Hoax Casualty calls—The Opposition’s Latest Weapon
The story appeared inside the San Diego Union-Tribune on April 10, 2003, and got picked up on the United Press International (UPI) website. Over the following two days references to the article began to appear across the internet. Websites dedicated to presenting the news from non-mainstream perspectives took up the cry. Outraged responses followed on chat sites dedicated to the military.
What has caused this rising volume of chatter, this growing groundswell of outage—outrage that has received no mention in the mainstream press (insofar as I can tell) beyond the original article written by Dwight Daniels for the San Diego Union-Tribune back on April 10?
Camp Pendleton, a few miles north of San Diego, is the Marine Corps base that is home to many of the Marines currently stationed in or near Iraq. Their wives and children live mostly in Oceanside, Calif. , a lovely community perched on the cliffs and sandy shores of the Pacific Ocean near the southern border of the United States.
Wives wait anxiously for word on the fate of their loved ones in far-away Iraq. Every school room in Oceanside has several proud but frightened children whose fathers are Marines fighting Saddam Hussein. The community is proud of its military heritage and of its citizens in harm’s way so far removed from the ocean side tranquility of their close-knit community.
An ugly factor has rattled this peaceful community. Creeps, representing themselves as officials of the American Red Cross, are telephoning the wives of absent Marines, informing them that their spouses have been killed in action in Iraq.
Red Cross officials deny any complicity in these calls, explaining that the Red Cross never makes such calls. The Red Cross also reported that families of service members in Michigan, Delaware, and Alabama had reported receiving similar calls following the outbreak of the war.
Marine officials at Camp Pendleton said in a brief statement: “Individuals falsely identifying themselves as Red Cross representatives have made prank calls to Camp Pendleton spouses claiming that their loved ones overseas have been killed. The Marine Corps does not utilize the Red Cross for casualty notification. Marine Corps and Navy representatives conduct all casualty notifications in person for Camp Pendleton .”
Apparently, not satisfied with trying to stop the shipment of military and humanitarian supplies from west coast ports, opponents of the Iraqi conflict have stooped to a new low in their misguided attempts to undermine America ’s war efforts.
This outrage goes beyond anything I have witnessed thus far in this conflict. Why has the national media not picked up on this story? Why do we not see national headlines decrying this outrage on the front pages of America ’s leading newspapers? We are not hearing outraged sermons from pulpits across America on this Palm Sunday, because very few people know what has happened. Why this “conspiracy of silence” by the media in tacit support of these despicable calls?
We see headlines and front page photos capturing the accidental killing of an Iraqi civilian, we read op-ed pieces decrying the “anarchy” and “total chaos” caused by American actions in Iraq. We see lead articles featuring anything that puts a negative slant on Coalition actions in Iraq.
Every newspaper in America receives the UPI feed. Every paper in America got the UPI piece on these hoax calls. Every news casting outlet in the country got the word.
Where is the outrage? I am disgusted!
Robert G. Williscroft is DefenseWatch Navy Editor