Friday, June 30, 2006

Check This Out

I found a great video at Hot Air that I think everyone should watch. It parallels what I have been talking about in my last couple of posts. It is a good reminder why we need to be cautious with what we print for the whole world to see. I hope the editors of the NYT take a long hard look at what has happened in their own city over the past 16 years. I am a firm believer that if we forget history we are doomed to repeat it.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

My Little Letter

Concerning the letter I wrote to Mr. Keller of the New York Times I have received quite a few emails and have been the subject of several online forums. Mostly people agree with what I had to say but there are others who criticize me for numerous things including fanning the flames of hatred towards the media, being over the top, not thinking clearly, and my personal favorite not being a real person who is in the military. All of the discussion has gotten me thinking about what I had to say in my letter.

Is my anger justified and am I over the top with some of my comments in my letter? Well that is up for you to judge but I think it is time for some anger on my part. Gone are the niceties with which I could treat people and actually would prefer to treat people. Why must I continue to act civilly while things are happening that I wholeheartedly disagree with? I think it is high time to get angry with people like the editorial staff at the New York Times. I’ll leave being “nice” to people who are scared to speak out or who have jobs to worry about. I for one am not scared to offend or anger others with my words. I am not running for political office at the time being so I don’t have to worry about votes.

Am I heaping hate and anger onto the subject of the NY Times, WSJ, and the LA Times decision to print secret information? I personally don’t think so. Anyone reading my blog can decide for themselves whether or not they want to be angry, they don’t need me to encourage them to do so.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times Washington bureau chief Doyle McManus, Hugh Hewitt tells Mr. McManus that I and fellow soldiers are angry over his paper’s choice to publish stories involving secret information and that we believe they directly affect our lives. Mr. McManus chose to respond with a typical response for someone who knows nothing about the military.

“Well, I respect Sgt. Boggs, and I respect what he's doing for our country. I think accusing newspapers of causing the deaths of soldiers over the last several years because of a story that was printed last week probably adds more heat than light to this discussion.”

What actually adds heat to the situation Mr. McManus is your paper’s choice to publish sensitive information. I am merely expressing what I and, from the comments I have received in the past two days, many Americans feel. And if you want light to come to the situation why don’t you and the rest of the editors who chose to publish the story come out and start answering the tough questions without placing the blame on people like myself.

The bottom line is that I am a 24-year-old sergeant in the army. I get angry at times especially when I am in the sun dressed like a samurai (thanks for the samurai quote Buck Sargent) in 115 degree heat for nine hours a day. The thing about me though is I blame no one for my being in Iraq. I joined the military on my own and did so after 9/11. I figured I would be deployed and am grateful for the opportunity to serve other people in Iraq. I do place blame upon people like the editors of the NYT, LAT, and the WSJ for making things harder on me while I am here. Just like the faulty reporting so far on the incident in Haditha involving the marines the words of reporters directly affect what happens on the ground here in Iraq. Emboldened by the major media sources in America, terrorists all over Iraq who might not have heard about incidents such as the one in Haditha, seek revenge for incidents that probably never happened. For people like the LA Times editor Dean Baquet, who wrote a defense of his paper’s decision to publish the article about the secret program on monday, to think that their publishing information about the Treasury Department’s program to track terrorist finances will have no effect on people’s lives is plain stupid.

“We sometimes withhold information when we believe that reporting it would threaten a life. In this case, we believed, based on our talks with many people in the government and on our own reporting, that the information on the Treasury Department’s program did not pose a threat.” –Dean Baquet

Whether or not the information revealed this past week will affect lives remains to be seen but like I noted in my letter money is a huge part of the equation for terrorists. Without money they would be unable to buy the supplies needed to attack us. If, as a result of their reading the story in one of their favorite (NYT, LAT, and WSJ) American papers, it is now easier for terrorists to escape the eye of our security agencies then lives will be in danger in the future and you can count on that.

Well here I am Mr. McManus, Mr. Keller, Mr. Baquet and anyone else involved in publishing the story. I do not hide my contact info, you can reach me at or if you are like some people who don’t think I am really in the army you can reach me at If you want to know how I feel, if you want to talk to a person who your story directly effects, if you want to accurately gauge how your story has been received email me or send a reporter to interview me. I am not in the green zone but I am sure you can figure something out.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Letter to NY Times

I recently wrote a letter to the NY Times in response to their decision to print information concerning a U.S. secret program designed to track financial transactions of suspected terrorists. I'll post the letter in full below. I urge everyone to write to the NY Times and their congressmen and let them know how you feel about the NY Times yet again sharing secret information with America's enemies.

The Times article can be found here.

Mr. Keller,

What ceases to amaze me about your paper is the lengths you are willing to go to make headlines and sell papers. Who cares if those headlines help the enemies of America, you guys are making money and that is what it is all about in the end right?

Your recent decision to publish information about a classified program intended to track the banking transactions of possible terrorists is not only detrimental to America but also to its fighting men and women overseas. I know because I am a sergeant in the army on my second tour to Iraq. As I am sure you don’t know because you aren’t in Iraq, and I am sure never will be, terrorism happens here everyday because there are rich men out there willing to support the everyday terrorist who plants bombs and shoots soldiers just to make a living. Without money terrorism in Iraq would die because there would no longer be supplies for IED’s, no mortars or RPG’s, and no motivation for people to abandon regular work in hopes of striking it rich after killing a soldier.

Throughout your article you mention that “ the banking program is a closely held secret” but the cat is out of the bag now isn’t it. Terrorists the world over can now change their practices because of your article. For some reason I think that last sentence will bring you guys pleasure. You have done something great in your own eyes-you think you have hurt the current administration while at the same time encouraging “freedom fighters” resisting the imperialism of the United States. However, I foresee a backlash coming your way. I wish I had a subscription to your paper so I could cancel it as soon as possible. But alas, that would prove a little tough right now since I am in Iraq dealing with terrorists financed by the very men you are helping.

Thank you for continually contributing to the deaths of my fellow soldiers. You guys definitely provide a valuable service with your paper. Why without you how would terrorists stay one step ahead of us? I would love to hear a response as to why you deemed revealing this program a necessity, but that will probably come as soon as the government decides to finally put you guys behind bars where you belong.

Tim Boggs

Keep pressuring the NY Times and your congressmen, it the only way anything might be done about this situation. Tell your congressmen that what the Times is sharing with the world is hurting American soldiers. Feel free to copy my letter in full and send it to your congressmen as well.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

New Post at the Frontline Forum

I have a new story on Michael Yon's Frontline Forum so be sure to check it out. The story is about the town I am stationed in and I hope to have more posts soon on my site talking further about it. I also have an interview in the works with the commanding Iraqi general of the area and it promises to be good. Stay tuned in the weeks ahead for more to come about the great town of Qayyarah.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Media and the Military

Some people chastise me for being too hard on the media when it comes to their reporting on military matters. They say that I am unwarranted in my criticisms and that I should be more careful because I influence hatred of the media in others.

Why exactly do I detest the coverage the media provides about Iraq and Afghanistan? Why do I often blame them for encouraging terrorists to continue fighting? Why is it that I believe most media types are unfit to report on the military? Why do I cringe when I watch the news and read papers? There is one simple answer for all of these questions: Those reporting on the military have no clue what they are talking about because they have never been in the military.

Now I can see many objections to my viewpoint. I can already hear people saying things like “Well journalists cover things everyday that they have no direct experience with.” And if you feel this way then you are somewhat right. Female reporters cover football every Sunday and I am willing to bet that they never played on an NFL team. Bob Costas covers the Olympics every few years and I am pretty sure he never actually competed in them. The difference between covering sports etc. and covering the military is that when covering the military people’s lives are on the line and the world’s opinion is a result of the news coming out of the war zone. If people who have no clue what it is like to serve in the military, to risk their life day in and day out, to shoulder a large burden at a young age all the while being judged by the world for every mistake or misstep then they cannot accurately report the news. Sure they can talk about the latest body count or bomb but can they explain why soldiers want to go home while still feeling a strong pull to stay in the war zone to ensure things continue to improve?

Dinesh D’Souza, a prominent conservative author and thinker who happens to be a man I admire greatly, said in an interview conducted early last year concerning Kerry and Bush that “If I was in a foxhole I’d take Kerry. But we’re not electing the president to jump in your foxhole. Who’s the better man is not always the best way to go.” D’Souza was talking about his choice to vote for Bush over Kerry because he felt Bush was a better leader although Kerry appeared to be the better man. What D’Souza could never know because he never served in the military is what exactly it takes to be a good military man. Although it isn’t part of my main argument I’ll share what I think it takes to be a good military man. What it takes to be a military man (and a good man in general) is someone who is selfless and willing to put other’s needs before their own while at the same time setting the example for them to follow (not coping-out after 4 months in country). Kerry embodied neither of these traits and therefore I would never care to share a foxhole with him, I am not sure if I could even share the same state with him. Also after serving in a confined area with people for an extended period of time you learn to recognize if other people have what it takes to endure when the times get tough and situations get rough. You’ll never know until you are there and until then all is speculation.

The MSM’s ignorance of the military leads them to make judgments that they aren’t qualified to make. When the media, in all their ignorance, makes judgments about how things are going in Iraq they are influencing the world. They have the world’s attention because they are in Iraq and if they are in Iraq they surely must know what they are talking about. Case in point: During my first deployment in 2003 I spent some time at the Abu Gharib prison right as it was opening for business. After I left a small element from my unit stayed there for another eight months. We left Iraq the week before the “abuse” story was released to the general public. I remember sitting in the den in my house watching as Dan Rather reported to the world about the “atrocities” that occurred in the prison. Forget the torture chambers that I walked through where blood was still splattered on the walls from Saddam’s happier days; there were naked Iraqis with dogs barking at them! Toward the end of the show Danny boy showed a couple pictures of dead prisoners and said something to the effect of “And here are some pictures of dead prisoners, we can only guess at how they died!” Oh really Dan, thanks for the expert reporting. My guess is that those prisoners either died from natural causes or died after getting shot by a soldier for rioting and trying to kill American soldiers as happened from time to time. Or maybe they were killed by their own people who often lobbed mortars into the prison in hopes that they would hit Americans.

I remember hearing another story about Abu Ghraib at the same time that the “abuse” story was making headlines. This lesser known story was about the terrorists who were supposedly targeting their own people inside their prison so that they wouldn’t have to live through the horrors of getting naked and having a female take pictures with them. Bulls$*t. The reason the mortars were killing the prisoners was because the terrorists couldn’t aim properly and just fired in the general direction of the prison and hoped for the best result. The media of course needed another sensational story to back up the already sensational one circulating on the nightly news. What better way to do that then to make something up all on their own. Who cared if it was accurate it sure sounded good.

My point is that media types who have no prior military service should be listened to with a cautionary ear. Yeah they might be able to explain to you generalities but they will never be able to get into the mind of soldiers. They will never be able to understand how their words hurt those they are trying to report about. They will never be able to know these things because they have never served. Heck, half the time they can’t even label pictures with military ordinance and machinery correctly. There are some good reporters and bloggers out there who have never served in the military but they are few and far between.

The part of winter quarter at school I was able to get in before I was deployed in 2003 I had a history teacher tell my class one day that if we ever wanted to get into politics then it would behoove us to join the military. He knew then, as all Americans know now, that military service can be used as a stepping-stone for other careers. I would urge all prospective media wannabes to join the military, whatever branch they want to, so as to gain an understanding for the military. If they do so then they will be much more able to accurately represent those who mean so much to our country.

Until the time comes when those reporting on the military have served themselves I will not cut the media any breaks. I don’t care who I offend because the media has offended me time and time again. I had a dream the other night that the media wanted us to win the war against terrorism and as a result started reporting the truth, but then I woke up and hit my head on the ceiling of my trailer and was reminded that like the media life sometimes sucks.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Double Standards

Over the last few months I have slowly been changing my outlook on Iraqis. Sure there are plenty of great Iraqis who are just like you and I. They have the same wants, needs and cares as Americans do. Then there are Iraqis who have no idea what the world is really like and I cannot rest the blame solely on them. They have only had three years of relative freedom with which to get in touch with the 21st century. They were oppressed most of their lives and had little access to schools, libraries, outside television and Internet. What they did have access to was for the most part controlled propaganda and the knowledge they have as a result of that propaganda is the cause of considerable disagreements between them and I on issues that seem relatively clear to me i.e. what actually happened during the Iran-Iraq war. “Umm I think you guys have it wrong, Saddam didn’t kick the Iranians butts like he told you he did.”

On a daily basis I defend myself from an onslaught of Iraqis who want to trade me a bayonet for my digital camera. When I tell them that the camera is worth slightly more than their rusty bayonet they reconsider and tell me they will throw in an Iraqi flag with the bayonet. I then have to explain to them that even though it isn’t their fault their money isn’t worth the same as ours I am not going to trade something like that with them. “I am sorry guys but if I gave all of my stuff away for a 99.9% discount then I would go broke in a week.” “Ok Sgt. Tim me understand. No problem. I give you Iraqi flag for new boots.” Sometimes I can’t win for losing.

What has brought these thoughts to light recently has as much to do with Americans as it does Iraqis. Specifically the recent media blitzkrieg concerning the “Haditha incident” has prompted me to reevaluate my patriotic optimism. I am still optimistic about Iraq’s future but I am starting to see the many hurdles that will need to be overcome before we see our hopes for Iraq come to fruition. What Haditha has made me realize is that politicians and media back home place many of these hurdles in the military’s way. If the incident in Haditha was only treated like the many atrocities committed by terrorists against the Coalition forces then the world would know nothing about it. However, since we are held to a different standard it is on every newspaper’s front page. Remember the 54 straight days of front-page coverage on the New York Times of Abu Ghraib? Brace yourself for round two: Massacre in Haditha (NYT why don’t you save yourselves some trouble and set that as your heading for the front page for the next month.)

As a result of the incident in Haditha and the subsequent media blitz I, as every other soldier in theater, have had to go through sensitivity training to in order to avoid making the same mistakes again. Yes I know I am not supposed to murder innocent Iraqis and I know it is shameful to handcuff a man in front of his family. Great I got it, completely understood. That’s a good copy army training leaders out there, wilco, Sgt. Boggs out. Thanks for sitting behind your desks and dreaming this stuff up for us, we will forever owe you a debt of gratitude.

As I sat through three hours of Operation Kill Brain Cells the other morning I couldn’t help but think about the parties that Iraqis have thrown in the past celebrating the execution of American civilians and soldiers alike. Sure we might kill a few innocent people in a fit of rage after knowing that those very same civilians just got done watching terrorists plant the bombs that they knew were going to kill us but we don’t celebrate afterwards. We don’t take to the streets and hang the dead bodies from bridges while shouting praise to Allah. We don’t rush to the presses and burn copies of executions on DVD so that everyone big and small can watch in the privacy and relative safety of their own homes as we die on their screens. The fact is once we (all U.S. service branches) do these things, i.e. killing of civilians or playing dress up with prisoners, then it has dire consequences for our country as a whole. Media blowhards like Chris Matthews, Michael Ware, and Larry King spend countless hours debating the finer points of an event that they know nothing about. They blast the military and the current administration for anything and everything they can and I am sure they get a sick sense of pleasure from occurrences like the one unraveling with the marines in Haditha. Then every Tom, Dick, and Harry blogs about what “really” happened and what should happen as a result. As a result soldiers undergo hours of “sensitivity” training in order to learn how to not offend anyone who might be trying to kill us. Worse than the classes we have to sit through are the convoys we have to sit through on a daily basis, nothing goes boom in a classroom. We suffer casualties as a result of faulty reporting because it emboldens the enemy to go on the attack because they see that even our own country isn’t behind us. Thanks a lot Murtha, the blood of my friends is now on your head.

If I sound angry it is because I am. I am sick of the double standards applied to the military. “You must treat everyone with the utmost respect even though by doing so you are going to cause more problems for yourself.” Why do we seek to change Iraq from the ground up but while doing so treat it’s people differently then we do our own soldiers? Why does the world at large overlook the atrocities caused by Iraqis against American soldiers and civilians while at the same time jumping on the Bush administration at the slightest hint of foul play in Iraq? I have my own answers to these questions and the word “agenda” is included in each one of them.

As I sat in that class the other morning one of the teachers started asking questions about the army values and which ones were particularly important to us. The army has a set of values that they teach to each new recruit and that all soldiers are supposed to live by. They are represented by the acronym LDRSHIP (Leadership just incase), loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. The instructor asked several soldiers what values were particularly important to them and while they were answering I could only think of one that stood out above the rest for me: Loyalty. If only our politicians were loyal to their military then incidents like Abu Ghraib and Haditha wouldn’t be international catastrophies. If our politicians respected their military and had the personal courage to defend them even when the times got tough then things might get better. If politicians like Murtha only knew what selfless service was then they would put their own careers on hold while they did what they could to get to the bottom of incidents like Haditha before announcing to the world that they know the outcome before the trial has even taken place.

Luckily my mom never told me what most moms tell their children: If you have nothing nice to say don’t say anything at all. Thanks for leaving that option open for me mom.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Conversation Part 2

Over at The Real Ugly American part two of my conversation with Iraqi blogger 24 Steps to Liberty is up. In the post he answers questions I posed to him. We plan to continue the conversation so be sure to stay tuned for more. Drop by TRUA and comment on the post. He is doing a great job with his blog and it is one you should add to your blogroll today. Be sure to tell all your friends too.