Memorial Day… A Great Time For Stories About How Bad Our Troops Are


By: Warner Todd Huston

On the weekend when America finds her citizens taking just a little time out of their cluttered and busy lives to pause and memorialize the sacrifice of those who have served and protected us all, the media always sees fit to make their observance of Memorial Day the issuance of stories about how bad our solders are, how bad they have it, or how bad they deserve to be treated. This year is no different, at least for the New York Times News Service, as we find a story about how a soldier was caught stealing money from a stash of U.S. cash found in one of Saddam Hussein’s captured palaces and how this theft ruined the soldier’s life.

This report has it all as far as the news media are concerned. It has a soldier that turned bad. It has the presumed injustice of the military and the war. It also has the excuse making where that soldier turned thief was somehow driven to his thievery because he came from a poor Kentucky town. It also has the “benefit” of being a tale used to denigrate our military on Memorial Day. In the warped estimation of the MSM it has every aspect of how bad it is for our military all rolled up in one. Yes, this is the perfect story as far as the MSM are concerned.

The whole admittedly messy and sad story revolves around the bad choices made by Pvt. Earl Coffey who served in Baghdad in April of 2003. The Army sniper was one of the first men to enter one of the many palaces owned by the Hussein family, in this case the palace of son Uday. There Coffey and a fellow soldier found a safe with a large amount of U.S. dollars in it, from which according to Coffey they took some $500,000.

Taking things from captured property like that happens to be illegal. But, at least at first, the pair had gotten away with their theft. Unfortunately for the two soldiers, some of their comrades found a large stash of money in their back packs and took it. These soldiers were not as circumspect as the two who found the cash originally and authorities were eventually brought into the story.

Pvt. Coffey and his cohort ended up court-martialed in April 2004 under Uniform Code of Military Justice Article 103, which outlaws “looting or pillaging” in “enemy or occupied territory.”

With the main facts, we have one part of the story the New York Times loves, a criminal in uniform whose story they can use to show how bad our troops are. But, wait… there’s more. Not only does the Times get to show us a criminal U.S. solder, but they also have that well-worn MSM hook that he was driven to his law breaking because he came from a poor background.

In fact, the Times plays this angle for all it’s worth. In one of the first few paragraphs, the story makes sure we know Coffey came from a poor section of the country. “Coffey, who grew up in Harlan County in the shadow of coal mines,” we are told, “was in awe at seeing gold-rimmed toilet seats, 30-foot wide chandeliers, and Swarovski crystal collections.”

It isn’t Coffey’s fault the story seems to relay. He was poor, you see?

Naturally, we are treated to some faux pity from the paper for Coffey’s plight.

Today, adrift and troubled in Sarasota, 34-year-old Earl Coffey is subject to the combat flashbacks of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. He has no job and no prospects. His marriage is on the rocks and he has turned to Oxycontin, a prescription painkiller he purchased illegally on the streets, to dull the jagged edges of memory.

One can almost imagine the glee with which the paper tells its story.

We are told that Coffey is from “rural Kentucky,” that he went to “tiny Evarts High School,” and that he was “still a teenager” when he entered Mogadishu with the Army in 1993.

At age 19, this son of a coal miner and truck driver had come a long way from home.

“We had an outhouse,” Coffey remembers. “I remember packing water from natural springs way down at the end of the road. Our bath was a galvanized metal tub.” The Army was an escape for Coffey and the only way he knew to become successful.

Here I must remind you all that this soldier broke the law. He stole money and got caught. So, all this pity the news service warms us up with cannot displace that decision. Coffey did what he knew was wrong. Period. And he paid the price for that criminal behavior.

Obviously the Times is ready and willing to lead us to believe that Coffey’s crime really isn’t his fault. He was poor, he was tired, he saw traumatic things. In fact, he saw unrighteous killing in Iraq.

“I saw an Abrams (tank) fire a super sabot round right through a pickup truck, and the woman who got out begged us to kill her while she watched her husband and her children burn to death,” Coffey says. “In perfect English, she’s saying, ‘Why? Why are you doing this? We’re Christians!’”

Which brings Coffey to the point, the thing that put him where he is today:

“You’re walking through bodies that’ve been lying around for eight days in the heat. … And there’s so much blood around you can taste it like there’s a penny in your mouth.”

All of a sudden, he says, you come across piles of money. “Do you think you’re not gonna try to get some of that home to your family? How is anything wrong with that? I need somebody to explain that to me.”

Ah, he’s a victim of circumstances, the papers seems to assure us. He also claims he was never told that taking the cash was a crime.

Coffey says he was never briefed about codes of conduct concerning looting.

“I considered it the spoils of war,” Coffey says.

The Pentagon disagrees and says that each soldier’s training duly informs him of “the difference between right and wrong.” The Pentagon also points out that only six soldiers have thus far been convicted of violating article 103 during the whole Iraq conflict.

And the Times next plays on the troubles that Coffey has had in his marriage attributing it to his service in Iraq. Coffey has also become a drug addict and involved himself in more criminal behavior now that he is back home and finished with his military obligations, being dishonorably discharged. Additionally, since Coffey was not honorably discharged, he has lost his Veteran’s benefits and so does not qualify for help with his PTSD and his drug addictions.

The story ends with Earl Coffey hoping to go back to Iraq to dig up the rest of the stolen cash he has hidden there.

Now, isn’t this all such a heart-warming story to disseminate to the nation on Memorial Day?

It’s just the sort of story that the MSM loves because it is a sad, messy tale of soldiers gone bad, a government that has turned its back, post traumatic stress, and the cruelty of war. Of course, the MSM has 360 some other days a year it can gives us such a tale… but they choose Memorial Day, a day when we are supposed to reverently remember those who have honorably served us all.

No, to the MSM we can only see stories that dispenses with any of that boring, nasty heroism stuff to be replaced with stories that bring everyone down.

To heck with propriety and so much for the respect and reverence of Memorial Day.

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