Col. Boylan's implosion accelerates

E-mail sent by Gen. Petraeus' spokesman to various individuals raises still more questions about Boylan's behavior.


Glenn Greenwald
October 31, 2007 5:28PM (UTC)

(updated below - Update II)

Col. Boylan now refuses to respond to any of my emails or other inquiries. He is also refusing to respond to at least one journalist whom I know is working on a comprehensive article on this matter. But he has been quite busy responding -- often at great length -- to readers here and other individuals who have emailed him about his behavior.

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I am publishing the unedited versions of two particularly bizarre email exchanges with readers which are, for several reasons, credible and verifiable. Those email exchanges are here and here.

Several things are notable: (1) Col. Boylan is now resorting to demonstrable, outright lying; (2) he is expressly claiming that the original email is not "real," rather desperately though clearly insinuating -- without the slightest basis -- that I fabricated it myself; and (3) the more Col. Boylan writes, the more evident it becomes that he shares numerous viewpoints with the original e-mailer and, more importantly, expresses those viewpoints using the same unique and recognizable style of "English" used to write the disputed email.

I will note again that nobody from the military, the Pentagon or any other government agency has contacted me to request that I provide the "fake" email or any other information, something I have been and remain more than happy to do. That indicates rather clearly that neither Col. Boylan nor anybody else is investigating to find out, to borrow from O.J. Simpson, who the "real emailer" here is -- the supposed de-frauder sending out email in the name of Gen. Petraeus' personal spokesman.

I've been urging an investigation of this matter from the very beginning, something I'd be highly unlikely to do -- for extremely obvious reasons -- if events did not occur exactly as I described them. By stark and revealing contrast, Col. Boylan has been eager to have this entire matter just disappear -- very, very odd behavior for someone who claims to be the victim of having an extremely authentic-looking and incriminating e-mail sent in his name, particularly since it was published and widely discussed in numerous venues, and will be discussed shortly in still more.

As we have learned repeatedly over the last six years, those who tell the truth and have done nothing wrong want investigations; guilty parties want to avoid them. If Col. Boylan is telling the truth, one would think he'd be eager to have an investigation -- governmental or media -- to find out what actually happened. Yet he has done nothing to initiate one and everything possible to ensure it does not happen. Why would that be?

In the email exchange Col. Boylan had with Phillip Hallam-Baker (here), he said: "I have told him it was not my email and have asked them to take it down since it was not mine." That simply is an outright lie. It never happened. He has refused to communicate with anyone at Salon and never requested that anyone "take down" the email. Col. Boylan just made that up.

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In his email with the reader who has asked that her name not be used, Boylan wrote: "I have my serious doubts that any of what has been said is real and I have no reason to engage Mr. Greenwald," and further wrote that "errors" in the email "indicates (sic) that whoever sent it if in fact it was really ever sent and I have my doubts, does not completely know my career timeline." He is, rather unmistakably, suggesting here that I fabricated the email.

I'll just note initially that this is exactly the kind of behavior that we have seen repeatedly over the last six years from political officials in the Bush administration -- lashing out at people who bring wrongdoing to light. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill left the administration and revealed embarrassing information about how Bush officials were planning an attack on Iraq before 9/11, and suddenly, Bush officials began whispering to reporters that he had committed crimes by removing classified documents which he used to write his book. Joe Wilson wrote an Op-Ed debunking falsehoods in the State of the Union address and suddenly he is the target of a vicious White House demonization campaign as well as a principal subject of a GOP-issued Senate Intelligence Committee report.

This is what political actors in the Bush administration do. And here is a Colonel in the U.S. Army doing exactly that -- spewing accusations for which he has absolutely no evidence, all the while avoiding an investigation that could determine the truth, in a desperate effort to discredit me and thus distract from his own wrongdoing. More and more, the behavior of our senior military officials in Iraq is completely indistinguishable from the most partisan GOP political operatives -- exactly the point I was making that triggered this entire episode.

While I have been careful not to make accusations against Col. Boylan without proof -- opting instead to provide all facts as I obtain them -- here he is spitting out all sorts of serious accusations without a shred of evidence in order to defend himself. He has learned the Bush tactics well.

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And he does this only in individual email exchanges so as to spread unverifiable innuendo, while ignoring inquiries from reporters trying to ascertain what actually happened and while refusing to request a formal investigation into the genesis of the disputed email -- something he could easily do. Independently, his accusation is absurd on its face, just desperate. I have provided the emails I received, which remain on my computer, to anyone who has asked for verification purposes -- including highly sophisticated computer experts whom, I assume, it would be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to fool -- and will continue to do so.

It should also be noted that Col. Boylan finds himself with great frequency in extremely odd, even bizarre situations, such as this one. He continuously claims to be the victim of some sort of grand "identity theft." And as John Cole wrote about last night, he also claimed to be the victim of a very strange crime in South Korea, where he claimed to have been "stabbed" by three teenagers while wearing civilian clothing, sending him to the hospital but -- according to the LA Times -- suffering only a "graze" that did not even require stitches. And he told The New York Times:

To Colonel Boylan, the deepest cut of all came from two Korean children. "I was going to a function in dress uniform when I came across two kids, about 8 or 10 years old," he recalled. "They were laughing, smiling. Then they saw me. They stopped in their tracks and glared at me. Then they cussed at me -- in English."

Whatever else is true, Col. Boylan is in an extremely sensitive and important position in the U.S. military in Iraq. From Baghdad, he has been actively monitoring anti-war writers and liberal blogs and, with some regularity, contacts them out of the blue and aggressively criticizes them and what they have written (exactly like the "fake" emailer did to me). For reasons I documented yesterday, this behavior is part-and-parcel of the more general, recent campaign by the U.S. military to use methods of partisan propaganda, intimidation, and sometimes even force to influence and, in many cases, control what is said about them and the war.

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And the similarities between Col. Boylan's indisputably authentic writing and the allegedly "fake" email are unmistakable. As but the latest example, compare what he wrote in this reader email ("I do not read Mr. Greenwald's postings as I find that they are just that, his opinions and therefore would not have any reason to email him") to what the "fake" emailer wrote to me: ("Since a great deal of this post is just opinion and everyone is entitled to their opinions, I will not address those even though they are shall we say -- based on few if any facts").

For those reasons, Col. Boylan's behavior here compels scrutiny. It is significant either way -- that he sent the first email and is dishonestly denying having done so, or that someone is able to fabricate such convincing emails in his name. This is so clearly the case that even one right-wing blogger, writing at a garden-variety pro-war blog that typically spews the standard venom characterizing the right-wing blogosphere, wrote this last night:

I am normally sympathetic to entries that are mocking Glenn Greenwald. However, I have to lend him at least some credence here -- he is, after all, in the curious position of being the recipient of acrimonious emails (regardless their relative merit, or if emails sent from .mil domains can be considered private) with Col. Boylan's identifying marks on it that Col. Boyland denies sending.

Indeed, either Col. Boylan feels regret at having sent them, which is just childish, or someone spoofed his email address, which is a vastly more serious problem. And Boylan's apparent casual attitude lends the impression of wrongdoing on his part.

If he can understand and acknowledge these basic points, anyone should be able to. Virtually every media outlet spent significant efforts covering allegations that Scott Beauchamp, a 23-year-old Private, exaggerated some war stories. Isn't it clear that allegations far more serious, against the personal spokesman for the top General in the Iraq War, merit at least as much attention and investigation?

UPDATE: From The Washington Post's Dan Froomkin today, during his online "chat":

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Peoria, Ill.: Dan, great stuff as always. Have you been following the bizarre saga over at Salon with Glenn Greenwald and Col. Boylan?

Dan Froomkin: I have. Bizarre indeed. I'm not entirely surprised, though. It's become increasingly clear just how overtly, even outrageously, political the top brass in Iraq is -- and no one's more gung-ho than the PR folks. See, for instance, my July 19 column, Bush's Baghdad Mouthpiece.

This is the critical point here and it cannot be emphasized enough (and, indeed, I linked to the article by Froomkin which he references here, which concerned Gen. Bergner, in my original post on this topic).

I'm sympathetic to -- and cognizant of -- the caution John Cole issued today: "At the same time, let's also remember the one thing that the idiots rabidly chasing Beauchamp never did -- these guys do have a lot of shit on their plate at the moment." And I confess to sharing to some degree the unease expressed by this commenter over there:

Am I wrong to be a little uncomfortable about all this? Boylan is almost certainly a partisan hack, and an unusually boneheaded one at that. So it's certainly not a great thing that he's foisting his hackery upon us from the Army. That said, I really wouldn't like to see the factosphere adopt the tactics or mentality of the wingnutosphere.

I'm not saying that's happening, and obviously Col. Boylan could use a little humiliation, but . . . does he deserve any bad things beyond that?

I dunno, the guy's in Iraq, I feel like he deserves some slack. I wish he would 'fess up, be embarrassed, and move on.

I find the right-wing, scalp-hunting lynch mobs -- even when directed at someone who made a mistake -- to be grotesque and the last thing I would want to do is replicate that. Nothing I am writing is personal to Col. Boylan in any way. My goal is not to have him fired, or disciplined or anything else (in comments yesterday, Che Pasa asked a similar question and my reply is here).

Boylan personally isn't the point here at all. Even when someone makes a serious mistake -- and everyone, at some point, does -- some sense of proportion is required, exactly what the drooling, scalp-demanding mobs on the Right so repugnantly lack.

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But Col. Boylan isn't just some low-level grunt or randomly selected reporter; he's the chief spokesman for Gen. Petraeus, managing the press for the top level war leadership. And there is a vitally important issue here -- the one Froomkin identified. I think it's important to know whether Col. Boylan sent the email -- or at least compel the military to acknowledge that finding out is important -- precisely because that email represents and reveals the sort of toxic politicization of the military that has increased palpably, and dangerously, over the last year. That -- and not Col. Boylan -- is why this issue requires attention, and it's why it has been (since Sunday) claiming my attention.

UPDATE II: Salon reporter Farhad Manjoo has now written a lengthy story on Col. Boylan and the email matter. He did a great job of assembling and discovering the facts which illuminate these issues. The story, which Salon is running today as its cover story, is here.


Glenn Greenwald

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