It was the kind of blog where references to Napoleon and Queen’s greatest hits was mixed with shout-outs to classical pianist Fredric Chopin, “metrosexual drag queens,” grim stories about Bon Jovi cassettes mistaken for IEDs and descriptions of the unrelenting Iraqi sun as a cruel taskmaster that “reigns with small flares of absolute tyranny, doling out punishment to the masses and the elite equally in spells of burning subjugation.”
It was the blog Kaboom: A Soldier’s War Journal, and after seven months of highly literate, grippingly entertaining, funny, scary, strange and unblinkingly honest posts from its author, known as Lt. G, the Army shut it down last month.
In a post titled “A Tactical Pause,” Matthew Gallagher said the end of his reports from the front came due to a “rash posting on my part, and decisions made above my pay-grade.” Gallagher said that the immediate shutdown came not because he’d committed any breaches of Operational Security — the military allows its members to blog, so long as they don’t reveal any tactical information and have their posts vetted before they go up — but because the May 28 post “The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide Is Press Coverage” did not go through the normal vetting channels. He said it was partly due to his being on leave at the time.
“It’s totally on me, as it was too much unfiltered truth,” he wrote. “I’m a soldier first, and orders are orders. So it is. … Thank you for caring. Agree or disagree with the war, if you’re reading this, you are engaged and aware. As long as that is still occurring in a free society, there is something worth fighting for.”
According to the Washington Post, in addition to not being properly vetted, the post may also have run afoul of Gallagher’s superiors because it depicted an officer in his unit in an “unflattering light.” In the offending post, Gallagher wrote of a conversation with a supervisor about a potential promotion that would take him off the front lines. Revealing the candid thoughts that were going through his head during the conversations, in which he railed against the idea of going from a grunt “dealing with matters of life and death to [going] back to Little America for PowerPoint [contests],” Gallagher depicted his superior’s reaction as akin to “a spurned teenage blonde whose dreamboat crush tells her point-blank that he prefers brunettes.”
Military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Steve Stover told the Post in an e-mail that Kaboom was “deemed by the commander to be counter to good order and discipline of his unit,” adding that the blog had not been properly registered with the military, a claim Gallagher’s father denied.
Army public affairs specialist Lindy Kyzer explained to MTV News that the military has an overall blogging policy for soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan — they encourage it, in fact — but that each commander can impose his or her own policy if they deem it necessary to maintain “good order and conduct” of the soldiers under their command. “He addressed it pretty clearly,” she said of Gallagher, “in that he didn’t follow his usual posting procedure.”
While Army bloggers, of which there are thousands, don’t have to consult their immediate supervisor before every posting to a public forum, Kyzer said they do need to advise their superior if they are discussing their military roles, which Gallagher was doing in his blog, after which that commander will set the guidelines for what can be discussed. For his own good and for the good of those who serve under him, she said the policy laid out in the Uniform Code of Military Justice is that one should not speak negatively about conversations with superiors.
Considering his recent promotion to captain, it appears that no grudges are being held against Gallagher, but Kyzer said it would be up to his commander if he is allowed to blog again in the future.
The taking down of the blog drew rapid and often angry responses from Gallagher’s readers, none more vehement than that of the man readers had come to know as “Poppa G”: Gallagher’s father, Dennis Gallagher.
“I find it incredibly ironic that the day after the U.S. Supreme Court issues a landmark decision concerning the Second Amendment of the Constitution, some midmanagement bureaucrat decides he can [make a mockery of] the First Amendment,” he wrote in the comments section. “Incredible!”
Gallagher’s blog began innocently enough in December, with the post “How Not to Initiate an Assault,” which chronicled a foolhardy time during his first year in the Army when a hardnosed captain quizzed him on the proper way to initiate an assault. For the record, he wrote, the answer was not to scream “CHAARRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGEEEEE!!!!!!!!!”
For fans of the new HBO series “Generation Kill,” Gallagher’s dispatches about the gap between the perception of the war by civilians in the U.S. and the soldiers on the ground might bring a knowing nod. One of the scenes he paints that was mirrored in a recent episode of the show depicts the sweet, often morbidly funny letters from U.S. schoolchildren to soldiers on the front, with messages such as, “I hope you don’t die, soldier. That would be bad.”
Attempts to reach Gallagher via e-mail for a response to the shutting down of the blog were unsuccessful. Though the original blog was deleted by Gallagher, a friend created a mirror site, which is now controlled by Gallagher’s fiancee, City Girl, who continues to post updates about his unit, known as the Gravediggers.