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Silent Posting

Lt. Matthew Gallagher sits on a burned out Iraqi armored vehicle, early 2008. The photo was presumably taken by a member of his platoon (the "Gravediggers").
Lt. Matthew Gallagher sits on a burned out Iraqi armored vehicle, early 2008. The photo was presumably taken by a member of his platoon (the "Gravediggers"). (Courtesy of Dennis Gallagher)

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By Ernesto Londoño
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, July 24, 2008

BAGHDAD

There was a boy who went to war, like many other boys before him. Maybe it made him a man, maybe it didn't. Maybe he already was a man, maybe he wasn't. Maybe it doesn't matter, maybe none of it does, maybe it all does. Maybe.

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-- Lt. G, March 4

He was an unlikely warrior, this scrawny boy from Reno, Nev., the son of two lawyers, raised in the suburbs.

He had a way with words, this boy. When his Stryker unit deployed to Iraq last winter, he was a rookie platoon leader who had never seen combat. And like many other soldiers before him, he decided he'd chronicle the war on a blog. Intending to keep family and friends abreast of the follies and pitfalls of soldiering in a five-year-old war that now relies less on gunfire and more on diplomacy, this boy, under the pen name Lt. G, launched "Kaboom: A Soldier's War Journal."

An indictment of the war it was not. Lt. G's dispatches -- at turns hilarious, maddening and terrifying -- provided raw and insightful snapshots of a conflict many Americans have lost interest in.

Word got around, and more and more readers closely followed the postings of 25-year-old Lt. Matthew Gallagher, with the site drawing tens of thousands of page views. By the time Kaboom went kaput last month -- Lt. G was ordered to take down his blog -- it had a following that would be the envy of many a small-town paper.

The blog's downfall was a May 28 posting that, in violation of military blogging rules, Gallagher failed to have vetted by a supervisor. (That the posting depicted an officer in the unit unflatteringly might have played a role. Gallagher declined a request to comment.)

The blogosphere, as it's wont to do, went berserk.

"This is a disgusting decision on the part of the Army command," one reader fumed, while another wrote: "A free society would not shut down your blog." Still another drafted a template letter and urged others to contact their lawmakers to demand that Lt. G's cyber gag order be lifted.

Dennis Gallagher, 55 -- Poppa G to Kaboom readers -- was likewise steamed.

"I find it incredibly ironic that the day after the US 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 blog's comments section. "Incredible!"


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