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Iraq War Spawns Various ‘Urban Legends’

As war in Iraq continues, so do the “urban legends” about American troops, Iraqi soldiers and civilians, and policy decisions.

Some of the legends are stories, while others are pictures. Some have been proven true, some false, and others remain in a cloud of fact and fiction.

One of the legends in circulation is simply a picture of an American soldier. On his right sleeve he sports an American flag. Beneath the flag is a patch saying “Doing the work of,” and beneath that are the flags of Russia, Germany and France—countries that declined to follow America into Iraq in 2003.

“This is either a doctored picture or a real picture that is part of a bit of humor on the soldier’s part,” says TruthorFiction.com, a Web site that catalogues urban legends. “We have not found its origins or an explanation.”

Another legend purports that an Iraqi woman in a U.S. grocery store asked the cashier, who was wearing an American flag pin, when the Americans were going to stop bombing her country.

At this remark, another man in line stepped forward and said to the Iraqi woman, “I’ll gladly pay your way back to Iraq so you can straighten out the mess you are obviously here to avoid.”

The Urban Legends References Pages, which catalogued this legend, has listed this story’s veracity as undetermined. The site said the story began circulating not long after the war in Iraq began.

“Many Americans view their country’s war with Iraq as a humanitarian effort undertaken to liberate the sorely oppressed Iraqi people from a monster of a leader, and they are therefore angered by a seeming lack of gratitude on the part of those they are rescuing,” wrote Barbara Mikkelson, site co-founder and legend analyst.

“Because the issue is so clear-cut to them, they find it hard to accept that some Iraqis may continue to be resentful of the coalition forces that invaded their land, bombed their cities, killed some of their citizens, and are still occupying their country,” she continued.

Other stories related to the Iraq war have been proven false. They include legends about Dick Cheney’s daughter going to Iraq as a human shield, a verse from the Quran about American troops “cleansing the lands of Allah,” and a peace plan offered up by comedian Robin Williams.

One of the more popular legends in recent weeks has been that of Lance Cpl. Ted J. Boudreaux Jr., who is seen posing with two Iraqi boys, one of whom is holding a sign reading, “Lcpl Boudreaux killed my dad th(en) he knocked up my sister!”

The Urban Legends Reference Pages lists the legend’s truth as undetermined. What seems for certain, however, is that the photo does indeed depict the real Boudreaux, and that the Marines are investigating the circumstances.

Other versions of the photo have spread across the Internet. In one version, the sign reads, “Lcpl Boudreaux saved my dad th(en) he rescued my sister!”

TruthorFiction.com lists more than 30 urban legends related to the Iraq War, and the Urban Legends Reference Pages lists more than a dozen.

Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for EthicsDaily.com.

Read our interview with TruthorFiction.com founder Rich Buhler.