Questionable Military Accounts
Many military veterans have told “war stories,” embellished recollections of battles. Since Vietnam, a new genre of “war stories” have been seen: outright creations to serve a political end. (Fake claims to veteran status date further back, however. Here is an article about fake Civil War vets, and others more recently.)
The tale of Jessica Lynch in Iraq, emanated from the media and her local politicians), not from veterans. That of Pat Tillman in Afghanistan, emanated from our government. These instances are themselves egregious, and can be exploited by those doubting United States war aims.
Far more common are frauds who seek to ride on the status earned by real veterans, and obtain benefits like real veterans earned. See here, for example, and here for political advancement, (follow-up here and here for how others defraud through fake charities.)
Of those politically motivated, more prevalent than rare government propaganda, however, are those coming from anti-war sources in order to undermine support. [See this article for a contemporary example.] The major media appears to have been more diligent about investigating government excess than the claims of anti-war motivated fraudulent veterans. Those exposed have been investigated mostly by veterans or the alternative media, after the major media uncritically featured their false tales. (See specific instances below.) In this case, of Senator Harkin, the Wall Street Journal describes his false claim to be a Vietnam veteran, while taking anti-war positions.
Judith Klinghoffer of Rutgers University provides a historical and international scan of their purpose and method: Those in combat are either presented as victims of evil leaders or as victimizers of innocents.
When actual or fake veterans whose narratives are fake or grossly exaggerated enter the public debate, and are accepted as truth-tellers, they validate these anti-war themes. Their tales are often given wide-spread circulation in the media. Usually, when exposed, it’s long after and relegated to the “back-pages,” if at all. Sometimes, however, particularly with the rise of the Internet and alternative media, they are exposed much sooner and it cannot be as easily passed over.
The harm is not just their immediate political ends but to every man and woman – there are over 25-million veterans alive in the U.S. -- who served honorably in the military, whether in war or peace. Their service is tarnished and devaluated and, as in the case of Vietnam veterans being painted as minions of “Genghis Khan” by John Kerry and friends in 1971, may unfairly suffer from opprobrium for a generation.
John O’Neill, who spoke for the Vietnam Veterans For Truth in 2004, wrote in October 2007:
There is no one more injured by phony war crimes charges lodged by phony veterans than veterans themselves whose service is dishonored by the slander. I know. In 1971, in addition to listening to John Kerry from our unit falsely compare our forces in Viet Nam to “the Army of Jhengiz Khan,” I heard Al Hubbard, the president of Kerry’s VVAW, appearing with Kerry in forums such as Meet the Press and Congress confess to war crimes such as bombing innocent villages. Hubbard was an Air Force pilot, who appeared on national television wearing the Distinguished Flying Cross and many other medals while confessing our guilt in Viet Nam. Except he was none of these things, having left the Air Force as a Sergeant, never serving in Viet Nam at all.
(See this article for a visual recap of Al Hubbard’s fraud, with John Kerry’s involvement.)
Military personnel all over the world thank God for Rush Limbaugh’s stout defense of our military from these fakes. In 1971, there was no one to defend us from the John Kerrys and the Al Hubbards. Indeed, it is the U.S. Senate that is a Potemkin Village. It is a body whose failure to condemn Hubbard’s and Kerry’s 1971 libels is deafening. It is also a place on whose floor active duty soldiers have been compared to the assassins of the Khmer Rouge (Senator Deck Durbin); people who terrorize women and children (Senator Kerry); and (in close proximity) cold blooded murderers (Rep. John Murtha). Hypocrisy and cowardice are terms too kind for those who demean our soldiers without regard to the consequences to them. This conduct when coupled with the effort to silence Limbaugh a stout defender of the troops, can be best described with two words: What phonies.
Click on Scott Thomas Beauchamp to view full entry.
CBS, Dan Rather
CBS, Dan Rather, The Wall Within (1988). Fell for hoax, liars. This documentary had Dan Rather interviewing six Viet Nam veterans who told stories of slaughter, cruelty and the horrors of war. “You’re telling me that you went into the village, killed people, burned part of the village, then made it appear that the other side had done this?” Rather asked. “Yeah. It was kill VC, and I was good at what I did.” It turned out that five of the six were never in the service at all, and the sixth, who claimed to be a Navy SEAL, was an equipment repairman and never near combat.
CNN and Eason Jordan
CNN and Eason Jordan (2003). Admitted bias, slanting the news. Eason Jordan, CNN’s news chief, admitted that CNN withheld reporting on Saddam Hussein’s atrocities so as to continue getting favored treatment from Saddam.
Original stories citing Delgado claims:
Delgado stories debunked:
Joseph Ellis, professor at Mount Holyoke College and historian/author (2001), Pulitzer Prize winner. Lying. He falsely claimed military service in Vietnam and incorporated his war “experiences” into his college courses on “The Vietnam War and American Culture”. Mount Holyoke censured him and suspended him without pay for one year.
Iraq Urban Legends
Jesse MacBeth, anti-war star (2006). Lying/fabricating. “Jesse MacBeth stoked opposition to the Iraq war in 2006 when he spoke out about atrocities he committed as a U.S. Army Ranger serving as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. MacBeth, 23, of Tacoma, claimed to have killed more than 200 people, many at close range, some as they prayed in a mosque. He spoke at an anti-war rally in Tacoma and appeared in a 20-minute anti-war video that circulated widely on the Internet. Trouble is, none of MacBeth’s claims was true.”
Correction of NYT story RegretTheError.com
"The Times admitted it distributed an article in the March 18 edition of its Sunday Magazine, while knowing the story contained some glaring inaccuracies. The article was about women who served in Iraq, the sexual abuse some say they endured, and their struggles in reclaiming their pre-war lives. But one of the women profiled, who said she'd been raped twice and suffered brain damage when a roadside bomb exploded next to her Humvee, was never actually IN Iraq. She lied. And, there was no roadside bomb. Readers were left to wonder if there'd been any sexual assaults.
The newspaper knew about the mistakes on March 12, six days before the magazine was distributed, and 13 days before it published the correction. The magazine was printed on March 9 — three days before the lies were discovered — but there was still plenty of time to reprint it. The cost might've been huge, but wouldn't it be worth it for a paper whose masthead proclaims "All the News That's Fit to Print?"
If the cost was prohibitive, why not run a correction the same day the magazine appeared? Why not let readers know that the newspaper had discovered one of the women profiled in the article lied to them? They did the best they could in confirming her story, found out too late for the printers, but in time for readers to know the truth. Why wait another week?" -- Rick Levanthal
Micah Wright. Author and anti-war activist (2003). Liar. Claimed to be a former U.S. Ranger and combat veteran. His book, You Back the Attack! We’ll Bomb Who We Want!, was endorsed by novelist Kurt Vonnegut and historian Howard Zinn. He was never in the military.
Scrubbing Duncan off the internet This Ain't Hell, April 14, 2009.
Winter Soldier Fables Anti-war Marine was Lying Mental Patient Michelle Malkin, May 14, 2009.
Colorado Veterans Alliance Issues Press Release This Ain't Hell, April 13, 2009.
Vets expose advocate as imposter Colorado Springs Gazette, April 13, 2009.
Strandlof, 31, who invented the name Duncan and claimed he was a former Marine captain and 1997 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, never served in the military and falsely claimed that he was in the Pentagon during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the group said.
...Under his invented identity, Strandlof proved to be a popular spokesman on veterans' issues. He is quoted in stories as recently as March, when he was interviewed by The Denver Post about a measure before the state General Assembly to cut tuition for veterans.
Escaped Mental Patient stars in IVAW/VoteVets This Ain't Hell, April 13, 2009.
Go to Richard Strandlof / Rick Duncan for more.
The "public secret" of Middle East Journalism, Scott Johnson, Power Line Blog, November 10, 2007
These websites offer information about how to identify and report fake veterans, the applicable laws, and links to more information:
The Stolen Valor Act, passed by Congress and signed into law in 2006, provides for federal fine or imprisonment for the unauthorized wearing, production or sale of military decorations and medals. The difficulty of tracking and exposing fraudulent veterans is that there is not a unified database of military awards (i.e., medals and such). This Congressional proposal seeks to remedy that. A recent article discusses the October 2007 Democrat charges against Rush Limbaigh.
Another issue of questionable military accounts is when the major media only presents a partial truth. The New York Times featured this op-ed by seven Iraq war veterans critical of progress, but refused to print this added information by other Iraq veterans that was more complete and up-to-date.
Bibliography of Questionable Service + Nixon? H-Net Discussion Networks January 11th, 2008
More About Nixon H-Net Discussion Networks January 12th, 2008
Phony War Hero Sentenced for Damaging the 'Prestige' of Decorated Service Members ABC News April 2nd, 2008
Some find pitfalls in plan for awards database Marine Corps Times September 3rd, 2008
Hunt is on for phony POWs ChicagoTribune.com December 23rd, 2008