Critics cut down 

Last month, on Aug. 19, The New York Times published a sobering assessment of the war in Iraq, penned by seven soldiers.

One of them was Staff Sergeant Yance T. Gray, of Ismay, Montana. On Sept. 10, he and six other soldiers were killed in Iraq in what the Army called a “non-combat vehicle rollover.”

Omar Mora, another author of the op-ed, was also among the dead.

In their opinion piece, “The War as We Saw It,” they collectively write, “In short, we operate in a bewildering context of determined enemies and questionable allies, one where the balance of forces on the ground remains entirely unclear.”

Immediately after that sentence, the soldiers note that one author of the piece, Jeremy A. Murphy, was shot in the head before the op-ed was printed. Murphy survived, but is still recovering from the incident.

Omar Mora’s parents have questioned the circumstances surrounding their son’s death, wondering how so many people could die in a single-vehicle accident, and Sen. Max Baucus has asked the Army for more details.

Meanwhile, Dave Rye, a former Republican state senator and retired news director at Montana’s Northern Broadcasting System, questioned whether the article had been ghost-written by The New York Times on Ed Kemmick’s City Lights blog.

Rye pointed to the diction of the piece as evidence of a hidden editorial hand.

“Pardon my skepticism, and certainly no disrespect for the dead Montana soldier, but in my time in the Army I never heard such a word as “recalcitrant” escape the lips of any Staff Sergeant,” he wrote. “I doubt if it’s spoken all that much in Ismay, either.”

He goes on to accuse The New York Times of doing the writing, and possibly the thinking, for the soldiers.

As it turns out, our soldiers are better educated than Rye gives them credit for. One of the op-ed authors, Buddhika Jayamaha, attended graduate and undergraduate school at Marquette University in Wisconsin for political science. According to one of his former professors, Jayamaha was lead author of the op-ed.

Jayamaha and the remaining authors are scheduled to return from Iraq over the next month.
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