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April 8, 2004

Posted by Teresa at 10:52 PM *

It’s frustrating. The story I’m following with complete fascination is one I ought not mention.

It’s been discussed around the office, where everyone seems to have heard about it through a different friend of a friend. Of course this is Tor, where no one’s more than a step or two removed from the fanfic universe, so I can’t judge from that sample how far it’s spread via word of mouth.

So far I haven’t seen anyone else blogging it. I hope no one does. She talks about a lot of things she shouldn’t, as her employers would view it; and I want to be able to go on reading her entries.

Okay, one other observation. Why we should allow women in combat: who knew that tampons made such great field-expedient dressings for bullet wounds?

Comments on Journalism:
#1 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2004, 10:56 PM:

For ethical reasons, or do you mean shouldn't be reported here?

Not that I'm, you know, nosy or anything.

#2 ::: Scott Lynch ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2004, 11:13 PM:

Is there a particular reason you want 500 needy Making Light readers refreshing your page every quarter of an hour to see if you've left more bread crumbs?





#3 ::: Kim ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2004, 11:22 PM:

A certain famous comics writer has just blogged it on his research blog.

I had seen it earlier on the journals, anyway, so I know exactly what you mean and why it shouldn't be mentioned. That doesn't stop both the horrid fascination and the hope that everything will be all right.

#4 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2004, 11:25 PM:

Scott, if I know the bloggyverse, someone's going to blow the story soon no matter what. And knowing you, it's not going to take long for you to figure out where she must be, and why her superiors might not want her posting Live Journal entries.

I promise you the full story as I know it, whenever I can be sure that telling it won't give aid and comfort to people we don't like.

#5 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2004, 11:27 PM:

Right on schedule, though not where I expected. I'd have thought he had more sense than that.

#6 ::: Kip Manley ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2004, 11:31 PM:

It is, indeed, all over a certain subset of the blogosphere that some deign to consider part of the blogosphere and so tends to fly under the higher-band radar. (I'm not sure if that's a proper use of "high-band radar," but it made a certain euphonious sense, so neener.) --And it is, indeed, gripping, harrowing stuff.

On preview: oh. Whoops.

#7 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2004, 11:38 PM:

Okay, just worked it out thru the clues you gave.
I actually saw a link to it yesterday from one of the Blogosphere Ecosystem's Large Mammals, but didn't really follow up on it at the time.
I just hope the current horde of harassers don't make her life any more difficult than it already is.

#8 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2004, 11:41 PM:

And now a second blog has reported it. Patrick says I'm being unfair to said comics writer, on the grounds that he had no reason to know better.


#9 ::: Kip Manley ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2004, 11:42 PM:

"deign not to consider"

Gad, but typos really wreak havoc on gnomic utterances.

#10 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2004, 11:43 PM:

First the site...
Maybe I'm being overly skeptical here, but do you guys have the sneaking suspicion that this might not be real? I'm completely ignorant on the matter, but I don't see how this person would be allowed to do something like this, let alone have the time to post it so quickly after it happened.
Maybe I'm being too cynical...Please love me...

#11 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2004, 11:44 PM:

Good guess, Riba, but if it were Kathryn I'd say so. I've posted a couple of times on her weblog during this trying period, and phoned to see how she's doing.

#12 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2004, 11:48 PM:

No, I wasn't thinking it was Kathryn (btw, I prefer to go by Lis than by my last name), but I assume it's that kind of harrassment you're hoping this other blogger will avoid.
I sent you an email with my guess, since I figured you didn't want it posted here.

#13 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2004, 11:51 PM:

Kip, I figured that was what you meant.

Hello, Randall P. I understand your caution, but she reads as a real person to me and to everyone else I've talked to, at least half of whom are pro writers or editors with very good ears. Live Journal has a very forgiving interface. If she's got net connectivity, she can use Live Journal. She can write her entries as events unfold, and upload them when possible.

The other reassuring thing I can tell you is that certain bits of information in her entries -- one of which she deleted later -- correlate with reports from the area that come from completely unrelated persons and organizations.

#14 ::: Rachel Brown ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2004, 11:55 PM:

She's been posting day-to-day entries on her blog for a ridiculously long time if it was all to prepare the waters for the Grand Fraud. Her persona and situation is internally consistent and convincing, and people out there often do have easily available web access. I'm sure she's for real.

This is like Salam Pax all over again.

#15 ::: Darkhawk ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2004, 11:56 PM:

I quoted

Okay, one other observation. Why we should allow women in combat: who knew that tampons made such great field-expedient dressings for bullet wounds?

at Squid. Gtst said: The Kotex people. Since Kotex was originally developed as a bandage material.

(Since I have no earthly clue what the rest of this is about and can't follow breadcrumbs worth a damn . . .)

#16 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 12:00 AM:

... hell, I'm just a mere intern, and I'm only supposed to confirm in general terms where I work, and what I work with. She's BLOGGING this. Wow.

#17 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 12:03 AM:

Why we should allow women in combat: who knew that tampons made such great field-expedient dressings for bullet wounds?

Maxi-pads also make excellent emergency bandages. That, I learned from a woman who goes to a lot of BDSM play parties.

#18 ::: Scott Lynch ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 12:04 AM:

Ah. Ahhhh.

Fascinating, just fascinating. I can't wrap my head around the possibilities or the consequences of this sort of thing. There's gonna be blog tennis over this sucker, no doubt.

And now I understand the frustration of wanting to talk about it, while wanting to keep it under wraps so nobody gets in trouble or gives away hot intel. My apologies for hitting the button for an electronic gerbil pellet, I'm... a gerbil.

I speak on the phone about once a month with my best friend from high school; he's a SAW gunner with one of the airborne divisions somewhere in Iraq (Lest it sound like I don't care about his situation, I do know his actual unit down to platoon and his position as of two weeks ago, but that info is not for the 'net).

The 'net access he had was subject to vetting, as was his mail and, to a certain degree, his phone calls. Which makes me wonder how much (or how little) of the same other servicemen and women face.

#19 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 12:09 AM:

My main skepticism as to whether or not it is real stems from the fact that the blog hasn't been shut down yet, not necessarily the stories (although she's very articulate about what she's going through). It would seem to me that it would not be in the best interest of the powers that be to have some loose cannon over there spouting off freely about everything they're doing, especially considering the very volatile situation right now and the political timebomb that it is. My brother was in the military and he never told me jack about what he was doing at the time, so the fact that she is getting away with posting these things is a bit of a shock.
The unfortunate part is that second by second, as more and more people find out about it, she runs the risk of getting in serious trouble from her superiors.
Once again, apologies from a newbie if I have offended with my skepticism...

#20 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 12:19 AM:

Randall, I'll say what I said about Mr. Pax: if this is a hoax, it's brilliant. Actually, if this were a hoax and Where Is Raed? were a hoax, this one would be more impressive.

I live and die by my ear for prose. It's not always right, but I always trust it. The journaler in question would be hard to get right as a fictional creation unless you were a journaler from the same community, working for the same employer, and were a remarkably gifted writer besides. It seems like a lot of trouble for a hoaxer to go to in order to spoof a low-level individual in a minor theater. Someone who could do that would have long since been promoted to Chief Spoofer for the re-election campaign.

#21 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 12:32 AM:

Okay, Okay, I trust you already! :) My mind wanders into hoaxville so often, it's stupid. In fact, I wonder whether I'm spoofing myself, even as I write this. I find it kind of creepy how much her writing reminds me of "Blackhawk Down" (the book, not the movie).

#22 ::: M ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 12:33 AM:

I know who this is. It's a friend of someone on my LiveJournal friends list, and this person has spread the word to a lot of people (to confirm: the blogger is from Minnesota, correct?). Still not totally sure it's for real yet though. I've seen some weird things go on in the fanfic world.

#23 ::: J Greely ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 12:49 AM:

At least one MilBlogger who recently returned from serving in Iraq quoted it without even the slightest hint of disbelief. That means the jargon's right, the operational details are plausible, and the attitude fits the role the writer claims for herself. Someone who could pull a hoax that clever doesn't need to.


#24 ::: Carlos ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 12:53 AM:

Ah. AAAAAAH! Jeez Louise.

If this is a fake, he's the second coming of Hart Crane. You know what I mean.


#25 ::: Madeline ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 12:56 AM:

Well, I hope a bunch of you are saving it, because if it's that neat, and it's that likely to get wiped off the web, there are going to have to be a bunch of mirror sites that spring up to carry on...

I would, but I'm still in the dark. But that's ok. All things with time.

#26 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 12:56 AM:

I remember reading in a first-aid book a long time ago that sanitary pads were good emergency bandages -- 1960s I think; this was back when they didn't stick-on, but had the long tabs for tying or pinning.

#27 ::: TH ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 01:01 AM:

Don't blame the "Comic Writer" for linking, Digby had it yesterday.

And yes, it's fascinating reading. I hope she doesn't get shut down.

#28 ::: Tiellan ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 01:02 AM:

I finally figured it out despite my complete inability to follow your bread crumbs. Being a geek has its advantages I suppose. I'm just too jaded - I've seen and heard of enough hoaxes in general and on LJ in particular. I trust your ear, but there's a cynical part of me that thinks this is just a work in progress. Plus, I'd suspect that someone *would* have pulled the plug by now if it weren't a hoax. But maybe in that sense I'm naive. Interesting reading either way.

#29 ::: Tiellan ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 01:04 AM:

I heard of sanitary pads as bandages in Vietnam myself - but this from my history-buff husband, not any text books or personal reading.

#30 ::: James Kiley ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 01:11 AM:

Dang. Thanks for the non-pointer. Fabulous stuff, and onto the friendslist it goes.

#31 ::: Lawrence ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 01:21 AM:

Barry Longyear gave a speech at a convention once that included his hysterically funny account of using Kotex pads as surgical dressing, and trying to do a testimonial for them. The Kotex folks didn't want to hear about it.

#32 ::: Yaka St.Aise ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 01:38 AM:

Well, about Salam Pax: he's making a nice appearance on BBCWorld tonight: friday, 0330, 0830, 1130, 1530, 1830 and 2330 GMT.

I'm mentionning it not only because of Salam himself, but also because I agree that this blogeress mentionned earlier sound very believable to me, and no less likely to slip under the military censorship radar for a while than say, "turning tables" or pre-war Salam Pax once were.

#33 ::: Elizabeth Bear ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 01:42 AM:

She rings true to me as well, and I have a pretty well-honed bullshit detector.

What's striking to me about this young woman's lj is not just the ring of truth it has, but the fact that there's something about her attitude and her matter-of-factness that reminds me very strongly of another recent favourite, Elena the Ukrainian motorcyclist.

It's sort of sad that it takes situations like these to make me realize this--or to demonstrate these potentials--but I keep thinking that if we can raise young women with this kind of grit, we're not doing everything wrong on this planet.

#34 ::: Brad DeLong ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 01:55 AM:

Re: "I live and die by my ear for prose. It's not always right, but I always trust it. The journaler in question would be hard to get right as a fictional creation unless you were a journaler from the same community, working for the same employer, and were a remarkably gifted writer besides. It seems like a lot of trouble for a hoaxer to go to in order to spoof a low-level individual in a minor theater. Someone who could do that would have long since been promoted to Chief Spoofer for the re-election campaign."

In either case, this is a diamond for a publisher to scoop up, no?

#35 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 02:04 AM:

There is one other possibility. It may that her postings are carefully vetted/rewritten by higher in order to provide the enemy with some lovely disinformation.


#36 ::: Aaron Bergman ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 02:09 AM:

From today's New York Times:

Last weekend, eight Blackwater contractors assigned to protect a building in Najaf fought alongside four marines and three Salvadoran soldiers to defeat a determined attack by hundreds of Iraqi militia members. The men fired thousands of rounds, yet were very nearly overrun, Mr. Toohey said. "They were down to single digits of ammo, less than 10 rounds a man."

Desperate and unable to communicate directly with military commanders, the eight Blackwater contractors instead called in help from Blackwater employees, he said. With approval from Mr. Bremer's staff, three Blackwater helicopters — the same ones used to ferry Mr. Bremer around Iraq — were dispatched to the Najaf battle to drop ammunition and retrieve a wounded marine.

"It was O.K. with him if they went out and saved some American lives," Mr. Toohey said of Mr. Bremer.

Sounds pretty similar.

#37 ::: digby ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 02:18 AM:

I actually picked it up from American Street where her livejournal cohort Julia from Sisyphus Shrugged blogged it earlier.

I thought about whether it was a good idea to pass it on, but ultimately decided to do so at Julia's behest. I had supposed that the writer was aware that her story could receive public notice, but perhaps I misunderstood the nature of her journal and her realtionship to Julia.

I certainly hope that she suffers no recriminations from her "employer." It's the most gripping reporting of the Iraq invasion.

#38 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 02:21 AM:

Hmm, just part of the way through, and I need to get some sleep, but so far it sounds right. It is not too slick or knowledgeable, and it isn't over consistent in that self concious way that some hoaxes have. It rings right and some of the details are telling. Bitching about not getting the CIB is one of them.

#39 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 02:28 AM:

If we're talking about the same blogger, she's either genuine and very brave or an AMAZING spoofer.

* * *

My store-bought Earthquake Survival Kit came with a maternity-strength pad for use as a wound dressing.

I think tampons BEGAN as surgical dressings. In fact . . . well, I'm not going to flip through them now, but in a emergency-surgery scene in one of the "Lensmen" books, Smith notes the use of "tampons" on the patient (probably Kimball Kinnison since he's the one most often torn up in persuit of evil-doers).

Unless the mighty Lenses of Arisia induce menstruation along with telepathy, perception, and a square-jawed can-do attitude, we're probably talking about a cotton plug for tidying up a wound site.

#40 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 03:26 AM:

Re "tampon" -- yes, that's a term for a pressure dressing, though for understandable reasons that usage has faded. "Cardiac tamponade" is what you get when the pericardial sac fills with fluid, and it compresses the heart. At the time Doc Smith was writing, the other item would have been called a "sanitary napkin" or "sanitary towel," and he wouldn't have used the term if Clarissa were trying against odds to reattach Kim's severed DeLameter.

On terminology, and I know this belongs on another thread but it came up here: is anyone else a bit troubled by the use of the term "contractors" for the Blackwater armed guys? I am aware that "mercenaries" is a touchy word, and wouldn't object to them being called "private security forces" or somesuch, but I have noticed a habit in the press of referring to these people as "contractors," with no other identification. When I first saw the headline "Four contractors killed," the first assumption was that they were some kind of construction workers; it certainly wasn't that they were armed to military level. I can see that "contractor" would be their employer's, and perhaps the men's own, preferred term, but it seems to me to go beyond euphemism. "Military advisor" at least admits that you're performing a military function.

#41 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 03:37 AM:

I think it's real. Artlessness as an expression of character in an otherwise aesthetically controlled presentation is one of the hardest things to get right in fiction.

#42 ::: John (B). ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 04:07 AM:

What we need here is some kind of machine that we can feed a sample of writing into and have it tell us based on an analysis of the text whether the writing is fiction or not... surely in this day and age we're capable of building such a thing. Or then again perhaps we already have built this machine and the intelligence services use it exclusively to make assessments of foreign government statements and terrorist communiqués, assessments which are then promptly ignored because they don't provide the answers that the administration is looking for... Oh yeah and happy holidays everybody.

#43 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 05:09 AM:

I have not finished this discussion... I am just unable to sit still to the end, so as to keep my coments from repeating people.

Without any confirmation, other than her posts of the past few days... she's real.

This sounds real, it stinks real and (from where I sit) is all to familiar.

As for her being able to blog... depending on the sen she has access to, she can. LJ was blocked from me, but (as some of you may recall) I was able to send posts to this very chunk of blogdom, at a time when the access to the web was far less open than it is now.

Oh, and for the record... I've had tampons in my Combat Life Saver bag for years. Not as good as a pressure dressing, but one can carry a dozen of them, for the space of three Field Dressings. Adapt, Improvise, Overcome.

I now head to my brandy, and then back to the conversation in progress.


#44 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 06:21 AM:

Wow, she sounds real as hell to me. I recently had occasion to read the Confederate infantryman's memoir called "Co. Aytch"--it feels very similar. One of you editor types should contact her for a book deal NOW.

#45 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 06:58 AM:

Actually, one of her friends is on my friends list in LJ and asked me to blog it the day before yesterday.

She's gone back and deleted anything she thought was sensitive, and I followed suit.

I would have done so earlier, but my computer was down yesterday.

Any poor judgment here, I'm afraid, is mine (although you wouldn't know it by most of the links).

#46 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 08:55 AM:

(Pssst: it was posted in the open thread yesterday.)

#47 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 08:56 AM:

(Pssst: I'm an idiot who can't tell her browser windows apart. It was "cancelled contract.")

#48 ::: Kip Manley ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 09:12 AM:

I dunno: when the contractors in question are commandos who are among other things airlifting Marines out of firefights (and bully for them for it, too, and hellfire and damnation rained down upon the bare heads of those who sniffed about not needing any more boots on the ground), "mercenaries" seems pretty darn apt. (I have a hard time imagining the "private security force" down at the mall pulling this off, say.)

#49 ::: FairestCat ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 10:45 AM:

I've run into this person elsewhere in fandom in the past. She's for real. She's not the only person I know of who's blogging from over there, but she is the only one who's been through something like this.

#50 ::: Bryant ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 10:52 AM:

Yeah, it smells real. There are quite a few military LJs out there, if you look for 'em. I have a guy friended who was writing brilliant material about his time over there, until he took shrapnel in the foot. Amazing reading.

It's to be expected, in retrospect. The military is full of people around the same age as a large segment of the LJ userbase.

#51 ::: TamaraSilerJones ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 11:02 AM:

When I was in high school I was an athletic trainer and we used tampons a LOT for nosebleeds.

Never told the wrestlers or football players what they were though (can you imagine a 16 yr old boy letting a tampon be stuck up his nose?)

Interesting insight into the combat too. I think she's real.

#52 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 11:18 AM:

Bryant, so it's more to be retrospected? I certainly can respect it.

I wish I had time to read all of it; I like her style.

Boy, I hope some of these MilFans get back in time for WorldCon, and leave enough to go...I'd love to actually meet Terry, frex.

I hope even harder that they get back, period. (Terry did, at the cost of some health problems, but I mean all of them.) Actually I hope that all our troops get home alive, but that's not in the realm of possibility... I a bad person for hoping "harder" that fans get home? That's a guilt I'll accept, frankly.

Damn I hate this stupid war.

#53 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 11:21 AM:

Tamara, at that age I'd have preferred bleeding to death.

Also, thinking that's what those were...damn, no wonder that female PhysEd teacher was laughing...

#54 ::: Ilona Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 11:27 AM:

I'm an ex-Army spouse. My husband just got out. He was an E5, prior to that he did a four-year in the Navy. We both scrutinized the post in question and we both have a funny feeling. The problem is that real soldiers talk in certain jargon, and no, that's not something that she would've deleted due to security concerns. It's automatic; it rolls off the tongue and most soldiers and spouses don't even know they are doing it.

The jargon is off. Example "helmet." It's never a helmet. Football player wear helmets. It's a kevlar. And it's always a kevlar. "My captain" is another dead give-away. The Captain, the XO, the Commander. Our CO. But not "my captain". With three or four guys, you'd have a First Sergeant, maybe even an E5. (She is confused about expats too, but I'll leave it alone.) It seems unlikely that a Captain would be put in charge of three or four soldiers, and British are not going to have an American Captain leading them. A Captain wouldn't be wasted on a force of that size anyway. They are valuable.

The time varies too much. It's not 3 am. It's zero three hundred. O-three hundred. Tank/hybrid? Is that a Bradley? Bradley isn't a tank; it's a gun. (And Lord, if you call any of these tank-looking things tanks while in a Wheel or Track shop, about a dozen mechanics are going to stop dead in their tracks and very carefully explain to you that it's a gun.) Is it MLRS, which is a missile shooter on tracks (multiple launch rocket system. Very expensive, you practically never see them shot in practice.). Is it a Hymar, which is MLRS on wheels? (The US Army, with the exception of very few Air Force cross-over installations doesn't use Hymars. They are basically a Marine weapon.) My husband pretty much crawled over every track vehicle the Army has - he was in charge of a commo shop, so it's must be some odd coalition thingie, but we both found it odd that she didn't compare it to anything. A soldier would say, it was like a Hymar.

Couple of other things: never says her MOS. Security has nothing to do with it - there are several thousand soldiers in any given MOS, so it's absurd to delete it out of security concerns. My husband was 31U, frex.

Which leads to another question. Why is a woman there with hardened Brits, who btw, are basically as tough as you can get. Is she a medic? She doesn't talk like a medic. There is no mention of her equipment.

Other little things that are just not quite there. Part of it is her language. It's too smooth. She might be taking extraordinary pains at writing for civilians, but I've heard several people fresh from Iraq. Here is E4 Clint Wagner's account given at his son's birthday party that was held upon Clint's return from Iraq, "And goddamn, the fucking mortar hit fucking two feet from us, and shit, I thought that was it."

The radio comminucation reads like something out of a movie. Without it, I would've actually wavered. With it, I'm pretty sure, it's a false account.

First, I'm unsure how she is overhearing this conversation? What were they using? If they had manpacks, the only person hearing the stuff would be the person with his ear to the phone. You just don't hook up speakers to the manpack. If it's inside the vehicle, the commo guy would have headphones on. Now please recall that it was my husband's job to actually do commo. He taught commo to PLDC, he taught it to Officers. It's hard to hear commo when you're right there. Several feet away - practically impossible. It's just common sense at this point. They don't want soldiers to hear communications - only the commo and NCOIC or OIC would know what went on.

“Our ammo situation is red. Over.”


Oh? And Roger? Pilots say roger. Infantry says Check. Understood. If she had said Over and Out anywhere, it would be a complete give-away, because nobody ever does it. And no person is going to be blabbing that they will be run-over by dawn. The protocol of the commo is very tight. It's almost code-like and it's drilled and drilled and drilled, until it's completely automatic.

I don't want to say that it's 100% a fake, because I'm simply not willing to put this sort of claim out there. I'm very careful with "never" and "absolutely sure", unless I am absolutely sure. I do feel that it is a false account. I also feel that it is an insult to people serving over there. Clint's wife Tiffany, whom I did my best to support while her husband was over there for a year, went to a funeral of one of the soldiers in his squad. (Oh, btw, "team" is odd too. It's squad or unit. Special Forces have teams. ) It was the hardest thing she had ever done, harder than seeing Clint off to the plane. They called out the man's name three times, and of course he didn't answer, and it was terrible. His parents were there and it was just absolutely terrible. She came back a wreck. My husband served on funeral detail too, and it was no picnic. To put something like this out there, if it's not genuine, is simply wrong.

#55 ::: Ter Matthies ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 11:28 AM:

So far I haven’t seen anyone else blogging it.

Don't we count in Live Journal as bloggers?

#56 ::: Ilona Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 11:33 AM:

I'm sorry, I wrote Air Force in that post. I meant to write Airborne. In my defense my husband was fussing about Singars in my ear at the time.

#57 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 12:04 PM:

Ilona - it seemed to me (caveat - I know very little about military) that she's a reservist from some of the things she says. Would this make her less adept with the jargon, or is consistent use of the terms you cite something that spans the regulars and the reserves?

#58 ::: Pen Hardy ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 12:12 PM:

Ilona, yah, my background is as a naval officer (and now spouse) though I also went through Army airborne training, and I tripped over many of the same things you mention. The lack of MOS really struck me: she's obviously not an infantryman, but if not then she'd have been there for a very specific purpose beyond taking or defending a building, and she never mentions one. A medic would have mentioned the people getting injured and what she did about it. A mechanic would have mentioned being unable to get to the vehicle to fix it, or the futility of having fixed it and then watching it get blown up, or something.

(It sounds like this was a NEO [Non-combatant Evacuation Operation], which isn't something I'd usually associate with the Army, but you tell me.)

(Oh, and on that front: the expats--presumably she meant they were civilians? Or foreign nationals, or non-combatants, or . . . I can't picture a soldier saying expat.)

People are pointing at the level of detail, but to me it's like she included lots of details, but all the wrong ones. Details that can be checked elsewhere just means they could have *come* from another source, too; the details I would expect from a person on the round there are missing.

I find it curious that she'd have been able to include the details she *did* include in the first iteration; my husband couldn't e-mail me that much detail when he was off the coast of *Fort Lauderdale* last month, nevermind in a combat zone. Everything in and out gets checked, and that's when and if they get internet access at all. (My Marine friends certainly didn't/don't have this kind of internet access, but I acknowledge that Marines are a different sort of animal.)

So my instincts are that you're right.

#59 ::: Dave Kuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 12:18 PM:

I served in the US Army for 12 years. In that time, I served in ordnance, administration, and armor. For most of the comments that Ilona Gordon made, I could have pointed to a soldier who did or said it differently when I was serving. That's just how diverse the service was. Yes, there were guidelines for equipment nomenclature, but there were often moments caused by excitement or an attempt to get a point across to someone unfamiliar when even those who knew better reverted to using something else. Also, those who had nothing to do with some equipment rarely learned the proper nomenclature for it. The same held true for how to convey information such as time or an acknowledgement.

So, my point is that the failure to use the proper terminology in the blog is not truly indicative as to the blog's authenticity.

#60 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 12:23 PM:

Dave, I think Ilona's point was not that some details weren't 100% military spec, but that there were so many things off that she finds it suspect.

#61 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 12:24 PM:

Ilona, some of the jargon inconsistencies you mentioned might be due to her not being in for a while. Or her exact job. Or, as Jill mentioned, if she's a reservist. But I noticed them as well and got my "bullshit radar" going because of it. Since she's in the Army, I know that the jargon isn't pounded into her head with quite the same frightening persistence as it is in the Marines. I wonder how long it took my brother to say "pen" instead of "ink stick" after boot camp. Her jargon might also be different if she's an officer, which I don't think she is, but I haven't read her rank posted anywhere yet so I can't be sure.

Still, it doesn't ring completely true for me - a military brat since I was five months old, and the sister of a Marine who fought in Iraq. I'm reminded of a Clancy novel in some of her posts. Now that's either a compliment to Clancy's research or a disservice to the poster's writing, if she's genuine. I'm actually surpised that she gets as much internet time as she does. Granted, my surprise is due to the fact that my brother was over there only during the actual war (or major combat, or whatever the hell Bush called it when he said it was done) and he was also doing recon to help prepare the way for the front lines during the war. And he was a Marine. He never got a shower or mail or even a real port-a-potty until everything was winding down and he was at some makeshit base. I'm going to send this to him and see what he thinks.

#62 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 12:28 PM:

...she reads as a real person to me and to everyone else I've talked to, at least half of whom are pro writers or editors with very good ears.

Yes, but no matter how good your ear, if pro writers and pro editors haven't been in the military and don't know how they operate (and that's basically most of us), I can't see how you can make that your prime basis for accepting this account.

My brother in law, an ex Marine, is just back from Baghdad where he's been working to help GE build power plants for many months. He's only been out of the service for 10 years, but he was amazed observing the troops at how much the Corps has changed (meaning improved) in that time.

#63 ::: Ilona Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 12:31 PM:

Jill, great point. Reservists do go through regular bootcamp and once they are active, they act as a unit. If anything, they are typically worse with the jargon. :) Even if they weren't, it grows on you. Once in company of regular Army units, it would come back very quickly. And some of the problems in that account, like the commo exchange, can't be explained by being in Reserve.

But suppose she is a reservist, who hasn't been in Iraq for that long. What is she doing at NEO? People who perform this sort of operations are hardcore, professional active duty. Especially if they are acting together with Brits, who are basically highspeed units. During mixed force operations, Army would want its best troops there. And I hate to say it, but Army does discriminate. If they can send a man instead of a woman, they will. For her to be in NEO, she must be absolutely vital and as highspeed as she can be. For her to be a woman and a reservist and be in this situation, she would have incinerate enemy forces with a mere stare or do something equally incredible. So what is she doing that is so vital and must be done only by her?

Forgive me for being skeptical. It's just I would hate to think that while people are fighting over there, some of whom we've had over for a barbeque and a beer not so long ago, someone posts something like this. What would be a motive? Attention? Trying to raise people's awareness of the conflict? Surely there are better ways than pretending to be a soldier.

#64 ::: Dave Kuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 12:31 PM:

The point I was making is that very few service members, regardless of MOS and rank, use all the terminology frequently and correctly.

#65 ::: Ilona Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 12:45 PM:


"“Our ammo situation is red. Over.”


“Come morning, we will be over-run, with high casualties. The enemy has stated they will eliminate everyone in the compound. Over. Have you relayed my last transmission to Higher?”

“Roger that, over.”

And then nothing. “What was their response?”

There was none. "

Does this read okay to you? And I still don't know how she is hearing this, unless it's a Vietnam movie and the commo is sitting there with a telephone. It's not like that at all, the units in Iraq all have Singars. In fact, Singars, I think, are pretty much standard now - my husband left for his Biology exam, so I can't ask him. And why would the enemy attack at dawn? So our forces would have better targets?

Yes, of course, the jargon varies. And of course, there are reservists. But there are so many small things that a bit fuzzy here.

#66 ::: Connie ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 12:47 PM:

I've been told that it was nurses in WWI who realized that the new-at-the-time surgical dressings would also make good pads and tampons. (Tampons were not, however, invented by them -- tampons have a history dating back to Roman times, when suitable natural sea sponges were employed.)

#67 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 12:51 PM:

What if she's deliberately 'de-militarizing' her language for her audience's sake? She writes when she's not in Iraq, as well, so perhaps she has a grasp of how to pull that off.

I have no military history of any sort, unless you count being the son of a JAG who was out of the service before I was born. So as to the other details, I leave that to those who know more than I do.

#68 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 12:58 PM:

Andrew, I don't think that would be the case. People who are in a profession that uses jargon generally stick to that jargon when they're talking about what they do--sometimes they will explain the plain English meaning of the jargon, but usually not more than that.

I'm not offering an opinion about whether this blog is fake or not--I have my suspicions, but I'm neither an editor nor a military member.

#69 ::: Rachel Brown ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 12:59 PM:

To the people who think the woman in question is a fraud:

A number of people on LJ have her address and have been sending her care packages since long before she had her exciting experience. If she's not really over there, then where are those packages going and how can she know what was in them? I've sent packages to soldiers in Iraq, and those types of addresses are completely different from civilian ones.

I suppose she could have a confederate who's really a soldier over there, but if so, then why the need for a fraud?

By her own account, she's a reservist who joined recently and hasn't been there long. She's also been posting for several years about other topics, which doesn't prove that her account is true but does prove that she's a real person whose voice is consistent between old and new posts.

Again, if this is a hoax, it's a very strange and elaborate one. I can't imagine that Sadr's men are combing Live Journal in the hope that a fanfic writer and reservist would get sent to Iraq and spill something, so disinformation makes no sense as a motive. If she's trying to get a book deal, it'll fall apart the instant she fails to prove her identity.

As for her jargon being non-standard, people who are writing for an audience that doesn't know the jargon tend to tone it down. If I'm writing for karatekas, I'll discuss kata, kihon, and kumite. If I'm writing for people who don't train, I'll say "forms" or even "set sequences of techniques," "basic techniques," and "sparring."

#70 ::: Elizabeth Bear ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 01:05 PM:

I was skeptical at first as well, but revised my opinion of the blogger in question upwards after doing a little poking around.

I'm basing my estimation of her credibility on the livejournal community. She's apparently a fairly longstanding member, and some of the people with whom she talks about exchanging physical mail (packages and so forth) are friends-of-friends of mine, who I have seen active in comment threads and so forth over a period of over a year.

Because of the way livejournal is set up, with its interlinking networks of people-who-know-people, it in some ways acts like an old fashioned kinship people. You become aware of a lot of other livejournalers who are sort of at the periphery of your own area of activity, because you see their posts in comment threads and so forth. A lot of fandom-type people are either on my friends list or on the friends-lists of people who are on my friends list, and many of the people commenting in her threads are what I'd call "social acquaintances" if I knew them in the meat, so to speak.

It's certainly possible that she's got them set up as sock puppets or as collaborators, but I'd generally consider it unlikely.

Of course, I've been wrong before. *g*

#71 ::: Elizabeth Bear ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 01:09 PM:


That should be "old fashioned kinship system," above, dammit.

#72 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 01:26 PM:

Brad: [*cough*], er, well. Good idea, that.

John B., there are very sophisticated programs out there that can do that. Less formally, there's me. Also the rest of this crew, who are a pretty sharp bunch. If they all told me my ear was off, I'd believe them; but they hear it as real too.

Terry, thanks for the confirmation, smells and all.

Kate, Julia: It's bloggable now? She's sanitized it?

Robert: Sam Watkins! That's a tremendously readable book.

Bryan: Yes. She's also a member of the skiffy tribe, and I've never heard anyone outside it get the voice right.

Kip: I assume there's contractors and there's contractors. What I know is that I heard remarkably similar reactions out of a lot of ex-military guys when they first heard that four contract security guys had gotten killed.

#73 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 01:45 PM:

TNH: the post in question says that it's been edited, though I didn't read it carefully pre-edit, so I'm not sure how sanitized it needed to be (I glanced at it and then found the start of posts about being there and was working my way forward). I was more pointing out that the cat had been let loose elsewhere in the blog already.

#74 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 01:49 PM:

Addendum: FWIW, in prior posts she's said she's "MI"; I don't know what that means, but it might shed some light for knowledgable people wondering about the circumstances described.

#75 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 01:54 PM:

She's said stuff in passing in previous posts about being involved in interrogations, etc.

#76 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 02:01 PM:

MI = Military Intelligence?

#77 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 02:02 PM:

Kate, that could easily be "Military Intelligence" . . .

#78 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 02:06 PM:

Military Intelligence...LiveJournal from the front...

Living up to the "oxymoron" joke, maybe?

#79 ::: Ilona Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 02:15 PM:

MI is military intelligence. If she is an interrogator, she'd be L97. Translator is E97 (or 97L and 97E.) Unfortunately, you can't be a reservist and a military interrogator. They phased out the reserve military MOS awhile ago. See, the language school alone, the AIT, which you can't skip, is a year long. If you're lucky enough to jump into one of those highly coveted MOS, you go to school for a total of two years. And you sign up for six years. And... if she is MI, why is she posting this? Shouldn't the security concerns be of outmost importance to her?

Look, I don't want to give a wrong impression. I hope that she is who she says she is. If so, more power to her. I would hate to find out that she isn't a soldier because it would hurt me personally. The time when the deployment to Iraq had hung over my husband's head was the worst time of my life. Neither he nor I ever supported or felt right about this war and it hurt many people we know. It's an issue of great importance to us. If she is a fraud, well, I would feel a little betrayed.

#80 ::: sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 02:21 PM:

I vote fake. I don't have an Editor's Ear or any knowledge of military jargon, but I have a standard issue bullshit detector and it is ringing fit to beat the band at the idea that she is able to blog this stuff.

I dunno whether to hope I'm wrong (ie, I'm too damn cynical) or right (in which case, this woman is going through hell AND having some asshole in Portland cast aspersions).

#81 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 02:25 PM:

Ilona --

Nothing says she can't be a stenographer; everyone involved in an interrogation isn't an actual interrogator. (My guess would be a logistitican, but it's only a guess.)

Also, in keeping with the Vietnam-on-speed effect, I don't get the impression that MOS designations are being particularly respected over there. Undermanning and bad leadership will do that right quick.

#82 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 02:27 PM:

Displaying my ignorance once again: Is interrogator the only option for being in MI?

(And, older posts explicitly stated that 95% of her day couldn't be blogged about, so the rants were about stuff around the margins, so there is some security-consciousness acknowledged.)

#83 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 02:29 PM:

Well, we've made it to: "On the Internet nobody can prove you're not a hoax."

#84 ::: Tony Hellmann ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 02:36 PM:

I sent her an email and got one back. Her originating IP address is, which is out of Broomfield, CO.

#85 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 02:42 PM:

maybe MI stands for mobile infantry and she's actually fighting bugs, not iraqis.

...sorry, couldn't resist.

#86 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 02:44 PM:

Was this the hotmail address listed on her LJ? If you're sending mail from a web service, will it have the web service as the originating IP?

#87 ::: Tony Hellmann ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 02:50 PM:

Kate: There are lots of MOS's (jobs) in intel. The Army has interrogators, yes, but they also have a dozen other intel-related MOS's: 96B Intel Analyst, 37F PsyOps Specialist, 98C Signals Intel Analyst, 98J Electronic Intelligence Interceptor/Analyst, 96R Ground Surveillance Systems Operator, 97B Counterintelligence Agent, etc.

#88 ::: Tony Hellmann ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 02:56 PM:

Yes, it was a hotmail address, but web-based email doesn't have it's own IP address. IP addresses are assigned by the Internet Service Provider. Hotmail and other web-based services attach your IP information to the header of emails one sends. That IP address is the address of the computer that originated the message.

Now it's possible that she's emailing her information to a friend in Broomfield, and that friend is posting it to the web, but it seems a little odd that I send an email to someone in Iraq, and the reply comes back from Broomfield, CO.

#89 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 02:57 PM:

Ilona, I think you mean a MOS 97E - Human Intelligence Collector (which does have a bit of a science fiction air to it). The MOS 97L Translator/Interpreter is actually restricted only to Reserves and National Guard.

#90 ::: Brad DeLong ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 02:59 PM:

The google search on "(LJNAME) (ABOUT TO BE ISSUED MOVIE TITLE)" still generates only 8 hits. But one of them is from Add in the Redwood Dragon, Digby, the American Street, et cetera, and it seems to me that the information lockdown is about to be over.

#91 ::: Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 03:08 PM:
If I were 11 Bravo, I’d have earned my combat infantrymen’s badge, except of course the fact that I’m a woman means I don’t get stuff like that. The way the Army has it set up, it doesn’t matter if you do the job, if you’re a woman----you’re not supposed to do it, so you don’t get acknowledgement if you do.

This reminds me of one of my favorite WWII stories from my dad.

Dad was a B-26 radioman (and gunner, of course) in Europe during the war. Arriving at their forward deployment in France, his entire unit almost got to discover first hand just what lousy infantrymen they would have made (I strongly suspect that more than a few of them passed their marksmanship tests with the assistance of a .38 caliber pencil) when the Bulge crested and broke just short of their base. At some point after that, they initiated an "exchange program" with some local grunts, where one of them would go spend some time near the front lines with the infantry, while a curious infantryman would ride along in the jump seat during a mission.

The almost inevitable result of these exchanges would be a petrified grunt kissing the ground upon his return to mother earth, and a petrified flyboy swearing never to go within 10,000 (vertical) feet of the German army again. One infantryman, however, decided that it would be cool to complete enough missions (five) to receive an air medal, so he toughed it out and did the deed.

Now, during the early days of the war, a 10% loss rate was fairly typical for a daylight mission (the vast majority of USAAF missions were, of course, daylight missions); fortunately for my dad (and the rest of his bomb group), things had improved considerably by the time he got over there. Still, it was dangerous enough that flight crews all received brevet promotions before their first mission, because it was well known that higher-ranked POWs received better treatment by the Germans (especially if captured by the Wehrmacht or Luftwaffe -- if they were captured by an SS unit, all bets were off). So completing five missions represented a non-trivial investment of both time and luck.

...Which is why it must have been so disappointing to our intrepid infantryman when he discovered that he wasn't going to be able to get his air medal. Like she said, if you're not supposed to do it...

#92 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 03:13 PM:

Tony, the reverse DNS for that IP is

I suspect she's using some sort of private military-only network that gets NAT'ed at a Halliburton facility in Colorado. I know Halliburton provides a lot of things to the military (food, laundry services, etc.); do they provide internet access?

It didn't sound like she was walking into an Iraqi internet cafe and posting from there.

I'd guess that whoever is providing internet access to the troops would have a firewall in the US limiting outside access to whatever they're using to connect to Iraq (satellite? dedicated phone lines?). Kind of analogous to the way an "APO" address gets treated almost like a US address by the postal service, no matter where in the world the letters and packages actually end up.

#93 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 03:14 PM:

All that I can gather from what I have read so far is that it feels like the same person since 2002 (spot checking posts) to me. Her language is inconsistent, but I have heard the same from reservist friends when they are not talking to other service types. The writer appears to be a enlisted member of some kind of a (I would guess) company or smaller sized military intelligence unit (from the references to "my captain" as opposed to other officers) currently attached to a larger unit in Iraq, and does not appear to be located in or immediately near to Baghdad. She might not be a translator but just feels more like some sort of technician. A geek in uniform.

As to the incident in question, from the few details left, it does sound like the kind of incident that does occur in urban combat where hostles can quickly cut off otherwise non-combat units and assorted non-military persons. (It happened all the time in Vietnam -- check some of the histories).

This is just what I can pick out of these posts based on the time I have here today. Obviously this is not proof one way or the other. If this breaks more publicly, I think we will find out if this is authenic very qucikly. Especially if some commander in Iraq thinks he recognizes our blogger.

#94 ::: Meredith ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 03:25 PM:

I've known this person from LJ fandom quite some time before she went. I don't, frankly, like her very much, for reasons that have to do with chip on shoulder syndrome in certain perennial debates and do not at all impugn her truthfulness or bravery.

She's certainly spent a lot of time and effort establishing herself in this community, so I'm sure she's not a troll as such. That doesn't eliminate the possibility that she's lying now (hell, there's a fan who faked her own death, anything's possible).

But for what it's worth, I believe her. If nothing else, because I think if she were really sitting at home while she's supposedly overseas and unable to post much, she wouldn't be able to resist the temptation to make a sockpuppet for fannish activities. I don't know from military jargon, but I think I'd be able to pick out a suspicious newcomer spouting her very recognizeable views.

#95 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 03:29 PM:

Tony: thank you for defining MOS! I was wondering.

Jeremy: one of her posts does talk about defense contractors running the camp.

#96 ::: FairestCat ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 03:36 PM:

Meredith Thank you for saying what I had been sitting here trying to figure out how to say.

I'm not really in her fandom, I just skirt the edges occassionally, but I've run into her in various forums. As much as I've never cared for her, I've always gotten the impression that she was a very genuine person, both in her beliefs and her actions. She's much more the type to say too much when others would be silent then the type to make up something like this as an elaborate hoax. My gut says genuine.

Oh, and hi all, I've been reading over here for a while, this is my first day posting anything.

#97 ::: Tony Hellmann ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 03:42 PM:

Kate: MOS actually stands for Military Occupational Specialty (or Marine Occupatioal Specialty, if you're a jarhead).

Jeremy: Thanks for doing the reverse DNS lookup. I didn't think about it. If it's Halliburton, I'm convinced that it's real.

For those that don't know, Halliburton is the largest American contractor providing services in Iraq. Dick Cheney's former company.

Halliburton has internet access (I'm SURE), and I can see them providing it to troops. This clinches it for me.

#98 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 03:50 PM:

I'd vote composite all told in the first person but not very confidently. On the tampon issue - quite honestly I thought everybody knew that, want to snigger about field expedient waterproof flashlights?

Picking a phrase not at random "I’ve fired Ak-47s---the weapon of choice around here---and I’ll take my M-16 any day. It’s longer and heavier and just generally bigger, but it’s got a good sight, and in thirteen days I’ll have been firing one of these exactly thirteen years." says an awful lot.

AK-47's have milled dust covers and so forth ('47 was the year like '03 Springfield) but it is the common misnomer. An M-16 is not an M4 and that says an awful lot. 13 years says an awful lot - can't be continuous?

MI combined with odd access to radio listening seems a key to me - and if that is true then I can imagine a language qualified analyst - of odd background and duties (there's such a one around here someplace) - but MI implies with certainty clearances and access such that this journal is and always was approved - by folks who themselves are almost certainly fen!

Otherwise it's a Mary Sue inserted into genuine intercepts.

#99 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 03:50 PM:

What address her email is coming from is most probably irrellevant. I'll assume you read the headers correctly, and the originating MTA was at

99% of my email originates from, the rest from Never mind where I am -- first thing I do when I get online is tunnel home before I check email, and all that email goes through the tunnel. In addition, Speakeasy uses SMTP-Auth, I can use thier mail server from any IP address, if I authenticate first.

Doesn't matter where the notebook physically is -- the mailheaders look the same.

I would bet, if she's working for a corp or the military, that they would not be directly connected to the internet. They'll route through a private network, with gateways about to connect to the Internet at large, and I would be completely unsurprised to find Halliburton running one of them.

#100 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 04:00 PM:

Clark, could you explain your point about AK-47s vs. M-16s in a little more detail for we laypeople?

#101 ::: Jim Henley ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 04:05 PM:

In addition to the Halliburton thing, another point that comes up in the earlier entries: she says she writes offline and then uploads. That explains where her "time to blog" comes from. Also, Teresa, I honor your scrupulousness re linkage. But her Techonorati stats are 7 pages long now.

Note: Military blogger Citizen Smash links to it without demurral, though there's a debate in his comments section about whether ginmar is fit for combat.

#102 ::: Kip Manley ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 04:29 PM:

It's not quite that bad over there. They're debating whether someone who's had this effusive a reaction to combat (rather than being all stoic and looking away, pained, into the middle distance) is healing "female-style," or the reaction of someone--whether male or female--unsuited for this sort of combat. --Though the person who seems to think no one would be quite so hopeless in a seige of so short a duration seems to have missed the point about how overwhelmingly they were outnumbered, and how utterly unforthcoming help was, and how scarily savage things seem to have gotten.

Dern it, Jim! I go looking for a pellet of outrage and find presentably decent--if decidedly alien (to my own outlook, at least) human beings. Nuts to you!

#103 ::: Brad DeLong ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 04:33 PM:

Re: "her Techonorati stats are 7 pages long now."

Seven pages? [Flicks switch to go live.]

#104 ::: pepperlandgirl ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 04:43 PM:

I lurk here a lot, but I've never been compelled to post before.

I know the person in question. She does have a chip on her shoulder. She's very passionate. Her LJ before was less about fannish activity--she rarely posted anything fandom related--and more about her political thoughts. I've had her friended for nearly a year now, read her fic before that, and I know her from another message board (non-fandom related) as well.

I know she's genuine. I remember when her mom died, and I remember when she found she'd be sent to Iraq, and I remember when she talked about fanfic, and all in all, I know her as a good, forthright, honest person.

I hope she never knows that people were calling her a fake. And I hope she comes home in one piece. And I hope by this time next year she's happily writing fanfic and ranting about women's rights.

#105 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 04:49 PM:

It's not "Singars".... There's a c in the radio system name somewhere, more like Sincgars or Cingars.... I don't remember the spelling and the acronym exactly anymore. But it's =not= "Singars."

Ah, here it is " Sincgars, the Army precursor of JTRS that used software capabilities to circumnavigate enemy signal jamming."

quote from:

It's annoying me, because someone who is casting doubts about someone else's credibility, has a case of credibility for me for failing to gie the correct spelling for the standard tactical radio set designation.... Since a decade and a half ago I was in the military C-cubed business and had to know that sort of stuff, I knew about SINCGARS, and I knew there was a c in it, it's one of those things that the name looks weird because of the letter concatenation combination and therefore, when one sees it spelled wrong, it -looks- wrongly wrong. [That is, the name itself looks wrong for standard English terminology/spelling. And since it looks wrong, one gets used to knowing that it's going to look wrong. And when someone types it wrong, it doesn't look correctly "wrong" -- case of "what was the strange thing the dog did in the night? The dog did nothing, that was strange" -- that when it's misspelled, it doesn't look properly -wrong- anymore for normal English. ]

When I called Boston in 1980 party at the 1978 World Science Fiction Convention over the Missile Warning Hotline from the Tactical Operations Room in Thule, Greenland, anyone tracing the call at the hotel would have seen a local telephone exchange for Phoenix, Arizona, not Thule, Greenland. The actual phone route was a Thule via satellite to somewhere in the middle of the USA to Cheyenne Mountain through the military system which many have been leased commercial lines to Luke Air Force Base to a local exchange in Phoenix to the hotel to the room. It wouldn't have shown "Thule" as the source calling the hotel.

As for language, one modifies one's language to a greater or less degree based on the audience or perceptions of the audience.

#106 ::: tavella ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 05:01 PM:

Add me to the list of people that have run into ginmar into other contexts. There's certainly been elaborate hoaxes in fandom, but most of them fail under even a little skeptical questioning; the crazy pair that lead the Sam portion of LOTR fandom on a merry dance last year were already revealed as hoaxers a year or two back, it's just that some people have an enormous need to believe. This would be an amazingly consistent, years long hoax requiring a collaborator actually in theater. I just don't see it as very likely.

The voice sounds authentic, the lists of wants sounds authentic, and 90 percent of the blogging has been about very mundane things. It sounds very like the livejournal of another fandom friend of mine in Iraq. And the arguments about the language, et al, being off really do remind me of the people who were convinced Salam Pax was fake because he sounded 'too westernized'.

The only thing that surprises me is that it's not friendslocked -- especially for someone in MI, you'd think she'd be aware of how much trouble she'd get into.

#107 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 05:08 PM:

Jeremy, the TV ads Halliburton has been running here in the DC area (to try to make people like them despite the money-stealing) do include giving internet access to the military. One of the commercials ends with a soldier looking worried at a laptop and then his face breaks into joy and he shouts "It's a girl!" and everybody cheers.

#108 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 05:22 PM:

The acronym is SINCGARS, the Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System. It is a modular series of VHF-FM combat radios that range from units that require a vehicle to move to handheld. They are the basic radios for r ground and some aviation units. The technology was developed in the 70's by ITT and the damm things should be damm near universal by now.

#109 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 05:24 PM:

Whoops -- didn't read far enough down in Paula's post. My apologies.

#110 ::: liz ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 05:46 PM:

Having gone to look at her web page and random dips through the pre-deployment LJ, I vote for genuine.

This discussion, above, brings to mind one of the things I have been mulling over: is some people's attempts to equate the war in Iraq with the war in Vietnam, and the popular response to each war.

I know that reading milblogs like genmar's has modified my thinking about the war. I wonder how differently the folks would have reacted if blogging had been part of the Vietnam experience.

#111 ::: Ilona Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 06:07 PM:

Claude and Paula, you're absolutely right on the spelling. Thank you so much for correcting me. When I get excited, and this issue excited me, my spelling goes out the window. (I also slide into my native language, but that's beside the point.) I guess after thinking about it for a few hours, I decided I no longer care if it's genuine. If it is, wonderful. I hope it is. If so, my apologies to her for doubting. If it's not, well, it's on her head.

What I think is really awesome, is that although people are passionate on the issue, nobody has broken into insults. And that's really pretty cool.

#112 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 07:02 PM:

Ilona, we all tremble in fear before the awesome might of The Magnificent One, Our Hostess. Like spiders over the fire and like that.

No, seriously, you're right. There hasn't even been any sarcasm. It's been very cool. People have been very civil. Yay us!

#113 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 07:11 PM:

Ilona, the quality and civility of discourse here is what attracts most of us. In my opnion, at least, you seem to fit in well.

#114 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 07:37 PM:

Expanding by request - as noted by others the language used is a carry over from her audience not her surroundings. The author likely speaks a different dialect to her neighbor and I'll bet she grates on their ears too.

Usage specifically lacks the exactness one might expect from other groups around her who use slang of their own to communicate exactly and as some part of unit cohesion shiboleth if you will - cf the journal comment on a hug from a deer friend who ranks God and the NCOFH - sounds to my ear that she's a Slan and her Army is all mundanes - she's writing in the langage she shares with her friends not her associates.

As you know Bob the M4 is current issue - see pictures for short barrel and collapsing stock with optical sights. That's one of the things that makes me think composite - springing out of an SUV "in full kit" goes better with an M4. IIRC Jessica Lynch had an M16 and some say difficulties with it. The rifle was pointed up as a fact to cross with other facts.

I read the journal as about being a Slan in a mundane world that happens to be army not about being in the army.

Notice that Crane's Red Badge of Courage and Mailer's Naked and the Dead were not based entirely on each author's own experience. Guadacanal Diary and The Last Parallel were. Anne Frank trimmed parts of her own diary with publication in mind before her father did. Not shocking if this LJ is some combination of diary and a publication in progress. No more is it a moral defect.

What I read as possible composite may in fact be psychological distancing - the journaling may be a good adaptation to the circumstances and so encouraged by her command in this case. I'll stand by my belief that it is censored by a sympathetic officer risking that I will find out otherwise immediately I click preview and post.

#115 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 08:06 PM:

About tamponade -- tampons have been used in wounds since the musket age. Until reading this thread, I'd always assumed that the feminine use of them followed the military/medical use.

tamponade [n]  blockage or closure (as of a wound or body cavity) by (or as if by) a tampon (especially to stop bleeding).

#116 ::: Tiellan ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 08:17 PM:

Personally I hope she's for real and that what she's blogging is real - I've just seen enough instances of people lying to get sympathy and to feel loved and needed (e.g. Munchausen by Proxy) or material gain (e.g., half the spam in my mail box) that I'm not willing to believe everything I read on the Internet.

#117 ::: Rachel Brown ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 09:20 PM:

If she's a fraud, then who's picking up her care packages in Iraq? I can't imagine a real soldier over there participating in that particular kind of scam.

#118 ::: Bob Webber ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 09:52 PM:

Without commenting further on the etymology of the names of women's menstrual items, "tampon" is French for "plug" (noun, see also "tamponner" the verb "to plug or stop up").

The definition from Webster's Unabridged of 1913 does perhaps reflect on etymology:

Tampon \Tam"pon\, n. [F. See Tampion.] (Surg.) A plug introduced into a natural or artificial cavity of the body in order to arrest hemorrhage, or for the application of medicine.
#119 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 10:27 PM:

I dunno, she sounds genuine enough for me, and if you look at the handy-dandy "calendar view" you see that she's obviously going through the Net withdrawal she complains about: until January, she's on all day every day, then she ships out and bam, only sporadic posting.

I've been dealing with wacky-ass people online since about 1998 ( and no way is the typical sock-puppetry attention-getter going to think about faking that.

My vote: she's real. And I agree wholeheartedly with Clark -- she's not using typical Army language because she's an outsider in that community. The reason people pick up a dialect is to fit in, and due to her gender and her fannishness, she's going to be an outsider anyway. She'll probably catch herself using Army-speak occasionally and then freak. Quietly and privately behind her sheeted-off wall. I think in this respect it's like my own experience a few years back as a software contractor at Eli Lilly. You end up taking a kind of anthropologist-among-the-natives view of the situation. (I do like the term "mundanes"... I picked that up here, actually. When I got into science fiction in the far-distant past, cons were an impossibly distant city thing.)

I have to say, her points about war profiteering sure have hit a nerve with me, personally. I hope she makes it home all right. Yet another valuable person in danger so Monkey Boy can feel like a man.

#120 ::: Yaka St.Aise ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 10:35 PM:

Just a few comments:

- she's unlikely to be a geek in the tech sense of it, I believe she mentionned not caring much about learning how to use a GPS unit, double unlikely if you consider that means she didn't know already ;

- I can tell from direct experience that military interprets/translators are in short supply in some areas (including Baghdad) and I suspect a reservist who'd also happen to be a decent shot can be considered handy ;

- headers/IP in this case don't mean a thing. Many people use auth-SMTP, for resons ranging from privacy to lack of SMTP in cybercafes (common when relying on satellite links) when travelling ;

- as a trained - if not professional - writer, she might be willing and able to tune down the military jargon and mannerisms in her journaling, for various motives (see below) ;

- she obviously doesn't enjoy very much some elements of the military lifestyle, including closequarter fartfest and lack of privacy, and writing is a very efficient way to cope, be it only by virtue of casting a different light on your daily tedium ;

- for the exact same reasons mentionned above, she might equally be a reservist in Iraq risking her life on the frontline (because it happens) and LJ'ing over Halliburton-provided netlink (that's satellite, for those who asked) or a bored translator in some Halliburton-ran compound in the dead of Colorado, scanning soldiers' email and writing fanfic about being in the field.
She might even do the latter as part of her reservist duties.

And no, I won't tell what my guess is.
Good literature, in any case.

#121 ::: Tony Hellmann ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 11:28 PM:

Headers and IP addresses don't mean a thing when looked at alone. But when looked at as one piece of evidence among many others, they lend credibility. That's why they're admissible in court as evidence.

I looked carefully at some of the things she said, and some of the names she named before she went back and censored her account, and was able to pinpoint the area she was operating in. I even suspect a particular city. Moreover, some of the things she mentioned were reported by the Associated Press the next day.

When I add those things, the painful humanity of her personal account, her Halliburton originating IP address, and the things she told me via email, there's no question for me.

#122 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2004, 11:32 PM:

I'm not sure I understand what a hoax would be meant to achieve, if GM's journal is a hoax. Nor what the point of compositing would be, when she could be just as compelling writing the war stories verbatim, like that guy did with the Nam book. (Mark Baker?)

What I really don't understand is how anyone can think that someone could write such well-researched fiction or paste-up with so few writerly errors in such a short time. I mean, this is almost real-time and it reads like a real journal, not a fictional one: inconsistent in tone, no narrative drive, no sign that it's headed in any particular direction.

So, call me a gullible fool, but I'm going to take it as written, until I have a good reason to believe otherwise.

#123 ::: John C. Bunnell ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2004, 01:32 AM:

Coming in very late:

I signed into Livejournal very recently for reasons unrelated to the present discussion, and almost instantly ran into pointers to the "ginmar" journal entries from other LJ-folk; if it was supposed to be "under the radar", it wasn't very far under it.

I don't doubt at all that ginmar is a real person, and that she is in Iraq in a capacity associated with the military occupation forces.

That, however, doesn't resolve the question of whether her LJ entries are accurate accounts of her personal experiences. They may well be just that -- or they may be composites, or an elaborate metafiction, or even deliberate propaganda meant to further someone's political agenda.

Is it possible for us to accurately deduce, from this distance, which of the foregoing is actually the case? I frankly doubt it. The comments upstream suggest that any jargon or hardware issues are fuzzy at best, within the range of "ask three experts, get five opinions" variance. What's more, it occurs to me that even if the entries are intended as first-person accounts of real events, they're being written by a trained storyteller/fictioneer -- and it may be difficult for her not to draw on her storytelling skills in ways that "spin" the narrative in one way or another.

It's fascinating material, definitely, and -- assuming it's not wholly invented -- useful as one of many reports for developing overall context. At the same time, even if it is wholly accurate in detail, it's not agenda-free (though any agenda may be more personal than political).

#124 ::: Lee Hauser ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2004, 01:35 AM:

No one seems to have taken up the idea of her 13 years firing an M16...perhaps she has experience with the civilian model? I used to know a couple of ex-Marines (husband and wife) who'd bought one in the mid-80s, before assault rifle selling was banned.

FWIW, she sounds genuine to me, too...and fascinating.

#125 ::: Marinus ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2004, 01:41 AM:

Ilona - about overhearing what was being said on the radio:

I don't know what kind of technology they have now, and though you did say that there are radios with ear pieces, I'm assuming what was being used in her presence was a regular police-like radio. I believe she could have overheard such a radio conversation. According to her "Eventually, our safe area was reduced to just one hallway in a central building." How long can the safe part of one hallway possibly be?

In such close quarters and because it's an enclosed space there is little room for privacy. For all we know she could have been crouched near him in the hall or on some sort of lookout. She states "I kept overhearing conversations I wasn’t supposed to hear." Also, who is the least worriesome individual to overhear such a conversation, a person working under the governor or one of your own subordients?

Mostly it's just my own musings and I'd like your opinion on the possibility that even if the language isn't standard and may be embellished for her audience she could have overheard such a coversation.

#126 ::: Seth Morris ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2004, 01:57 AM:

Fascinating blog content, and almost as fascinating questions about veracity and identity online. This woman seems legit, *and* we have a very real need to doubt online identity. We have no accepted cultural formula for expressing or valuing that doubt yet.

So I was very pleased, after talking with my girlfriend about the blog, to come home and find the same questions raised by Some people claim it is the pseudonymous blog of a Certain Famous Movie Star, but other people claim it is the work of a Different Very Famous Movie Star. (Owen Wilson is the usual claim, via boingboing.)

Even as a hoax, it's a great example of the "true-or-not tell-all blog-or-hoax", which seems to be a new evolutionary niche to fill. "Rance's" frequent references to the likelyhood that he's a hoax is half the fun. And wondering if Rance is a hoax doesn't make me feel like a heel.

BTW, I'm having problems seeing the comments on Making Light. They seem to cut off wherever the ad block on the left ends. They all load, then some script (presumably the ad script) runs and the page height resets and I can't read the comments (I canceled page loading before the script ran to get to the "Post a comment" form this time). I've been reading comments in "view source" for a few weeks for this reason. I've seen it on IE6/WinXP and IE5/Win2000 and IE5.5/Win98.

#127 ::: John C. Bunnell ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2004, 02:58 AM:

BTW, I'm having problems seeing the comments on Making Light. They seem to cut off wherever the ad block on the left ends. They all load, then some script (presumably the ad script) runs and the page height resets and I can't read the comments (I canceled page loading before the script ran to get to the "Post a comment" form this time). I've been reading comments in "view source" for a few weeks for this reason. I've seen it on IE6/WinXP and IE5/Win2000 and IE5.5/Win98.

I think I know what you're talking about here (I run IE6/WinXP myself). Try toggling F11 -- "full screen mode" -- as that seems to restore the full comment-stream for me.

#128 ::: ben ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2004, 06:01 AM:

If you go digging deeply enough, you'll discover that Halliburton actually holds an entire IPv4 Class A allocation, assigned shortly after PGW1.


#129 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2004, 06:14 AM:


It didn't occur to me to be circumvent about this; but then I only linked to it after she removed the sensitive material. And then, it was alrady linked to by others.

As someone who has only a layperson's knowledge of the US army, I never doubted she was really where she said she was and doing what she said she was doing; especially since I noticed people sending care packages to her.

#130 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2004, 07:09 AM:

On the "is she a hoax?" side - I'm unsurprised that people linking directly to that famous post thought she "must be" a hoax: she's a woman describing (very well) a situation far outside most people's normal experience. The instinctive reaction with people who don't want to believe that could have happened, especially not to a woman, is to assume that the writer must be lying. Hence the persistent claims that Riverbend "must be" a hoax, which have gone on much longer than claims that Salam Pax must be a hoax.

(As other people have observed, she's been livejournalling since 2002, and I for one have been reading her posts sporadically all this time. Her friends have been sending CARE packages to her in Iraq. She's for real.)

The famous post is now friends-locked: which means, fortunately or unfortunately, that only a few hundred people with livejournal accounts will ever be able to read it. I don't blame her in the least: it was circulating as far as littlegreenfootballs.

#131 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2004, 07:13 AM:

Oh, and the IP address? I have a friend whose e-mail account is via the University of Texas, where she did her PhD. She lives and works in Paris, France. Reliably, though I know for a fact she's in Paris, her IP headers say she's in Texas.

#132 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2004, 08:20 AM:

As for her having 13 years of experience with the M-16, didn't she mention that she had 13 or 14 years accumulated time in the Reserves? That would seem to explain it, no?

#133 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2004, 08:27 AM:

My vote: she's real. And I agree wholeheartedly with Clark -- she's not using typical Army language because she's an outsider in that community. The reason people pick up a dialect is to fit in, and due to her gender and her fannishness, she's going to be an outsider anyway. She'll probably catch herself using Army-speak occasionally and then freak. Quietly and privately behind her sheeted-off wall.

That, plus she knows that she's being read by a large number of people who are non-military, and has the common decency to avoid jargon/ dialect as much as possible.

I'm mildly surprised by the number of people here who seem to think the latter is impossible. Then again, I've met plenty of physicists who think that "because it's an SU(3) doublet" is a perfectly clear explanation to offer to an undergraduate student, so maybe I shouldn't be surprised...

#134 ::: Elric ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2004, 09:52 AM:

I've got an open question as to whether one point in the post represents a shift in military use in Iraq to reflect one of the sad details about how well prepared our forces weren't.

I'm curious about the reference to the "SUV." I'd normally expect to hear a reference to a Hummer (or HMMWV, if memory serves for the proper military acronym), but I've also run into references indicating that more than half the "Hummers" sent to Iraq for Operation Testosterone Storm were civilian models, without armor. This has contributed to the casualty rates associated with roadside bombs and snipers.

Are our forces now referring to these unhardened vehicles as SUVs to distinguish them from real military equipment?

#135 ::: Jim Henley ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2004, 10:17 AM:

In earlier entries, she talks about the reasons why her unit tends to use civilian vehicles.

Honestly, I think a lot of the hoax speculation comes primarily from people who read THE post and not the others. Taken in toto, the entries from Feb 20 forward contain answers to a lot of the questions people have asked along the way. (What's her specialty? What about the thirteen years? Why can she overhear communications? What's up with the civilian vehicles?)

#136 ::: Ilona Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2004, 10:17 AM:

I'm thrilled she has so many supporters. It sounds like some of you are carrying email conversations with her. Perhaps she could tell you her unit? Here is what's in Iraq and Kuwait, or what was there in mid March. (It's not secret knowledge - I've found a March 22 issue of Army Times :) Also a few soldiers have come back since then, because we're seeing the Daddy is Home cars around town. Much better than yellow ribbons, trust me.)

So let's see. We've got

4th Infantry Division

101st Airborne Division

173rd Airborne Brigade

V Corps

3rd Armored Division

1st Infantry Division

25th Infantry Division

82nd Airborne Division

10th Mountain Division

2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment

3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (SBCT)

If she could tell you guys what she is attached to or if she mentions that she is stationed next to one of these divisions, it would settle some questions. The troops movements are fuzzy, but usually if they are scheduled to come home, it's announced. Like when South Carolina National Guard (122nd) was slated to come home.

I would email her myself, but I don't wish to make it seem like I'm overly aggressive. If any of you wish to pass on my email address to her, I'd love to carry on a conversation. I'm sure that I would very quickly become convinced one way or another and would tell you why.

I had poked around her posts some more yesterday, and everyone who says it's a mundane blog and typical of Iraq soldier in some respects - I agree with you there. It's her combat sequences that are kind of fuzzy. There has to be a reason why a lot of military and non-military but famliiar with it people are getting a funny feel when reading them. I've described the situation to Sgt. Alan, whose MOS is more combat-oriented. His experience with it was that intelligence guys (such as interrogators, translators, etc) sat back. After they train them for ungodly amount of years and money, they don't want them shot at.

(Here is a link to what Army considers military intelligence. I simply did a word search, and it kicked some mighty odd jobs at me, like Cavalry Scout, who obviously wouldn't sit back. The site is designed with civilians in mind, so it takes wide view of MI.

Also here is

which might be a bit clearer, but I don't know how old the info is. )

So perhaps, and I'm not trying to offend anyone, perhaps there might be a possibility that she is adding a little bit of action to her posts? Because that would explain the odd conversation she shouldn't have heard, the dramatic enemy will run over us at dawn declarations, the characteristic fuzziness of language, and the enemy announcing that it will destroy them at first light. (It still doesn't make sense to me, btw. Hey, we'll kill you all, but we're going to wait till the light comes so we'd make better targets. Oh, and we'll also tell you that we're coming, so you will be ready for us. Because we wouldn't want to have an element of surprise on our side.)

The fact that people are sending her care packages is in itself proof of nothing, unfortunately, unless she is actually getting the items. If a care package arrives to the sorting facility and they can't find the soldier, they hold it. Wagner, frex, didn't get any of his until he got to Kuwait, and his tour was close to a year.

Guys that have been in Iraq will tell you that Kuwait is nice. It's a beautiful base all around. There was a big bruhaha within the Army awhile back, because combat troops would come back from Iraq to the Kuwait base(I think it even has tennis courts.) They are filthy, exhausted, they haven't gotten a Care package in months, because those things typically don't come through to the front lines. So these guys would stagger back and quickly figure out that personell at the Kuwait base is getting the same combat pay as they do.

To reiterate, there are very simple ways to ascertain whether or not this woman is who she seems. Here are the questions to ask: where did she go to basic, where did she go to AIT, what's her unit, what's her MOS? When did she deploy?

If she would give you her unit, I could call down to Fort Sill and bug J on Monday, and he might be able to tell us if the unit is in Kuwait, in Iraq, or whereever. As a reenlistment NCO he's got some access to that kind of thing. But might is the operative word here. He also could tell my civilian behind to bugger off :) Even if we do share a Corona with lime once in a while.

#137 ::: Ilona Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2004, 11:19 AM:

Eric, the civilian SUVs are the least of the problems. A lot of troops sent to Iraq were issued flak jackets without armor plates. Halliburton's subsidiary, Kellogg, Brown, and Root has a huge unpaid tab, somewhere around 90 million, for the meals it had served since November, which means that unless the bill is paid, there will be no more hot meals for the troops at the dining facilities in Iraq. Sometimes a hot meal is all these guys have to look forward to. (They may have paid it by now, I don't know. I know as of last month they still were in debt.)

White House keeps trying to quash the pay raises for next year. Would you like to know how much a sergeant makes with three dependents? About $2,000 a month. And that's with prior service additions. Yes, military does get benefits. If the servicemember dies, his spouse typically will get $250,000 in life insurance. I haven't yet met a spouse that would trade the money for her husband or wife. Yes, there is medical care available, but Tricare is pretty much an HMO. I've known soldiers that passed out in the waiting rooms with high temperature and were given a bottle of Motrin and told to report to work next day. That's a standing joke, btw, "and a bottle of Motrin" - what you typically get now when you go in the hospital on post. Bills add up. Just the drycleaning for the uniforms alone (and if you draw a post with one of the schools, like we did, you had to have perfectly starched BDUs for all the time) runs at about $50 a month.

Add to that the fact that a military spouse typically can't get hired, short of being a nurse, because we relocate continuosly, frequently to places that do not offer good employment opportunities. (I can pack a house in three days, drive the Ryder, get there, unpack, and have the household back up in three days. No reflection on my abilities - I had to do it often enough and learned.) Not only that but a military spouse is basically a single parent. My kids saw flashes of my husband's face for the four years he was in. Would you like to know what childcare costs here typically, for one child, in a military town? Between $75 and $100 a week. Why so high? Because they know military families have no choice. And the White House wants to quash the pay raises! Please! Most soldiers are not in it for the money, but they have to have enough to live on.

So how much does a typical soldier work for that money? Let's put aside the battle, the war, all of those terrible things. Let's talk a normal, peaceful situation.

A typical soldier "at peace" gets up at 04:30, 05:00 if on base, so they can be at PT by 06:00. They will train, take showers, change, so they can be at work by anywhere from 08:00 to 09:00, depending on MOS. They will work till 11:30, break for lunch, come back by 13:00 and then work "on paper" till 17:00. In reality? The Wheel shop with the battallion my husband was stationed with worked till 21:00 with a break for dinner. My husband would go off to the field to drive the colonel because they needed a commo guy and be gone till 19:00 no problem. Not counting times he went to the field for a week and we didn't see him at all. And that is a very cushy post. We had lucked out.

A soldier is technically on 24/7. Especially an NCO. Because young soldiers do very stupid things sometimes. Sometimes they call at 01:00 and say with slurred voice into the phone, "Saaageant. I'm drunk. Come get me."

"Where are you, son?"

"At a Circle K." Click.

There are seventeen Circle Ks in town.

And for all of that, soldiers get bashed and called monsters, pelted with stones, shot in the head while getting a soda. They get little money - and their pay raises are under a constant threat from their own government. They don't even get proper recognition. They get GWOT. Global War on Terrorism medal. I know it seems like a small thing, but to servicemen it isn't. Sometimes that's all they have, and how hard would it be to create separate medals for campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq? Not very hard. And it would mean so very much to the people who serve.

As you can see, I'm absurdly passionate about this. I apologize for rambling. Hopefully I won't get my vowels taken out.

#138 ::: Ilona Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2004, 11:45 AM:

Make it "I deserve to have my vowels taken out." What a gargantuan post. I looked for a way to edit it after I posted it and couldn't find it. I'm really sorry. I'll just go and hide now.

#139 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2004, 11:58 AM:

I don't see anything to apologize for, Ilona. Your comments put me in mind of something Barbara Ehrenbach recently wrote:

Here's one way our President proposes to "support our troops": According to his 2005 budget, the extra pay our soldiers receive for serving in combat zones--about $150 a month--will no longer count against their food stamp eligibility. This budget provision, if approved, should bring true peace of mind to our men and women on the front lines. From now on, they can dodge bullets in Iraq with the happy assurance that their loved ones will not starve as a result of their bravery.
Military families on food stamps? It's not an urban myth. About 25,000 families of servicemen and women are eligible, and this may be an underestimate, since the most recent Defense Department report on the financial condition of the armed forces--from 1999--found that 40 percent of lower-ranking soldiers face "substantial financial difficulties." Senator Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, reports hearing from constituents that the Army now includes applications for food stamps in its orientation packet for new recruits.
Count me as believing in really supporting the troops, including paying them a living wage.

#140 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2004, 12:10 PM:

Mike: On terminology, and I know this belongs on another thread but it came up here: is anyone else a bit troubled by the use of the term "contractors" for the Blackwater armed guys?
It certainly caught me off as you describe -- but I'm not surprised at the euphemism; Republicans from Reagan onward have been adept at Newspeak. ("Freedom fighters", my nprntbl.) And the news media acquiesce in this; witness the use of the approved term "settler" for the Israeli colonists in the West Bank.

Ilona: I have no relevant experience, so I'll assume you are correct in your description of who would be sent where to do what -- in an ideal world. Contra this (and extending others' passing comments), how old is the saying that no plan survives first contact with the enemy? Thanks to Rumsfeld and Cheney overruling the professionals, the "Coalition" forces are badly undermanned; I've seen other stories about the wrong forces being sent to do specific jobs. How likely is it that the ]policies[ you describe would be held to in the mess the politicos have gotten ]us[ into?

#141 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2004, 12:25 PM:

Ilona, i don't see why you should apologize for a very thoughtful and heartfelt post.

#142 ::: marith ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2004, 12:29 PM:

Ilona, may I quote your 'soldier's day' comment on my lj? Both lucid and appalling; I knew things were bad for the armed forces, but not how bad. stamps? Argh.

ginmar definitely sounds real to me; the clincher, if I hadn't previously read all the discussion here, would have been the lack of message. There's no underlying tone of 'support our troops' or 'I'm so brave' or 'the government is evil', just holyshitIalmostdied. The hoaxers I've seen found it hard to leave their personal agenda out of any post.

Interesting how hard it is to sound genuine.

#143 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2004, 12:33 PM:

I second (well, third) Lis and mythago, Ilona - you are informed, articulate, balanced and deliberate. No apology necessary.

I, for one, am grateful for the information you are providing.

#144 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2004, 01:03 PM:

Ilona wrote:
Would you like to know what childcare costs here typically, for one child, in a military town? Between $75 and $100 a week. Why so high? Because they know military families have no choice. And the White House wants to quash the pay raises!

That's about what we pay locally for one child, and we're about a thirty minute drive from the nearest military installation (Wright-Patterson AFB).

My coworkers (I'm a civilian contractor) at the base say that it can take about 10-16 months to move off the waiting list for the onbase childcare facilities, and that some places near base run a 4-month waiting list.

I don't know what the situation is like elsewhere, but the last time I talked to my sister ( @ Ft. Campbell, KY, home of the 101st Airborne ), the childcare situation was especially bleak ( she has twin boys, about a year and a half old ). She couldn't work while my brother in law was deployed, because she wouldn't have been able to afford childcare.

#145 ::: Yaka St.Aise ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2004, 01:14 PM:

Just a thought: leaving translators or intelligence people behind and out of harm's way is a luxury one can't always afford the turmoil of realworld operations.

Handling of contacts and informants sometimes requires you to go to them, and it is sometimes easier to go meet people than expect them to tarvel cross-governorate to queue in line and in clear sight at the entrance of some army compound to report.

Getting oneself in trouble by a twist of (bad) luck during a non-combat mission happens, too.

Not that it helps figure whether the thing is genuine, second-hand, fiction or a blend, but at least the story sounds more consistent and believable from this perspective.

As was mentionned, no plan survives contact with the enemy, and daily operations of US forces in Iraq (even before the last days uprisings) sure didn't went as a drill, more than often.

#146 ::: tavella ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2004, 01:44 PM:

She mentioned elsewhere that it's odd writing, because she can't say anything about the stuff she does for her actual job, so she ends up writing about conveys and cats. That's obviously going to leave gaps. And she's presumably being somewhat vague about any military details that might be useful to others.

My impression was that she wasn't supposed to be in combat -- she was with the governor and his staff, who also wouldn't be in combat or the front. They just got cut off. So there's nothing strange there.

And, basically -- I've read quite a way back in her livejournal, and she's not notably self-dramatizing. Kind of cranky and bitchy, maybe, but not melodramatic. And while the encounters I've had with her elsewhere in fandom haven't been substantial, she's never been nontrustworthy that I encountered. So, if someone has a history of being honest, I figure I owe them the courtesy, so to speak, of believing they are still honest.

Not that that means that other people can't be doubtful.

#147 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2004, 02:02 PM:

Quick observation: My boyfriend's dad--the one that's likely going to Iraq shortly to work on water plants--once worked at a nuclear plant, I think it was, and they were apparently always cleaning up strange messes and spills with Kotex napkins.

#148 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2004, 06:38 PM:

Ilona, spouses are nurses and teachers. My mother was able to get a teaching job at all our posts except the Pentagon because by then she was too skilled to be hired. So she worked sub every day she wanted to and brought in more money than if she'd worked full-time. (And shared chicken livers with the cat, which is another story entirely.)

#149 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2004, 08:02 PM:

As a general observation entirely based on cold war experience - I have often heard folks (mostly working with intercepted communications) with specialized language skills say it was the safest job in the service - too rare and valuable to risk. Perhaps diffidence of the I'm not brave he's brave variety.

Truth is they dealt with the same Department of Dirty Tricks and Fairy Godmother (as Mr. Heinlein among others described it - notice that Ginny with her hitch and butt had more service time than her husband) as everybody else.

I'll never know whether the lies were for friends and family or for themselves (makes it easier to sit head down under a hood listening to earphones with a total lack of control?) but I know they were lies.

#150 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2004, 08:22 PM:

On a completely different note - Orson Scott Card asserts The Book of Mormon should ring true to any good writer's ear.

We have a present example which falsifies Mr. Card's assertion.

Should an editor's ear carry the same weight of evidence as a bloodhound's nose?

#151 ::: Tiellan ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2004, 08:31 PM:

I was curious to see how many people have started watching her LJ due to recent "press" so I checked her out on Maranel's Joule. She already had a lot of people watching before she went to Iraq. People were discovering her by ones and twos until March 3rd but most of the 586 people watching her LJ have showed up since April 6. On April 10th alone 120 new people started watching her LJ!

#152 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2004, 08:33 PM:

Forestalling misunderstanding, I mean of course we have a consensus good writer for whom the Book of Mormon does not ring true.

#153 ::: Scorpio ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2004, 11:17 PM:

Her Alamo post has been closed off. Unless other sites have save it one can no longer read it.


#154 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2004, 11:20 PM:

On a completely different note - Orson Scott Card asserts The Book of Mormon should ring true to any good writer's ear.

Oh, barf.

#155 ::: Karen Junker ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2004, 12:01 AM:

If it's not a hoax, she's probably gonna be in a lot of trouble.

Also, how smart is it to basically identify your position and how vulnerable you are and then put it on the web? Maybe if you're so scared you just don't care...

I've seen her weblog before. I can't wait to meet her.

#156 ::: dreago ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2004, 01:20 AM:

I've met Ginny - in person. She's been on my Lj flist for at least a year now. She's not making it up. Comparing her to the book of Mormon is plain stupid and well, insulting to both Mormons and Soldiers alike.

She complex. She's bitchy. She's smart and she is a passionate believer in doing the right thing. She also likes cats and writes erotic vampire stories. And yup, some of her posts are mundane. Not mundane for a soldier. But mundane the way life can be sometimes. Why should a soldier be any different?

Read backwards into her journal. You'll see that she supported this war. You'll see she is an self styled old fashioned liberal. You'll see she's a reservist. It's fascinating and yet grotesque to read some of the things people are saying about her all over the web.

I dunno, I hope I've added a human face to the person y'all are dissecting. She's a person. That's all I really wanna say. Keep that in mind before critiquing her army jargon.

#157 ::: alanna ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2004, 03:25 AM:

Along with dreago, I can confirm that ginmar is very much a real person; heck, last September I was having drinks with her in a hotel bar. I've known her online for over two years (I host her fanfiction on my site.) Before she -wisely- friends-locked most of her posts today, you could go back and trace the timeline of when and how she ended up in Iraq, and I've already sent her some mail that she has received.

I do understand the suspicions that it's a hoax; I get a kick out of conspiracies, so if I were coming into this blind, I might think the same. Most of what she's written seems so unbelievable because she's an excellent writer with a keen eye for observation, and that really comes out in her writing style -- though in this case, it's her personal experiences.

Many of you have asked how she could get away with writing this. I think it's because she started blogging as a diary for herself, and to share her experiences (which she never expected to be so overwhelming) with those of us who've known her for a long time. She had no idea that the word of mouth would spread so far, and I have to say that, for her sake, I almost wish she'd friends-locked it a long time ago. Then again, I'm glad that her reports opened so many people's eyes to what is happening in Iraq. They certainly opened mine.

And thanks, Teresa, for being so vague in your initial post. Your discretion is appreciated by her friends. :)

#158 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2004, 06:19 AM:

[showing sensibilities from late 1970s/start of 1980s military service]

Whatever happened to service members and service people, as opposed to "servicemen" ??

My late aunt The Dragonlady wore a large button that said, "Women Are Veterans Too!"

The women serving have the same problems of childcare and family left behind that the men do, and have for a long time. One of the sergeants up in Thule in the Tactical Operation Room had a daughter back stateside, that was with her husband, I think, while the sergeant was on a year remote tour in Greenland.

Single parenthood isn't new, either-- one of the the officers who went back on leave and discovered that his marriage had come unglued was suing for child custody for when his tour was over--and what did the USAF do, when he got back stateside? Answer, send him on extended temporary duty off to a DIFFERENT remote site. There were a couple more senior male officers I knew, who DID have custody of their children, the courts having judge them the more appropriate parent for raising the kids--and their kids -were- the focus of their lives. But it also meant that there wasn't someone they could automatically have who was living in the house to take over if the government decided on the spur of the momentto send them off somewhere on a business trip (TDY) or extended duty.

Anyway, those are -people- issues, and it's service member or service people, and their spousses, who may or may not also be in miltary service.

And I thought it unfair for those "wives' clubs" which didn't want husbands joining to ostracize husbands of service members, particularly when they were inviting women in military to participate. The non-military spouses have overlapping sets of excrement to have to deal with than their spouses in the military--the overlapping stuff being dealing with the problems caused by the absences, the risk of being widowed, the stress levels on the family, financial issues-- and the non-overlapping stuff being the "left at home with the kids with gag orders on the spouse as to whereabouts, when the spouse will return, the spouse coming home gag ordered about where the spouse was, what the spouse did; and of course the spouse sometimes being very angry and unable to direct that anger against the people/situation causing it and instead dumping it all on the spouse and the kids," etc.

#159 ::: Elric ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2004, 09:59 AM:

Ilona, there was nothing in your reply to me to apologize about. Pardon me. Nothing for you to apologize about. Messrs. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al sure as shooting should be apologizing about a lot of things.

The local network news has carried reports about families and friends of members of units being deployed toward Iraq. It seems they've been pooling funds to buy complete sets of body armor for our troops to take with them. The official military response has been to say that "there was a problem in supply but we have it worked out now."

I think those friends and family members will be wise to keep up the purchases.

Those civilian transports that happen to look like the military model are due to be replaced. Just as soon as the makers can retool the assembly lines. The replacement military-grade vehicles will start arriving for use by our men and women in Iraq sometime around May. Of 2005. (At the earliest? I may be remembering the news reports I saw about this with excessive optimism.)

#160 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2004, 02:03 PM:

Women in combat? What, do we want our little girls playing with G.I. Joe dolls instead of Barbie dolls? Oh, THAT's why Barbie split up with Ken. She IS dating G.I. Joe.

Math is hard. Let's go shopping...

#161 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2004, 03:13 PM:

In many cases "SUV" means just that, a civilian vehicle. See, for example this photo from the young lady; the vehicle the fellows in her unit were riding in the day she figured out the other use for Tampax.

#162 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2004, 03:49 PM:

Or, as the old joke has it--

CUSTOMER: Does Barbie come with Ken?

CLERK: No, Barbie comes with G. I. Joe. She fakes it with Ken.

#163 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2004, 05:30 PM:

" . . . the other use for Tampax."

The there's the other, other use: I've heard that spelunkers use kerosene-dipped tampons as torches.

#164 ::: Yoon Ha Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2004, 11:41 PM:

I dunno, I terrorized my sister by beheading Barbie dolls and placing the heads around her bedroom. I wonder if Barbies these days behead with the same pop! they did 15 years ago?

#165 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2004, 11:26 AM:

Teresa, just in case it wasn't you and you're not aware, someone claiming to be you commented in the "Er" thread on her LJ and mentioned something about publishing her blog and gave the Tor address. If it's you, then a happy dance for ginmar. If it's not, then this is just getting icky.

Anyway, I've read some of her other posts and think she's genuine, but I still don't fully buy into the infamous post about the governor.

#166 ::: Jonquil ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2004, 12:26 PM:

I just finished sending her a package to an APO address. I won't give the full address for obvious reasons, but she's definitely Army. It is remotely possible that she isn't stationed where she says she is, of course, but other people have sent her packages at the APO address and she's mentioned the contents.

#167 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2004, 03:31 PM:

Ilona, let me join the list of those thanking you for your post.

I'm not in the armed forces, and I'm not an "Army spouse", but I'm an Army brat and both my brother and a cousin are active duty (Army and USMC respectively). Had scholarship money been harder to come by, I probably would have gone NROTC and could well be on active duty somewhere afloat right now. Instead, I got to spend a weekend in NC with my sister-in-law and niece last year while my brother was flying around Iraq...I got to hold her before he did. At least he got to come back and hold her; it's been almost a year since I was getting on a flight and saw a CNN Airport Network report that a Black Hawk had crashed in Iraq. I got to worry until the plane landed and I could call my parents and find out more. It wasn't his aircraft; it wasn't even his unit, but fellow DUSTOFF pilots nonetheless.

It's hard for me to remember that not everybody knows how badly-paid and -treated the troops, especially the enlisted ranks, are...and how much the NCOs and officers get to be in loco parentis at times. You said it far better than I could have.

#168 ::: melissa ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2004, 04:41 PM:

As has been noted, Ginmar has closed off this entry. If you do some poking around with Google you can still find it - however, one of the most complete copies (That Jim H. refers to on his blog) is offline as well. (Hint - the Google Cache is an amazing tool)

Not to belittle the financial difficulties of service people, but day care is an expensive prospect for anyone. I pay close to $200 a week for care for my 2yr old. I'd gladly pay $75-$100 for quality care instead - but that $200 a week means I have my child in an accredited center with low turn-over on the staff because they can be paid a living wage.

I do realize I am especially blessed because I can afford this....

#169 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2004, 08:47 PM:

Ilona Gordon, please keep writing. Your vowels are safe. I have no problem with passionate writing. Disemvowellings are reserved for rude or abusive comments, particularly if the writer has not previously been part of the conversation, or appears to be doing it for fun. This isn't one of those online venues where the moderator worries any time someone sounds excited.

It was not unreasonable in the beginning to have doubts about Ginmar's authenticity, but we've had several people come forward and say this is someone they've known for some time now, so it's time to put that theory to rest.

I don't know much military jargon. I know from hanging out with people who've been in the military that they have a lot of it and it's important. It means they all use the same words for the same things, and it makes it extremely difficult for a civilian to pass as one of them. I've seen scam literary agents talk about publishing, and had the same reaction you did here: even if what they're saying isn't obviously impossible, everything's in the wrong place, and they just don't say things the way we would.

I don't know what Ginmar's doing in Iraq. I've have figured she wasn't hardcore career military no matter what, because she keeps forgetting protocol about things you can and can't say. That's been happening all along.

Aside from her being thoroughly vouched for, the main reason I don't think she's making it all up is that even though she's a good fanfic writer, she'd have to be a much, much better writer than that to fake the kind of material she's writing. It's not that I can't imagine her being that good; it's that I can't imagine her suppressing such an extraordinary level of ability in her fiction writing over the past few years.

Lately Ginmar's been writing fast, doing a lot of improvising around fast-moving events. It's relatively easy to do the kind of writing where you just upend your bag and tell what's happened to you since last time you wrote. It's vastly more difficult to come across as someone who's doing that when you're composing a fiction or part-fiction. To take one example, Ginmar's got interlinking details splashed all over the place, without a great deal of logical order to their appearance, and they're presented at different levels of focus inasmuch as she's more or less interested in them at that moment. That's practically the definition of easy to do, hard to fake.

This war's seen a lot of unlikely personnel turn up in a lot of unlikely places. Ginmar goes straight from talking about how she's got the sixth season of Buffy on DVD, and giving away her sixth-season videotapes to her friends, to being under fire in a collapsing tactical situation and helping treat serious wounds. The fact that she doesn't know the correct language for stuff happening around her doesn't make me think she's making it up; it makes me think she's somewhere she was never trained to be.

What does she do? I figure her for some kind of communications or other technical specialty. Look at the recent Alamo sequence. She doesn't get much time online, but she usually knows how much she's likely to get, she gets it fairly regularly, and she doesn't talk about it as though it's a fragile connection. She knows what people at command level are saying to each other. She knows stuff that wouldn't be generally announced, and she knows it whole, not in bits and pieces. She also links stuff causally, which means she has enough of the overall picture to know what didn't happen. She mentions that she keeps hearing conversations she shouldn't hear, so she's got to be working in areas where those conversations happen. Her information tends to be from sources close to her, not third- and fourth-hand, and it's getting to her reasonably promptly.

So I guess communications. I could be dead wrong.

Kellie: yes, that was me.

Clark, I'm neither going to discuss Scott nor argue with him. Some years he's less of a mystery to me than others, but this isn't one of those years. ... On translators and communications interception specialists not being tossed out onto the front lines: Generally speaking that's true, but this war is short on well-defined lines.

The Navajo codetalkers in WWII were protected for reasons besides their rarity and high degree of training. The US military didn't want them getting shot by our own troops. They don't look all that much like Japanese, but they look enough like them for it to have been a potential danger.

Dreago, the mundanity is part of why I believe in her. Reality isn't just the facts; it's the proportion and distribution of them.

#170 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2004, 03:23 AM:


A few points of information:

About 2/3rds of the Army's interrogators are RC (Army Reserves and National Guard).

All of the 97L are RC, since that MOS doesn't exist in the Active Components (what used to be called the RA).

I know this because 1: I am an interrogator, and I also happen to have spent the better part of my military career teaching interrogators (and with the most recent changes to the courses {note my change of the jargon term, POI} Counter Intelligence Agents as well).

The 300th MI Bde, in Draper Utah, is the main command unit, with the 341st in Wash, the 223rd in Calif; and Mass, go figure, a unit in Fla., one in Illinois, as well as one in Louisiana, make up the National Guard battalions. There are units in Mass, Mich, Nebraska, Kentucky, Texas, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and I know not where else, which have interrogators (They are an integral part of PsyOp).

As for DLI, I went there. For a new enlistee, the Feds pay for it. For a transfer from the AC, or from another unit in the RC, either an existing skill is used, or the state paid for it.

This year there was a change, and now all DLI is paid for from central funding. I don't know if that is federal, or if it comes from NGB, or RC, HQ, but that shift will make it easier for people to get follow (intermediate, and advanced courses) as well as new/third language acquisistion.

As a note to all who commented on her placement. There was a National Guard interrogator in the ninth vehicle across the berm, with the 3rd ID, and a team of my unit was with the Brits in Talil, in the first week of the war. Women do the job, and we send them where they are needed, gender irrespective.

Futher, in theater, and to some degree in general, we sterilise reference to what we do. Our patches are on velcro, and mail is left in the footlocker, as well as wallets.

ID card, Dog Tags and ammo are what we carry to the field.

SINCGARS have a loudspeaker, which is very common on both vehicle, and man-packs, which are in a stationary location. It means one needn't have someone's ear glued to the headphone.

Check is different from Roger, and we use both prowords, situation dependent.

I'll now go back to the thread.


#171 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2004, 04:08 AM:

OK, I'm at the bottom now.

I didn't take notes, so the authors/questioners/readers, will have to sort out the mess.

Yeah, we say we are too valuable to risk, but no... we are (as said before) expendable... it just happens we are C-notes. Not something one wants to breaks, but if needs be....

Her posts approved by higher? NOT! If the SEN I was on had been set up so LJ was available, the stuff I've been backdating (and one would think I'd have gone and finsished it by now, but I have to look at it again, and that is harder than I thought it would be), would have been to the world in real-time.

As it was, the list I sent it to got it as soon as I hit send.

AKs vs. M-16s (and no, the M-4 is not standard issue. I think it is great for close combat {esp. with green-tip ammo} but a piece of shit for the distances at which I'd prefer [God but that sounds bad] to be shooting people):

The AK is heavy, and even with the stamped steel receivers (issued since the mid-sixties, when it became feasible) and, with the newer (same time frame) barrels, pretty handy in full-auto. On the down-side, the first stop (from safe) is auto, and the safety is loud. The accuracy is awful (it makes the M-16 look like a tack-driver) and the ammo is heavy.

The sights are post and notch, which means aiming is a bit better than by guess and by gosh, but not much and the slightest adjustment of spot weld means the point of impacy moves.

The gas tube is exposed, which means it is easier to damage than the tube in the M-16, and when damaged it is a bolt-action rifle.

On the up side, it is indestrctable. Drag it through the mud, fill it with sand, forget to clean it, and the bastard still fires.

The slug is heavy, and goes through things, but not as well as the green-tip ammo for the M-16 (which is why the M-4 does better at close quarters, the shorter barrel means the slug is slower, and so does more damage. On the other hand, it loses velocity at an appalling rate and past 150m, it tends to do less than adequate damage, which means the SAW gunner is far mroe important at longer ranges).

I suppose that's enough technical talk for the nonce.


#172 ::: Perry Middlemiss ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2004, 07:37 AM:

>>Why we should allow women in combat: who knew that tampons made such great field-expedient dressings for bullet wounds?

Medical staff on Australian Rules Football teams use haemorrhoid cream to stop the bleeding from minor cuts on eyebrows etc. Gives a completely new meaning to the term "shit-head" I guess.

#173 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2004, 10:55 AM:

Ginmar has new posts up, including one where she responds to a disbelieving e-mail, and a more interesting one that goes from snoring to a touching encounter with civilians.

#174 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2004, 05:23 PM:

The one about the civilian... well I see why people say she has an attitude (the one about the female Army too). I suspect I may disagree with SFC Dixon now and again (and maybe more than that) but I think it will be a civil sort of thing.

Anyone who doubts her bona fides as a soldier, just has to go back to her post on "Latrines 101" to know that she has been there (in the Box, not just, the Field).

The post on the civilian encounter... well that rings true to me as well. When I was still in Iraq that's the sort of thing my teams did, each day, every day. Go out and make nice with the locals. Get them to talk about what was going on (it's how we fond out about the anit-aircraft machine gun buried on the island, it's how some of my friends reported on [though they were disbeleived] the house Hussein was captured in, months before someone else was listened to).

She also spent the time to reply to an email I sent, so things have calmed down enough that she can relax, a bit.

She comes to town, I'll buy her more than a few drinks.


#175 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2004, 06:14 PM:

Mr. Karney
Gas tube with operating rod is pretty quick change and maybe more robust though. See one of John Campbell's editorials for the Kalashnikov and the impact of the armed barbarian on history.

I'm wrong you're right about approval which implies something about attitude and peer pressure and duties. I personally find it hard to believe about anybody with an MOS in the 90's but times change.

Used to know graves registration/intelligence types who could read diaries and letters wonder if that now requires hacking PDA's? Not something we expect to face in a sandbox?

Not going to argue rifle/carbine/designated marksman/fast twist/slow twist/ (will agree that from the 20" barrel the bullet slows down to 14" bbl velocity before it goes very far) my point was that (as seen on TV) the M4 is common As noted many have rifles M16 some have carbines M4.The folks done up for photographs seldom have the fixed stock and longer barrel - mentioned purely for purposes of discussion and what priority folks are giving to fighting in vehicles.

(and many say Iraq will be the last of M16A2 in the Army - Marines don't know what to do right now, Israeli's going M4 all the way (legal issues with M4 Colt licensing and M16 FN and all that remain)

For the remaining issues of inclueing we know from the September postings what T.Girl does (wonders of unit cohesion there or?). We know a little bit about schooling in dealings with the city over the house, and we know from the commendation and from the discussion with the potentially ex-friend something about what the author did for was it 8 years to make peace not war? Doesn't matter that much if things go well - or if they don't I suppose.

#176 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2004, 06:26 PM:

Ice Cold in Alex

One wouldn't wish to appear to be trying to get a lady drunk, but neither should a gentleman refuse to help a lady...

#177 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 01:30 AM:

Kalashnikovs were classical Soviet design -- rugged, designed to be built by semi-competent/illiterate workers, used by semi-competent/illiterate users, designed to take all sorts of abuse, and designed to be make by low quality labor in large quantity. The Soviet manufacturing methodology, and most else, involved lots of brute force.

I mean, qualities of classical Soviet production included drunk workers with no incentive to exceed whatever production goals were set and no real incentive to even meet the quotas, quality control that mostly didn't exist, a mentality of making everything identical [there were some amazing stories about factions which would make 16,000 right wheel assemblies and no left wheel assemblies, for example), and some brilliant designers who designed equipment based on a) the above, and b) the workforce who were going to use what was produced, who were not more sober and caring than the production workers.

There was an article in one of the Soviet Aviation magazines, translated with the title, "Who Benefits from De-icing Fluids?" The article discussed crashes, including fatal ones, of Soviet military planes because the deicing fluid, ethanol, had been drained out of the planes and consumed by flightline workers to get drunk on. Attempts to prevent that by using methanol, which the USA used, has worse results -- US flightline workers generally had self-preservation instincts and income to believe that the deicing fluid just might really be poisonous, and stick to drinking in the on-base and off-base bars. The Soviet workers, though, were more intersted in the alcohol content than the dangers of drinking it, and during the time the USSR used menthanol, the results were blindness and death at a level the USSR decided could only be prevented by changing back to ethanol, which is less lethal and non-blinding.

Bottom line, the Kalashnikov was designed to be built, maintained, and used by technological incompetents, like most other Soviet equipment. The exceptions to that tended to be in the Strategic Rocket Forces, which had the elite of the Soviet military and military scientists, and included the space program. That was the cream of the crop. The typical military two year inductee didn't necessarily even speak, let along read or write Russian. There were lots of Soviets in the military, how competent most of the non-careerists would be as combatants, was a different issue. Given than most of them were not from an advanced tech culture, keeping everything simple and rugged and not requiring great expertise to keep running, was one of the few things that the Soviets were particularly competent at. [They weren't competent at agricultre, at producing consumer goods, at building trucks without foreign help, etc. etc. etc. Their planned economy ground itself into bankruptcy, despite fertile land, lots of natural resources, and a large population that mostly wasn't actively in revolt against the government--passive accession and lousy productivity because there was no benefit to exceeding quotas or to quality work and a lot of downside to it [someone doing better than their coworkers made their coworkers look bad and annoyed the coworkers because it would look to the higher levels that the workers were shirking and could do more, if they could do more they'd be assigned to do more but without any increase in wages or benefits, so who'd want to bother, there was no reward for it, so everyone worked to the lowest possible common denominator].

The MiG 25 Foxbat that Lt Belenkov got the big fat payoff for flying to US custody, got taken apart and looked at in detail by US military aircraft experts. Their findings included that the only place titanium was used on it was on the leading edges of the wings, which required high temperature metal. The machining was rough everywhere except where for the aerodynamics and fluid flow of air around the plane -needed- to be smooth. Bottom line, there wan't an extra five seconds of effort/expense wasted in the plane's manufacture over what was necessary for its performance. Where it needed to be finished and polished it was, where it didn't, it wasn't. It didn't have any real finesse to it; finesse was anything but the Soviet way, it was almost all pure brute force and muscle.

Something that mud could get into, was designed to operate with mud on it, or had a design to prevent the mud from getting into it, none of "if mud gets into this you have to take it apart and carefully clean it before using it." So, Soviet military planes were designed to operate on muddy airfields with designs that kept the mud out of the critical areas, and Kalashnikovs designed to operate without cleaning after being dropped in the mud. The Soviet military members generally could't be depended upon not to get their equipment covered with mud, so, since there was going to be mud, the weapons were designed to work in the muddy state. The Soviet system bred utter mediocrity for the most part in its general public, and the design bureaus understood working to the lowest common denominator of producer, and end user.

It wasn't e.g. MIT Lincoln Lab, regarded by ordinary defense contractors as "Ph.Ds designing equipment that only another Ph.D can build or maintain" and Lincoln Lab replying "If they were -competent- they wouldn't have a problem." (The reality was about halfway between, Lincoln Lab's techs worked to tighter tolerances that ordinary defense contractors generally could deal with and the designers at Lincoln Lab weren't willing/able to see that ordinary mortals at ordinary defense contractors that weren't research labs, needed looser tolerances on parts production than the highest of high tech lab specialists at MIT. It's perhaps an ironic complaint situation-- "yes, you people really ARE better than average, now take your designs and DUMB THEM DOWN!!! And please don't say that "if they were -competent- they would't have a problem," because that's doesn't help -anything-! They aren't up to your standards and never are going to be, so stop making designs for other people to build that require tolerances they can't meet, and bring in some ordinary mortal manufacturing technology engineers who can turn your lab experiement designs into something the -average- worker can produce!"

The Soviets were really good at producing "dumbed down" designs that unsophisticated populations could produce and maintain. The results weren't as high tech or high performance as US designed and built equipment, but when it worked, tended to be -durable-. Of course, if what you really needed was that last millimeter of precision and high accuracy at extreme range, the Soviet equipment wasn't what you needed, but if you needed something that would get slogged literally through the mud and kept working used by clueless wonders, Soviet equipment, the equipment that -worked-, that is (Concordsky, anyone?) was the right stuff.

#178 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 03:47 AM:

My, so many things which touch (at long last) areas of personal experience in the military.

Damn shame really, that people have come to care (No way to say that better, but I would rather the country had been able to keep me, and mine, in the cozy little boxes we used to live in, for good and ill).

AK-47s (the latter models, the AKMs, the 74s, etc. are different, and the same, in the way that variants are).

They are solid, and brilliantly crude. Kalashnikov meant them to be, and did it well. The problem I mentioned with the gas tube, however, is not; when it happens, and easy fix. When it gets dinged the weapon is dead. Has to be treated by an armorer, basically gets a rebuild.

This was fixed, mostly, in the '74 (which is a sweet little thing, if one never wants to hit something with a single shot. In bursts (done by experience, and with a light finger) I can hit pretty much anything I want, out to about 250m. Single shot, and anything further than 50m can stand up and aim at me.

The abilities of the "russian" army. Better than people give them credit for. They knew what they were working with, and the selection procedures in the draft are such that rocks get set to moving things, and better than rocks get set to fixing things, and better than that get set to killing things.

The best of that get sent to the navy.

Remember, these are the same people who managed to grind the Whermacht into the mud. They didn't (contrary to much verbiage) do it by sending nothing but waves against them. They did it by adapting to the field conditions, and learning from what went wrong. The policies of of Stalin, and the imperatives of the dialectic slowed things, down, but didn't change the outcome.

Yeah, the "russians" I've worked with have crappy muzzle discipline, but they accept a far higher level of trainnig acctidents than we do, and have tough troops as a result. I'd stack them (and their equipment) against all but the best of the troops we have to field.

The RPG, for example, was thought of as a joke (well, not by me, but I'd handled them before we left... side story, one of my trips to Ukraine, I had to teach a handful of officers [one of whom ended up transferring to my unit, and in Iraq with me, but I dress, yet again] how to handle, and fire them. One of the scariest hours in my life. The safety, you see, is designed so that if one forgets to remove it, the weapon will, probably, work at the far end. On the other hand, if one drops the warhead, it, probably, won't), and these days, the RPG is one of the things American troops respect, so much so that we've been retrofitting out new, state of the art, equivalent of the Russian BTR with kludged together armor to defeat it.

As for what ginmar is doing. Like I said, I know exactly what she is doing, and it may be I helped to teach some of her troops how to do it.

That last is part of why the war affects me so, even now that I am sagely at home. I have people I trained over there, and if I screwed up, they, and their loved ones, pay the price.

But hey, it beats working for a living.


#179 ::: liz ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2004, 04:54 PM:

Here is a remarkable story from Iraq, written by a former Special Forces member who is employed in Iraq by a firm providing security services.

Security Contractors in Iraq

Here's a sample.

The Iraqi people as a whole…love us. You read it right…love us. Terrorists may hate us and radicals in different ethnic groups within Iraq may hate each other…but in general, the common Iraqi people, Shias, Sunis, Kurds, Chaldeans, Turkomen, all have one thing in common…For one instant in time, they have hope for their future and the future of their children…and that hope is centered around one group of foreigners…you guessed it…Americans…the good old USA.

And there are dozens of coalition forces who help us…young military people from most of the free countries in the world are here…and willing to lay down their lives because America has led the way in spreading the good news of freedom and democracy to the oldest land on Earth. And we are all helping to train Iraqis to protect themselves with sound moral and ethical procedures… And we know that teaching adults is important…But educating children is the key…So there is a lot of money going to rebuilding schools in Iraq and getting rural children to attend for the first time in history.

#180 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2004, 11:19 PM:

Really, really, really hope this is correct.

Really, really, really fear it's hype and bullshit. But I can't imagine a better outcome to this discussion than being wrong about that.

#181 ::: Madeline ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2004, 12:01 AM:

" . . . the other use for Tampax."

The there's the other, other use: I've heard that spelunkers use kerosene-dipped tampons as torches.

We did that in high school theater. On the "South Pacific" Bali Hai set, going for the "savage jungle" look, we used tampons for real fire on the corners of the set... Tampons soaked in lighter fluid and contained in tuna cans, lit just before we rolled out the set.

Worked fine for a couple nights... Then on the second, as the lights went down on the Bali Hai act, an exiting actor kicked one of the cans off the set. Flaming disk of fire skittering across the stage! Black-clad techies scampering after it! Would it get kicked into the orchestra pit? The audience watches, thrilled!

Next night, no fire. <shaking head sadly>

#182 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2004, 12:21 AM:

Iraq has something in the vicinity of 24 million people. “The Iraqi people as a whole” refers to at least, what, three quarters of that number? About 18 million?

How can any one person possibly be a reliable authority on what 18 million people think, especially in a chaotic environment like Iraq is now?

And what’s that about how “For one instant in time, they have hope for their future and the future of their children”? What, nobody there ever had hope before? I’m not saying Iraq under Saddam was a great place to live, but was there really no hope for anybody? I’d been under the impression that it was, like most places in the world, a place where people worked and saved and hoped and loved and had kids and fed them and wiped their noses and passed on traditions and beliefs.

Or is this another case of every place in the world being a benighted hellhole, except for America and maybe the blessed few nations to which we give our special little kiss on the forehead?

#183 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2004, 01:44 AM:

Re cave torches, More Than You Wanted to Know Dept.: there's still a demonstration of this in Mammoth Cave. The tour stops in a large chamber, the electric lights go out, darker than which there is not, and then a ranger lights a torch made of three tampons fixed to a yard-long stick (as I recall, the business end is soaked in a kerosene/motor oil mixture for a long burn). The stick is thrown end-over-end onto a high ledge, and illuminates the whole place for a few minutes. This is a significantly impressive event.

There's a long tradition of stick torches in Mammoth. Remnants exist of some that are four thousand years old (made of reeds, I should note, not sanitary wozzits). "Primitive fearful ancestral peoples," yeah right.

#184 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 04:28 PM:

I'm tracking the LJ posting by the lady whose combat report started this.

Fiery refreshment from Geneva spoilt by a missing dog from Tekumel (6) [Is that cryptic enough to be safe?] has posted material which suggests that the company supposed to be responsible for feeding and supporting the soldiers is incompetent. Worse, they're living more like Tsarist officers while they fail the soldiers.

But there are plenty of good things said about the people doing the work, the canteen staff rather than the managers. Think "Gunga Din".

Reading the comments, the info is getting passed on, with varying degree of attribution, to a lot of Congressmen.

#185 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 04:35 PM:

Can I take it as a given that TOR books on the April 20 list are covered?

Reminds me of a long ago story on the relative market value of paperbacks in the California prison system (Shell Scott was worth 3 of almost anything else IIRC). Some interesting parallels for marketing I suspect.

Also reminds me that it was ever thus - I can see Willie and Joe meet the dark knight as drawn by/inked by/ colored by in the graphic descriptions of REMF

#186 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 05:16 PM:

Clark: yes to your first statement, see your e-mail for details (exercising mild discretion-through-obscurity, probably unnecessary but).

#187 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2004, 08:50 AM:

[Not sure where this is best posted]
The trouble with having a browser where you can open new sites in new tabs is that you can lose your backtrack. The pixel-birds have eaten my electronic breadcrumbs. I think this link may have actually come from somewhere in the NH-verse. But haven't been able to spot where. Hope reposting is relatively harmless (unlike armless, which is serious, like leglessness) Not sure if there's just some strange spooky coincidence that this -- cartoons as linked, coffin photo fuss -- is happening in America during the run-up to Anzac Day in Australasia (and at overseas postings). Thought you shared your main war remembrances with the UK (other countries?) at Armistice/Remembrance day, November 11.

Am typing this on Anzac Eve, having clipped a large bunch of rosemary from my father's memorial garden bed and given it to the chap organizing a local Anzac Day Ceremony to use for everyone's sprigs. Sometimes it coincides with Easter even more closely, making the connexion of sacrifice & memory between the two very evident.

It is always particularly poignant when we have troops (whatever branch of services) on active service as now.

#188 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2004, 02:03 PM:

Bother! Yes, link was Bruce's from Open Thread 21 ( April 24, 2004, 07:29 AM) [grins sheepishly]

#189 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2004, 12:54 PM:

I hardly know what to say about the recent story with photos of US troops/reservists/contractors abusing Iraqi prisoners, but one question leapt out.

A higher officer was quoted as saying that the people who were doing it "hadn't been trained in the Geneva Convention". Surely, surely all soldiers & personnel likely to be in combat would need to know at the least what the convention is in respect of themselves as POWs?

Can one of the more experienced persons here enlighten us about this?

#190 ::: piet ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2004, 04:38 AM:

so darkroom games to the left (teresa's description of indymedia at smash) and darkroom games to the right. Lemme make up the difference and spell it out a thousand (also but slightly and poorly varied) ways.

heee, pssst, can you keep a secret, learn a language, help me hack this rock for mama???

yours truly pagan

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