Something in my December 14th Who and Where is Ben Connable must have struck a nerve out there in cyberspace, a place that tends toward nervousness. I got an e-mail from BBC World Service asking me to participate in a radio broadcast on ‘whether the media isn’t reporting the good news out of Iraq.’
My knee-jerk reaction to that was what media? The Pentagon has been reporting regularly through their script-writers, the Washington based Lincoln Group and, although they’ve been paying for placement, I’m not sure that qualifies them as media.
Then came an e-mail from a friend of Ben’s, who wasn’t happy with me. I have deleted reference to his name, so it shouldn’t be a breach of trust:
My name is ***** ******. I came across your comments that you doubt that Major Ben Connable is authentic or even exists.
I am a close personal friend of Major Connable’s, and he does indeed exist in the capacity he states.
One of the reasons you may not be able to find much about him is due to the EXTREMELY sensitive nature of his particular job. I am not sure if listing his personal bio to you would necessarily endanger him, but I will err on the side of safety and not go into the details of his career, education and experiences. Suffice it to say it makes him incredible valuable to the Marines and believe it or not, due to our current military involvments, invaluable to our nation.
There are not many U.S. Marines (or people) who have the specialized education, experience and background that we find in Major Connable. His current and former deployments along with his specialization actually puts him in a unique position to see the "broader picture". Again, I hope you understand why I do not want to go into details, as I would never do anything to betray the safety or wishes of my friend.
You may disagree with his views, but he is real, and I can say with 100% certaintly those are indeed his views and opinions. He is a good, honorable man and it upset me greatly to see him called into question.
I do not know why I have found it fit to write an e-mail to a complete stranger, I just feel as though the honor and integrity of a close friend has been called into question. You are obviously passionate about your beliefs, and I hope you can understand my passion when it came to your suggestion about my friend, Major Connable.
I do not expect or want to change your views on the war, you have a right to express those opinions and I do not think it necessarily makes you a traitor as some would probably (unfortunately) call you.
I just ask that perhaps you take this e-mail and dig a little bit deeper in your research. Please research a bit more and when you find enough information that validated that Major Connable is who he says he is please retract your statements. You state you are anxious to be wrong….prove it.
Let me know what I can do to help prove you are wrong. I will do what I can as long as I do not feel it compromises Major Connable. As I stated I feel his honor is in question I am willing to "fight" to uphold his honor, especially given that he is unable to given his current deployment.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Well, I said elusive, not that the man didn’t exist and I don’t remember impugning his honor, but people get touchy. So, I replied:
Whoa, ****—slow down,
I am not entirely unfamiliar with the Corps. My cousin made every Pacific landing in WWII, retiring as a colonel; my business partner was a major in both Korea and Viet Nam; my brother-in-law a 1st lieutenant in Viet Nam. My own military was less grand, six years of reserves as a sp-4 medic between Korea and Nam.
You’ve recognized that the major’s ‘specialization’ as well as the fact his actual name is Alfred B. (Ben) has made him hard for me to chase down. I don’t need to chase him down. I have no personal, ideological or political problem with him, his branch of service, his loyalty, his degree of education or how he comes to his 3rd tour. Read this carefully, ****; I am not against Major Connable or (probably) even the work he does that is so ‘specialized.’
But when he writes ‘just-plain-Joe-Marine’ articles that explicate the administration talking points, I want to know where he’s coming from and, more importantly, who he’s writing for. It’s not enough to ‘speak for the fighting man’ and then be unreachable. We have only recently discovered the Pentagon writing bogus stories exactly like this one.
Kevin Anderson at BBC-Washington wrote me:
"Yes, I managed to reach Major Connable, and he’ll be joining our programme live this evening. Yes, the press folks at USMC HQ in Washington helped me get in touch."
It makes me even more itchy that the "press folks at USMC HQ" are about the only way to find our writing-Major. Then there’s the fact that Bush referenced and linked to the Major’s USA Today 2004 article in a campaign e-mail. Your link to Ben giving a speech at a ‘policy conference’ further erodes the ‘Joe-Marine’ voice of his newspaper work.
So, actually ****, I’m champing at the bit to do a mea culpa on your good friend. I don’t doubt that he exists, but I am a long way from knowing who he represents. I would hope I never slurred his honor or his integrity. All you need do, if it is in your power, is to get me a statement directly from Ben that he does not write ‘on direction’ from any branch of the U.S. Military and that ‘public relations’ are in no way part of his military specialization.
That’ll be enough for me. Ben has an e-mail address, so do I. Such a statement should in no way compromise his duties, unless his duties include writing to the press. Then I will be delighted to retract.
Thanks for taking the time to write,
And **** responded (I include only the 1st and last paragraph):
Thank you for the e-mail.
I understand your remaining skepticism, but at least even if I am unable to prompt Ben to e-mail you directly (he may not want to give his e-mail to you or anyone else he does not know…which I understand…but I will ask him first..perhaps he would let me copy and forward/) I wold think you would at least be as so kind to let your good readers know at least now you know he is not a fake, and not a made up entity of the administration or anyone else.
In any event, you will hear from me soon after I hear back from Ben. If you have not listened to the BBC program I do suggest it.
Which is where we are at the moment.
The only thing I have to say further is that I was not always so doubtful of what I read in the newspapers. Most of my life I have been naively accepting of whatever was served up print-wise with my morning egg and coffee. But this latest Bush administration has been caught time after time managing, paying for and just plain faking the news. That angers me and makes me skittish.
If Major Ben Connable chooses to be elusive, my quite logical demand for clarification and attribution is of his Commander-in Chief’s doing.