved; but, rather to talk about the reality of day-to-day life at COP Ellis and allow our readers to meet some of the outstanding soldiers there.
That said, I take great umbrage at the assertion, whether you choose to call it implication or statement, that the Army as a matter of policy leaked the documents to Drudge yesterday. I am particularly incensed at any direct or indirect smear aimed at Maj. Luedeke, who is one of the real good guys.
Mister Foer, if you have indeed been demanding these documents for as long as you claim, I challenge you to answer and produce the following:
1. Did you simply demand that they be turned over to you?
2. Were you not informed that such documents fell under Federal privacy laws and/or the corresponding Army regulations and that there were procedures for obtaining same?
3. Were you not informed of exactly what and how on the procedures?
4. Did you ever file them in a proper and authorized manner or did you simply try to continue demanding them in phone calls or e-mail despite knowing that such was not legal and proper?
5. If you did file said paperwork, it is also a requirement that receipt of said paperwork must be provided. Can you show such receipts and the dates attached? Keep in mind, that the recipients must also keep that data, so comparison can and should take place...
It's not that I don't trust you, it's just that the track record here is a bit spotty. I mean, you obviously knew that the Army was not holding anyone incommunicado (or in an undisclosed location with Dick Cheney), that participants in this were in regular communication with spouses and others, and that if all else failed you had the option to go over there yourself rather than simply have conference calls that appear to have slipped your mind. I could get into more, but Bob Owens has been birddogging this almost from the start, Michael Goldfarb first raised the serious questions and continues to follow it, Hot Air and Michelle Malkin make the points much better and in far more detail.
So, put up or shut up. I suspect that if and when the identity of the leaker comes out, it will be clear that this was not a nefarious plot by the Army, DoD, or macchimpyhaliburtonkbrbushhitler and company to smear the "good name and reputation" of TNR and the people within. Hard to do when you've done it to yourself.
Since I am a big believer in ending on a positive, I will note the following:
First, I have every faith in the world that Michelle Malkin will come out okay in the lawsuit filed against her by cr**weasels for comparing them to Mister Foer and/or claiming that he was one of them.
Second, I want to take the time to commend the following people in PAO who were involved with my recent embed.
DoD PAO does indeed have problems and problem people. The further one goes into REMFland, the more "interesting" PAO support and activities can become. For example, I was given a briefing on a non-combat facility where the PAO involved told me that I could take all the notes I wanted, but that none of the information on the slides being shown could be provided in any other way. In other words, they could not and would not even consider going on record with their own data, even insofar as putting said data into an e-mail so that there would be a source to cite. This same PAO later politely demanded I hand over to them some materials given to me by an interview subject so they could review them, and then proceeded to confiscate about half of it (and clearly wanted to confiscate all of it, IMO) on the grounds that there was sensitive information contained within it. There are all types of games played by DoD PAO offices, from being forced to provide the same basic information multiple times to the same person as a power play on their part, to finding offices that are essentially impossible to work with. When that happens, I have also found that quite often the story can be done not only without them, but without mentioning the facility at all. Indeed, one quite often finds that the more problematic a PAO office, the less relevant that facility truly is to the story or bigger pictures.
Such problems, though, also make the high points shine even brighter. I've already thanked Capt. Signore and crew before, but they deserve it again. Was everything perfect? No, just as perfect as they could get it. Thanks again.
Major Kirk Luedeke deserves a great deal of thanks for all he did. From agreeing to the embed to making sure I got to spend one-on-one time with the troops, his efforts were wonderful and appreciated, and showed the true heights of professionalism.
Captain Michael W. Armistead, Public Affairs Officer for Regimental Combat Team-2, USMC, also deserves a great deal of thanks. From dealing with transportation delights to making sure I had the background briefs to help me get the full story at AQ, he too showed the heights of professionalism. I note for the record and with thanks the briefings he not only provided well after midnight, but those of the leadership of the Regimental Combat Team who did so as well. It was and is appreciated.
In all the negative that is coming out, remember the positives. Have faith that the negatives will get all that they deserve.
UPDATE: I strongly urge you to go read Michael Yon on second chances, as well as Bob Owens' posts at Pajama's Media and his site. As Blackfive notes there are more things in play than can or should be discussed.
As for me, I believe in second chances, and in earned redemption. I hope and even pray that such things are possible. While I have not written about it, I know that Scott Beauchamp has been offered such, and that he has done a good bit within certain constraints to make things right with his unit. What else he can or should do is not for me or others to say, it is up to him. There are other choices he has, and to accept them or reject them are also up to him. Not everyone in his unit is happy with him or what he did, nor will some ever forgive him for what he did. That's life. The one thing I feel comfortable in discussing from our conversation was that I told him that we all f**k up, and that what truly counts is what we do after.
How far one goes, what price one is willing to pay for second chances and redemption are individual choices. Scott has his chances and his choices, and the support of some damn good sergeants and officers, as well as those who call him friend.
TNR has none left in my book, and I think that there may be much more to come out about them and their actions in all this. I choose to leave most of that for others to tell, at least for now, so that I can concentrate on telling you about the Tipping of West Rashid, the soldiers behind it, and a glimpse at some of the Iraqi people involved in it. I want to focus on sharing Easy Company with you, and the individuals within it.