CAPTAIN ERIC MAY
Ghost Troop Commander
CRAWFORD — April 5-8 marks the fourth anniversary of the Battle of Baghdad, the bloody battle that was the lead-up to President Bush’s infamous and untruthful claim on May 1, 2003, of "Mission Accomplished."
However, according to news sources overseas, including American military operatives and various investigators, all was not what it seemed at Baghdad Airport. They claim that the Battle of Baghdad was largely covered up as something the American public should not see, with U.S. news coverage instead focusing on a staged photo-op rescue of captive Private Jessica Lynch and later the pulling down of the Saddam Hussein statue, as symbolic of an easy victory.
Captain Eric H. May, a former intelligence and public affairs officer in the military, told The Iconoclast, "The biggest story of the war became a non-event when the truth of the matter was that it was simply too bloody an event to report." He says that this played a part in persuading the American public to forfeit "thinking for themselves" when it came to this war.
As a unique way to acknowledge and honor the fallen — and oft-forgotten — soldiers in the Battle of Baghdad, Captain May formed what he calls Ghost Troop, an independent military cyber-cavalry movement aimed at fighting governmental propaganda — a/k/a info-war.
Commanded by Captain May, Ghost Troop consists of current and past high-level military professionals and police veterans who claim expertise at reading governmental strategies. As a former member of the "propaganda machine" himself, Captain May has expressed grave concern that most of the mainstream media, now owned by corporations that are part of the military/industrial complex, are selling the American people a bill of goods for the sole purpose of corporate profits from the war.
This, he says, is why when there are important things happening, such as the Battle of Baghdad, that might not best serve continuing those profits, the media will latch onto obscure stories, like that of Private Lynch, and blow them out of proportion, consuming the lion’s share of airtime and print, while ignoring, effectively covering up, the real stories of importance.
"The bogus rescue of Private Lynch was merely a distraction from the truth," said May. "And the staged photo-op of the pulling down of Saddam Hussein’s statue was nothing more than a way to cement into people’s minds that it was an easy victory. But what about the soldiers who gave their lives on the battlefield? Their story was not told. Theirs was the real truth of this segment of the war. The citizens of the United States were deceived."
In an interview with the Iconoclast, Captain May discusses intricacies of the war and the political maneuverings that were working in the background. Since 1992, he had been one of the rare officers who had publicly and persistently predicted that an Iraq war would turn into quicksand, in a series of op-eds published in the Houston Chronicle.
ICONOCLAST: Ghost Troop found its roots in the Battle of Baghdad. Since the fourth anniversary is this year, what are your views on the first four years of the Iraq war?
CAPTAIN MAY: My position is that of a person of consequence in the U.S. media, who was involved with people of consequence in the Bush circle. It gives some authenticity to the perspective that otherwise would be lacking. Here are the documents that show I was in touch with George Bush, Sr. when he was in retirement in Houston, through his office. Chase Untermeyer, a Bush family lieutenant and current Ambassador to Qatar, had put me in touch with him. This goes back to Dec. 21, 1995. Here’s a memo from Jean Becker, the Chief of Staff for George Bush. On the back is a memo from Karen Hughes, written when they were interviewing me to be Bush Jr.’s speech writer when he was Governor of Texas in ‘96 and a presidential bid was on the horizon. Here’s the receipt for the 3rd Infantry Division fund. That’s what I brought back from Ft. Stewart, Ga. where one of the division chaplains, Col. Neil Dennington, confirmed the Battle of Baghdad and the cover-up for me.
I think the Battle of Baghdad was emblematic of the whole misadventure in the Middle East. There is nothing that I thought then that I don’t think now has been validated by time. The American public still doesn’t know that there was a Battle of Baghdad because the media-military apparatus constructed the Private Jessica Lynch mess to hold attention.
A book published about the Battle of Baghdad, David Zucchino’s Thunder Run, starts on the morning after the Battle of Baghdad started, mid-way through the battle! It was a propaganda book. The truth is that the battle started April 5, the night that Baghdad Bob said that they had counterattacked us at the Baghdad Airport and there was a sustained fight that went on for several hours. The best evidence that I have from international sources, scientific sources, is that our position was becoming untenable at the Baghdad Airport and we used a neutron warhead, at least one. That is the big secret of Baghdad Airport.
If one looks into international data, there are reportings of enhanced radiation of some livestock, and of human metabolic effects - death and disease. It explains why, after the Battle of Baghdad, we got fragmentary stories of things like truckloads of dirt being moved out and moved in. It made no particular sense at the time, until one puts it into perspective, as a decontamination operation. Again, that part of the Battle of Baghdad, the fact that we went nuclear, explains a lot of things that came out afterwards and also explains why it is that it had to be covered up. You can’t go to a country to try to make sure that nobody tries to start a war with WMDs against you and WMD ’em. It’s a highly embarrassing position to be in.
I think Baghdad laid bare that we really weren’t going into a limited war at all, we were going into a world war, and were prepared to use nukes. Incidentally, since the nuking of Baghdad Airport, the Bush Administration has retrofitted our military doctrine to allow for the use of tactical nukes in that sort of situation.
ICONOCLAST: If there was, indeed, a neutron warhead used, would it not have saved the lives of many of our soldiers and, actually, been the proper thing to do if we were losing that battle? I am thinking of the American lives Truman probably saved by ending World War II the way he did.
CAPTAIN MAY: From a strictly tactical point of view, using a neutron warhead killed the Iraqis who were in the open, while giving U.S. forces, who were inside armor, a chance at survival. Had I been one of the commanders on the battlefield at Baghdad Airport, I would have preferred the neutron option to being overrun and destroyed by the Iraqi forces. But war is never simply tactical. As Clausewitz, the Prussian military philosopher, puts it, "War is a continuation of politics by other means." It’s on the political level that the nuking of Baghdad Airport was a disastrous decision.
Unlike the nuking of Japan, which was admitted to the American people, the nuking of Baghdad was kept from them, meaning that we had decided to keep them in the dark about the conduct of the war. Further, the Arab world knows very well what we did in Baghdad, and that only added to their hatred for the United States, so the big picture of the Baghdad Airport neutron bomb is that we saved ourselves from limited military failure, but thereby caused ourselves unlimited domestic and foreign disaster.
It’s one of history’s great ironies that the Bush Administration was screaming that WMDs would be used on us in the Iraq war, and then when all is said and done, WMDs were used — not on us, but by us.
The Battle of Baghdad is one of the many events of this war that simply show that our government has lied to us and that the media has been embedded by that government in the very worst connotations of that word. In fact, the word embedded should have never been admitted into the lexicon of the American media were it not for the fact that they were in bed with the government.
ICONOCLAST: Would you say that they were complicit?
CAPTAIN MAY: Utterly. Outside of the Iconoclast, I can’t think of a newspaper in America that isn’t a mere propaganda rag. Four years after the summer of 2003, the truth is starting to come out, what with revelations from the Libby trial that make it clear that Cheney, Rove, Libby, and other assorted henchmen were doing everything they could to stifle dissent and hide the truth.
During that summer I was in touch with some of the more radical people in American journalism because I really thought that there was a radical voice in American journalism. I can remember talking to David Corn of The Nation, which was supposed to be totally independent of corporate or political manipulation, and he sat there for 30 minutes talking to me about Baghdad. I said "I must have a lot of fresh information here. What kind of notes have you taken?" He said that he hadn’t written down a word. That was how pervasive the fear was.
About the time of the Libby retaliations against CIA agent Valerie Plame, whose husband had indicated that facts were altered to support going to war, I was in touch with Thom Shanker, the chief Pentagon correspondent for the New York Times. We corresponded a bit. He greatly admired my looking into this battle that had been hidden by the U.S. media and confirming it from military sources. But, shortly after the Wilson retaliation, Shanker backed off. He was so scared about the things that were happening in late July 2003, the period of the Bush Administration’s retaliation against its war critics, that he and I talked on the phone for about 15 minutes — all in Russian. He would not talk English for fear of being monitored. During our conversation, he kept saying, "I’m scared. I’m scared to death. They’re killing people." He was talking about the Bush people.
What the public hears about the summer of 2003 from the media is just more misinformation. Now the public believes that the summer of 2003 was somehow about hardcore politics, political hardball; they believe that a few rules were broken, irregular things happened, and so forth. They don’t understand. It was a full-out political repression with people in fear for their lives, and sometimes losing their lives.
By July 2003, my editors at The Houston Chronicle gave me the green light to write an op-ed denouncing the Bush war plan, which had failed. It was supposed to have been a political war to get us easy success and cheap oil in three months. But it had become an apparent failure, so I was given a green light by my editor around July 4 to hit Bush and the Bush war plan as a failure. Joe Wilson was apparently given a green light by The Times about the same time.
General Wesley Clark, on the 25th of June, 2003, had appeared on CNN. I quoted him widely in my op-ed. He had said that the whole Middle Eastern war was a plan the Bush people had before 911, for which 911 had just been a convenient excuse to get us in. And the idea was always to get in there and take over the oil before China reached enough military strength to be able to stop us.
So, the truth about that war came extremely close to coming out in the summer of 2003. It’s as if for that brief period the establishment was actually having second thoughts about whether it wanted to commit, to go to the hilt, with this war that was turning into just what I labeled it in my Chronicle op-eds, a quicksand war, a war where we would only get stuck deeper and deeper.
Looking at the last four years, to round the question out where you started it, I published a piece in The Houston Chronicle on April 3, 2003, in which I said I believe we are stepping into quicksand in Iraq. The same day my editor at the Chronicle ran the piece, he told me "I’m running it today because you’re the voice in the wilderness and the Army’s going to reach Baghdad tomorrow and prove you’re wrong." The next day, the Army reached Baghdad. We were overwhelmed at the Baghdad Airport, we went nuclear, and we nuked the Constitution to cover it up. I would say my prophecy of a quicksand war was validated within 24 hours of going to press.
Everything since then is just more icing on the cake. We get deeper and deeper into quicksand, so that now we have this Orwellian escalation of sending 22,000, which is more like 40,000, God knows, maybe 100,000 before it’s all over. There are all kinds of word games and idea games and sophistry and rhetoric used to support a war, and that’s been the story of four years. It could not have been done without the full mobilization of the media as a propaganda apparatus for the United States armed forces. The military-industrial complex has become the military-industrial-media complex.
ICONOCLAST: Do you think the media is still on that same track?
CAPTAIN MAY: I think the media at present is trying to reduce Bush to some degree merely because it’s going to have to start telling a little bit of truth to maintain any credibility. The last four years have been horrid for the media because they have been trying to sell shit as shinola and no one’s purchasing it anymore. More and more, informed people are now turning to the internet to get their information. That process has undermined the media’s prestige, which means it has undermined the media’s market, which means the media’s power. So the media right now has to throw us a bone of truth. Surprise, surprise, Libby was trying to destroy reputations in Washington! Surprise, surprise, the soldiers have been treated like crap! I mean, those are the things those of us on the internet have been writing about since the war started, and suddenly the media is catching up, four years later.
ICONOCLAST: What about the Walter Reed Hospital situation? Has that been a cover-up since Day One?
MAY: It goes right to the heart of the point, which is that no one has ever given a damn about the soldiers. The same thing that has been done at Walter Reed for four years was done to the wounded soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division at Ft. Stewart the summer of 2003. The boys were sleeping out in canvas tents in the Georgia summer. There was no publicity of any note given to that. When I think about Walter Reed, I think it is emblematic of the heath-care given, not in just this war, but probably in every war.
Nations always like to say, "We care for our soldiers, We love our soldiers, they’re our heroes." But I’ve run into to many veterans who have said that wars always start out with everybody saying "semper fideles," and they always end up with the veterans saying "simply forgot us."
So, Walter Reed is a case of simply forgetting the soldiers; of deliberately omitting to care for the soldiers; of deliberately omitting to mention that the soldiers were not being cared for. And, when I think about Walter Reed, I think of how many letters were written to how many Congressional officials by how many parents. These GIs weren’t lying there, staring up at the ceiling seeing rats crawling up in the corners, and not writing home. Letters were addressed to Congressmen, both parties. How many times in the last four years have we heard these same Congressmen bragging about visiting wounded GIs at Walter Reed?
ICONOCLAST: So you’re laying the blame for a situation like that on Congress and the Executive branch?
CAPTAIN MAY: Sure, and on the media. How many assignment editors, how many producers at TV and radio stations and newspapers got called, or written, or button-holed by concerned parents, or by GIs who wanted to bring out the truth about Walter Reed? This is the same thing I found with the Battle of Baghdad. Everybody knew about it, everybody who was anybody, at least. Just no one was going to say anything about it. They were too scared.
We need return to a Vietnam-era term which, I think, we’ve lost from the political lexicon. We have to understand that this war was decided upon by an Establishment. That includes the executive branch which made its plans and used 911 to pursue those plans; it includes Congress, which, after 911, gave away its Constitutional rights to decide whether there would be a war, and wrote Bush a blank check; it includes the media which, for God’s sake, said it was going to be embedded, and then lived up to that phrase in every way it possibly could. The media right now coming out four years later and saying there are problems with Walter Reed. That’s shutting the gate after the cow got out. Four years after the cow got out.
ICONOCLAST: You say that 2003 was the turning point in the war. Could you elaborate on that?
CAPTAIN MAY: On June 25, 2003, Wesley Clark, who was pushing for the Democratic nomination, appeared on CNN’s Crossfire, and actually spelled out the whole war equation, which was that the Bush people and the neo-cons, going way back into the 90s, had wanted this war. This war was a geo-political push to control oil and take care of Israeli political problems, and 911 was the excuse they needed.
After 911, they ramrodded us into a war that we were supposed to clean up neatly before China could gear up to be any kind of opposition. Basically, Wesley Clark said that the global war was a world war. It was shortly after his remarks that war critics and truth-tellers started chiming in on both sides of the Atlantic.
On July 6, Joe Wilson, in the New York Times, wrote an op-ed column that the Bush Administration’s claims of Iraqi nuclear material were bogus.
At about the same time, David Kelly, one of the top WMD experts in the UK, was giving information to the BBC to the effect that Blair had "sexed up" the intelligence to go to war.
None of this is shocking now. We’ve since seen the Downing Street memoranda where the Bush Administration, prior to the invasion, said that it was going to "fix the intelligence" to justify the Iraq war.
Again, Wesley Clark was coming out and saying all this in late June, and Joe Wilson was saying so in early July, and David Kelly was saying so in July, to which voices I joined my own on July 8, two days after Joe Wilson’s op-ed piece in the New York Times. My op-ed piece ran in the Houston Chronicle, which you might say kicked Bush in the other knee. The Wilson piece kicked him up in D.C., and then in Bush’s home base of Houston, there was an op-ed by Captain Eric H. May which was entitled "Still Worried About the Quicksand War in Iraq" which basically said that everything I had predicted was coming true and we found ourselves in a new Vietnam.
That wasn’t the most brilliant analysis, it was simply bold analysis. It was bold to say it, because it is what a good part of the Establishment was thinking by July, but was afraid to say. So Bush was in a real dilemma. The Bush Administration had mucked up the Bush War, had failed to live up to its claim of an easy victory, and its critics were tearing it down.
It was at this point — July 2003 — that the retaliations we’re now hearing about vaguely in the Scooter Libby trial occurred. The Libby trial is like an iceberg. Five percent of reality is above the surface and everything else didn’t get mentioned. It’s hiding under the surface.
For two weeks beginning on the 8th of July, the White House was in full-scale damage control through retaliations against its critics. They were about to lose their war and that meant they were going to lose the presidency because the only reason for the presidency of Bush was the war. He called himself the war president and he got it right. That’s what they put him in for, so he was in danger of being politically emasculated, if not, ultimately impeached for different things, among them being the cover-up of Baghdad Airport.
That’s why, after we war dissenters attacked him, Bush took an abrupt trip to Africa in the second week of July. It was remarkable! Here we were, in the middle of a failing war, and he runs off to Africa!
It’s impossible to understand what was happening unless you realize that there were major retaliations about to come down through hatchet-men Cheney, Rove, Libby, and Rumsfeld. Bush got out of town for the retaliations of July 2003 the same way that Al Capone got out of Chicago for the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre — to avoid blame for what was to follow.
Those retaliations started on the same day my op-ed, "Still Worried About Quicksand Of War In Iraq," ran in the Chronicle, July 8. This was the day the British government arrested and detained Dr. David Kelly. Ministry of Defense officials kept him for three days, then they released him. Here in the U.S., on July 14, Robert Novak ran the column blowing Valerie Wilson’s CIA cover as a retaliation for Joe Wilson’s op-ed of July 6.
The next couple of days, in the UK, Kelly was fed to the wolves, testifying before Parliament, where, basically, Parliament said, "Who’s really behind this, and don’t you feel like you’re being set up?"
Kelly was clearly frightened, and he meekly sat there and said, "I can’t say, I can’t say, I can’t answer."
It was after he finished talking to Parliament that he, that he told friends he might be assassinated. On the night of the 17th he was found dead, with his wrist slashed in a park where he routinely took a walk.
"Coincidentally," this was when George Bush came back from his African junket and Tony Blair, "coincidentally," met Bush for the first time since the war started for a joint statement in front of the United States media. A reporter asked Bush what he was going to do about opposition to the war, and Bush stared at the camera and said, "We’re going to address the issue." Then Bush looked at Blair and Blair looked back at Bush and the two of them turned around and walked offstage without saying another word. It was ominous.
The next morning, July 18, the British media was noting "how ironic it is that at the very moment that Tony Blair is meeting with George Bush, at exactly that moment, Dr. Kelly is found dead." But 12 hours later, after initially suggesting murder, they were saying, "suicide." Now, four-fifths of the British public, according to polls, still think that Kelly was murdered, but their media won’t investigate. Kelly’s death was the beginning of Bush and Blair’s promise to "address the issue."
In the middle of all this, on July 16, my contacts in Houston told me my life was in danger, and there were fatal retaliations coming. I went underground at about noon on the 17th, half a day before the Kelly assassination, and I believe that it’s only because of this that I’m alive today. After all, right after the Kelly assassination, Bush and Company were coming to Houston.
On Sunday, the 20th, the LA Times ran an editorial cartoon that quickly went around the nation, which was a picture of Bush with a gun to his head, like the picture from the Tet offensive in 1968, where the general was executing the Viet Cong guerrilla out in the street. The arm holding the gun in the cartoon said, "Politics." So, that weekend it looked like the war might be ending, and the Establishment might be pulling the plug on Bush.
On Monday, the 21st, Bush had left Houston for his ranch in Crawford, and he was falling apart. Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, came out here to visit him. They always bring Berlusconi out to bolster Bush, to make him look presidential. At a press conference that day, Bush couldn’t read his remarks, they were read for him. His hair was uncombed, he did not have a tie on, and his hands were shaking. The reason I noted that was because at the same time I was in hiding and my hands were shaking. It was a very crucial time.
CNN, at about the same time that Bush was falling apart in Crawford, began to break the story about Jessica Lynch, saying, "…about the Jessica Lynch story …. at the time we were misled by military officials …" They were saying, in effect, "Oh, no fault of ours, but we were bullshitted, we were deceived."
About 30 minutes later, suddenly the storyline shifted to "Jessica’s coming home, she’s being released." Evidently that was a play for time. They changed the storyline, but they had come that close to telling the truth about Jessica — which meant telling the truth about the Battle of Baghdad cover-up.
The bottom was falling out of the Bush boat on July 21st, Monday, that’s why he was falling apart in Crawford. That evening, Donald Rumsfeld fired his Special Forces commander back at the Pentagon, and Tuesday morning, July 22, Rumsfeld showed up at the Pentagon for a sudden conference with his new Special Forces commander, and the first question out of his mouth is, "Have you killed anybody yet?"
By the end of the day, the two Hussein boys were killed in Iraq, which held the news cycle for the rest of the week. Remember those ghoulish three days, when all we saw was Uday’s and Qusay’s bodies?
Councilman James Davis of New York City was assassinated in his office that same day by somebody who walked in with a gun, but "fortunately," a New York police department intelligence detective who had never been there before was filling in for his buddy, as security, and right at the moment that the assassin shot Councilman Davis, the police sergeant shot the assassin, thereby preventing questions and answers. About a week later the New York City council promoted that sergeant to lieutenant, which sure looked like a payoff.
Shortly after the assassination, Councilman Davis’ brother was out in the street saying, "they killed him," "they killed him." And when asked who, those friends around him said, "Shut up. They’ll kill you, too."
So on the 22nd of July, the day after it looked like the bottom was dropping out of the Bush boat, the Hussein boys both end up dead in Iraq and Councilman Davis winds up dead in New York. I still have a question mark on Davis’ death. I don’t know whom it served. But a lot of people were making noise about the war, and what caused it. That may be why they punched his ticket.
There you have it, from July 17th through the 22nd: there was a purge in the U.S. and UK. In Ghost Troop we call this the July Jumble of 2003.
By the end of the summer, you had the Gitmo-ization of Iraq. It was in September, in fact, that there was another story the media was complicit in covering up. Remember Army Captain James Yee, the Muslim chaplain out of Guantanamo Bay? He was a West Point graduate and war veteran from Operation Desert Storm. Captain Yee was busted in Florida, carrying documents from Gitmo, and the Bush Administration hinted that they were going to try him for treason, a capital offense. In all likelihood, Captain Yee was probably coming back to the United States to spill his guts about how they were mistreating people in Guantanamo Bay. I suspect he called up a Congressman or a news media person, who ratted him out to the Department of the Army so they could figure up a plan to go after him and shut him up.
That was at the same time the Bush Administration transferred the commander at Guantanamo Bay, Major Gen. Geoffrey Miller, to take over Abu Ghraib. A few days later, Spec. 4 Alyssa Peterson, a Mormon missionary who had gone into the military out of matters of principle, who was an interrogator, a language specialist in the detention center, wound up dead with "an accidental weapons discharge" to her skull. Here you have Chaplain Yee, who behaved according to principle, and tried to blow the whistle, and he winds up in the brig with a treason charge over his head, and Alyssa Peterson, a girl whose personal character is very high, who apparently tried to make too much noise about detention center abuses and was assassinated.
The turning point of the summer extended from July, when the Establishment was seriously thinking about unplugging the Bush presidency and the Bush world war, to the fall, when Bush got the green light to go ahead. That’s when we started torturing prisoners and breaking the Geneva Convention. The summer of 2003 was the pivotal time in the Iraq war. With the recent revelations about how the Bush gang operates, who can be shocked? Nowadays people see Bush for what he is, not a "war president," but a war-monger, and a war criminal.
For Captain May’s original report on the purges of the summer of 2003 search "Ghost Troop Introduction" This report includes the Captain’s Iraq essays from The Houston Chronicle.
Captain May and Ghost Troop were featured in a cover story in The Iconoclast in 2006.
Captain May is a former Army military intelligence and public affairs officer, as well as a former NBC editorial writer. His political and military analyses have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, the Houston Chronicle and Military Intelligence Magazine. He was one of many veterans at Camp Casey, Crawford, in the summer of 2005, and is pictured at http://homepage.mac.com/kaaawa/iblog/C177199123/E20050823090852/.