Salon Rakes the Muck

Last month, Salon published an article investigating the deaths of Army Pfc. Albert Nelson and Pfc. Roger Suarez, two soldiers serving in Iraq. The Army attributed their deaths to enemy action; Mark Benjamin’s Salon report, which included graphic battle video (footage from a helmet-cam) and eyewitness testimony, suggested that the soldiers’ deaths were likely caused by friendly fire.

Now, Benjamin is reporting that the Army’s cover-up went even further.

The article about the alleged friendly fire incident was long overdue for some of the men who fought in Ramadi that day for the Army’s Fort Carson-based D Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. Many continue to insist privately that a U.S. tank killed their friends.

But for their superior officers, the publication of the article was a problem to be solved. On the morning of Oct. 14, battalion leaders held an emergency meeting in response to the Salon article. The sergeant in charge of 2nd Platoon, Nelson and Suarez’s platoon, had a pointed confrontation with at least one of his men in a vain search for the source that leaked the Ramadi video to Salon. Soldiers were told to keep quiet from then on.

The article goes on to detail orders allegedly given to Pvt. Albert “Doc” Mitchum and Pvt. Charles Kremling to shred two Xerox boxes’ worth of documents concerning the deaths of Nelson and Suarez.

“Friendly Fire” is an important investigation, and one that’s well-written and well-realized, as well: kudos to Benjamin, and to Salon.

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Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.