Response by Clifton Hicks to Ray Robison (updated)

letter to the editor
Ray Robison has recently published a blog entry wherein he claims that I may have authored a story in The New Republic under the false name of ‘Scott Thomas'.

Ray, I did not author that piece. Perhaps the reason you find so many similarities in my writing and that of Mr. Thomas' is because we were both in Iraq, serving in the same awful war with the same impossible mission; thereby witnessing similar events! In the mean time Ray, I've a couple of bones to pick with you so allow me to set about correcting some of your errors here, I'll start at the top.

1. "Hicks was granted conscientious objector status and a release from the Army after receiving administrative punishment for unprofessional conduct. Since then, and especially recently, he has tapped into the anti-war establishment for self-promotion."
I was Honorably discharged (not "released") from the US Army after serving some thirty odd trying months in a front line combat unit. My discharge had nothing to do with any "administrative punishment," the nature of my separation from the military was completely honorable, legal, and professional. And I have not "tapped into" the anti-war movement for "self-promotion," in recent months I have reluctantly accepted a couple of interview offers, that is all.
2. "Here Hicks expresses that "we... were happy to have killed" an Iraqi child. His own words!"
Please allow me to remind you, Ray, that you were not in that house in Baghdad in 2003, you did not see or feel what we saw and felt that night. You shouldn't butcher other people's quotations to piece together your own illegitimate excerpts. In other words, we did not kill that child, and we were not happy about it.
Ray, I don't know if this Scott Thomas character is real or not, nor do I care. I sure as Hell don't know if what he's saying is the truth, and I admit I didn't bother to read "Shock Troops", it doesn't interest me for obvious reasons. It could be fake, or it could be real, you and I will probably never know. All I can vouch for is my own story, and whether or not you or anybody else believes that story is of no consequence to me. Those who stood at my side every step of the way, those brave young comrades of mine, are the only men who might confirm or deny anything I have ventured to say in the past.

Clifton Hicks

Update: Ray Robison replies

Response to Clifton Hicks,

Thanks for your response and clearing up the matter. I purposely left you with the benefit of the doubt. I will take you at your word and accept that I was wrong. My apologies if you feel unjustly accused. But to clear up a few things you said, I did not put "words in your mouth". The quote was directly what you are reported to have said or written from the source linked in the article. If it is false then your bone to pick on that matter is with the anti-war site that quoted or misquoted you. You might want to have them remove the article. Here it is again: http://thankyoult.live.radicaldesigns.org/content/view/176/
""No one spoke of the incident, and it was like it never happened. "What struck me most was just how callous we had become. I didn't even care myself. Sure some Iraqi kid had been killed; big deal. It's like seeing a dead dog on the side of the road." Hicks said he had no thoughts of shame or regret, no thoughts of the girl's mother or friends.

"We hated them and were happy to have killed one. For as long as I can remember I've been taught to fear and mistrust Arabs.""
So if you feel regret at having said this, I understand, but you can't blame others for quoting you though, that's what you have to deal with when you go public, or else you should just keep your mouth shut. I get blasted all the time for things I have said, just the cost of having a public opinion.

BTW, the reason soldiers hate war above all others is because of what it does to the children. The overwhelming majority of soldiers and marines in Iraq are crushed when this happens. They do not think "I don't care" or "we were happy". It takes a special kind of person to think such a thing. They are called sociopaths and are people who have no ability to empathize with others and are only interested in their own feelings. Unfortunately, because these people have no real ability to empathize, they displace their own feelings on to those around them. That is why they see others in such a negative light. They think other people think like they do. Which might explain why a writer would constantly refer to how "we" felt in expressing his own feelings.

As to your "release" from the army, I didn't mean it as a slam, all soldiers get released from the army when they are no longer under contract, maybe it is older lingo they don't use anymore or maybe I just heard it in my 11 years - half as an enlisted soldier and half as an officer, and you didn't in your, was it 2 or 3 years? At any rate, I don't think anybody mistook that as getting the boot so to speak and if they did, let me renounce that here and now and say I did not mean to imply you were kicked out.

BTW, I did read about the article 15 incident in your own writing and I suspect it wasn't as magnanimous as you would like others to perceive. And yes I caught your writing that your 1st Sgt went over the line, but they sometimes do that when they feel the soldiers they are trying to keep alive are betraying them. Maybe you will see that with some maturity.

I find it interesting that your article 15 was for blogging about your fellow soldiers in a very negative way (yes your chain-of-command is also your fellow soldier) and the person in question here "Scott Thomas" has caused a stir for doing the very same thing - blogging about other soldiers and putting them in a very bad light. And since I have read your published emails (http://www.albasrah.net/en_articles_2005/1205/GI%20Special%203D36%20Archangel%20Reporting_051205.htm ) about that incident and the hostility you exhibited in them towards the army ("Looks like I managed to beat them at their own lousy game for once"), well, hopefully you can see how I could have made such a mistake and forgive me. I mean if a person was to get busted for bad mouthing the COC and thusly silenced, and retained a lot of hostility towards the army, they might be inclined to feel that writing anonymously in the same fashion that got them in trouble would be a great way of beating the army at its' own game.

Perhaps this "Scott Thomas" had a very similar experience to you after all, as you suggest. Perhaps in time, we will know who "Scott Thomas" really is.

Best regards and my apologies,

Ray Robison
Posted 18:45 PM
Ray Robison has recently published a blog entry wherein he claims that I may have authored a story in The New Republic under the false name of ‘Scott Thomas'.

Ray, I did not author that piece. Perhaps the reason you find so many similarities in my writing and that of Mr. Thomas' is because we were both in Iraq, serving in the same awful war with the same impossible mission; thereby witnessing similar events! In the mean time Ray, I've a couple of bones to pick with you so allow me to set about correcting some of your errors here, I'll start at the top.

1. "Hicks was granted conscientious objector status and a release from the Army after receiving administrative punishment for unprofessional conduct. Since then, and especially recently, he has tapped into the anti-war establishment for self-promotion."
I was Honorably discharged (not "released") from the US Army after serving some thirty odd trying months in a front line combat unit. My discharge had nothing to do with any "administrative punishment," the nature of my separation from the military was completely honorable, legal, and professional. And I have not "tapped into" the anti-war movement for "self-promotion," in recent months I have reluctantly accepted a couple of interview offers, that is all.
2. "Here Hicks expresses that "we... were happy to have killed" an Iraqi child. His own words!"
Please allow me to remind you, Ray, that you were not in that house in Baghdad in 2003, you did not see or feel what we saw and felt that night. You shouldn't butcher other people's quotations to piece together your own illegitimate excerpts. In other words, we did not kill that child, and we were not happy about it.
Ray, I don't know if this Scott Thomas character is real or not, nor do I care. I sure as Hell don't know if what he's saying is the truth, and I admit I didn't bother to read "Shock Troops", it doesn't interest me for obvious reasons. It could be fake, or it could be real, you and I will probably never know. All I can vouch for is my own story, and whether or not you or anybody else believes that story is of no consequence to me. Those who stood at my side every step of the way, those brave young comrades of mine, are the only men who might confirm or deny anything I have ventured to say in the past.

Clifton Hicks

Update: Ray Robison replies

Response to Clifton Hicks,

Thanks for your response and clearing up the matter. I purposely left you with the benefit of the doubt. I will take you at your word and accept that I was wrong. My apologies if you feel unjustly accused. But to clear up a few things you said, I did not put "words in your mouth". The quote was directly what you are reported to have said or written from the source linked in the article. If it is false then your bone to pick on that matter is with the anti-war site that quoted or misquoted you. You might want to have them remove the article. Here it is again: http://thankyoult.live.radicaldesigns.org/content/view/176/
""No one spoke of the incident, and it was like it never happened. "What struck me most was just how callous we had become. I didn't even care myself. Sure some Iraqi kid had been killed; big deal. It's like seeing a dead dog on the side of the road." Hicks said he had no thoughts of shame or regret, no thoughts of the girl's mother or friends.

"We hated them and were happy to have killed one. For as long as I can remember I've been taught to fear and mistrust Arabs.""
So if you feel regret at having said this, I understand, but you can't blame others for quoting you though, that's what you have to deal with when you go public, or else you should just keep your mouth shut. I get blasted all the time for things I have said, just the cost of having a public opinion.

BTW, the reason soldiers hate war above all others is because of what it does to the children. The overwhelming majority of soldiers and marines in Iraq are crushed when this happens. They do not think "I don't care" or "we were happy". It takes a special kind of person to think such a thing. They are called sociopaths and are people who have no ability to empathize with others and are only interested in their own feelings. Unfortunately, because these people have no real ability to empathize, they displace their own feelings on to those around them. That is why they see others in such a negative light. They think other people think like they do. Which might explain why a writer would constantly refer to how "we" felt in expressing his own feelings.

As to your "release" from the army, I didn't mean it as a slam, all soldiers get released from the army when they are no longer under contract, maybe it is older lingo they don't use anymore or maybe I just heard it in my 11 years - half as an enlisted soldier and half as an officer, and you didn't in your, was it 2 or 3 years? At any rate, I don't think anybody mistook that as getting the boot so to speak and if they did, let me renounce that here and now and say I did not mean to imply you were kicked out.

BTW, I did read about the article 15 incident in your own writing and I suspect it wasn't as magnanimous as you would like others to perceive. And yes I caught your writing that your 1st Sgt went over the line, but they sometimes do that when they feel the soldiers they are trying to keep alive are betraying them. Maybe you will see that with some maturity.

I find it interesting that your article 15 was for blogging about your fellow soldiers in a very negative way (yes your chain-of-command is also your fellow soldier) and the person in question here "Scott Thomas" has caused a stir for doing the very same thing - blogging about other soldiers and putting them in a very bad light. And since I have read your published emails (http://www.albasrah.net/en_articles_2005/1205/GI%20Special%203D36%20Archangel%20Reporting_051205.htm ) about that incident and the hostility you exhibited in them towards the army ("Looks like I managed to beat them at their own lousy game for once"), well, hopefully you can see how I could have made such a mistake and forgive me. I mean if a person was to get busted for bad mouthing the COC and thusly silenced, and retained a lot of hostility towards the army, they might be inclined to feel that writing anonymously in the same fashion that got them in trouble would be a great way of beating the army at its' own game.

Perhaps this "Scott Thomas" had a very similar experience to you after all, as you suggest. Perhaps in time, we will know who "Scott Thomas" really is.

Best regards and my apologies,

Ray Robison
Posted 18:45 PM