Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Major Ben Connable Checks In

Major Ben Connable has written to me through his friend, who copied and pasted the note and forwarded it to me; all a bit deep cover for my taste, but I asked for the letter and he has sent it. I accept that, in fact I accept it with pretty good graces. I was not anxious to go much further with this and so, here is Ben:

Sir,


I am Major Ben Connable and I'm responding to your blog only because my friend has stuck his neck out in my defense. I am amazed that I have to tell you, and many others, that the views expressed in my article are mine and mine alone. It seems bizarre and exceedingly paranoid to assume that the President could order an officer in the military to write such a personal statement.


I urge you to seek out and speak with people in the military, you might find they are not the anthropomorphic drones of your vivid imagination. You call me elusive, but I'm not sure what I've been eluding. Not everyone reads your blog, although I find it well written and worthy of a scan.


I've had some folks find my email address, including one very angry fellow who wished that I be maimed so my family would have to hear me scream from the nightmares when I came home. I've had some wish for my death, and one who said that he would "laugh his ass off" if I were to be killed. I have to assume these e-mails don't represent the bulk of the anti-war movement or I'd be tempted to point out some contradictions between belief and speech.


Most of my apparent critics just assume that I'm a myopic moron who doesn't "get it," I'm uneducated, or that I'm self-delusional. I suppose those kind of assumptions help some folks sleep better at night and I don't begrudge them their comfort.


I didn't write the article in a futile effort to coax zealots into rational discussion. I wrote the article because I believe very passionately that the war is being misrepresented. I wrote it to prevent an abandonment of the Iraqi people, an act that I would view as the ultimate display of national selfishness.


If you have never been to Iraq I urge you to go. Meet with the Iraqi people. Sit down and have dinner with a few families. Meet their children. Stay for a year to get a really honest impression. If you still think we should leave after you return then we have something to talk about. You would not stand alone, and I am not self-delusional enough to believe that I represent everyone who has ever been to Iraq. I do represent a silent majority of officers and NCOs. I base this not only on poll numbers (which have come under attack) but also on personal experience. I have spoken with Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen across the country and in Iraq.


Part of my job over the past couple of years has been to teach Iraqi culture to a broad spectrum of Marines and other service members and I have had the chance to speak with thousands of them on the subject of withdrawal. I speak with a relative degree of confidence. I won't have time to engage in an email debate and frankly I choose not to. My article reflects my beliefs and you are more than free to disagree.


Please consider, if even for a moment, that there's a chance you're wrong.

I thank the Major for that response and accept the statement that both the Washington Post and USA Today articles fairly represent his personal feelings, without outside or military influence. His friend argues for a mea culpa from me and I am happy to provide it. I acknowledge that Marine Major Ben Connable not only exists, but wrote the articles in question solely as a matter of his personal opinion.


I agree with Major Connable that it would be bizarre and exceedingly paranoid to assume that the President could order an officer in the military to write such a personal statement, if I had assumed or written that, which I did not.


I also find the anthropomorphic drones of your vivid imagination a bit below the belt, as my imagination (vivid or not) was never exercised in the piece I wrote. I do consider, Major, every hour of every day that there’s more than just a chance that I am wrong and you make the same error your valiant friend makes, that I am arguing America to leave Iraq. I have argued passionately that we should never have gone there in the first place, but I made that argument eight months before we went in and I think it was (and is) a valid position, made at an appropriate time.


I am appalled that there are those who would wish evil upon Major Connable or any member of our military in Iraq. Certainly I am not among them, but I suspect he knows that. I appreciate him taking the time and interest to further illuminate his views and motivation.
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Read more of my musings on the war in Iraq at my personal web site.