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Jan-20-2011 15:26printcomments

Iraqi Donkey Awaits Better Life in America

Feel-good mobilization can occur on behalf of a donkey while the devastating effects of war on the human population of Iraq are ignored...

Marine Corps donkey
Photo courtesy of US Marine Corps/File

(ISTANBUL) - Last week, USA Today ran what was intended to be a heartwarming story about a former U.S. marine colonel’s struggle to “bring home a little four-legged piece of Iraq”:

John Folsom, who was [Iraqi] Camp Taqaddum’s commandant in 2008, hopes to bring Smoke the donkey home to Nebraska to brighten the lives of children whose parents are serving overseas.

Folsom and Smoke first met when a Marine under Folsom’s command decided to catch one of the many donkeys wandering the base outside Fallujah.”

We learn that the Marines “immediately took a liking to the animal” and assigned him his name based on “his gray color and tendency to snatch up cigarettes, lit or not.” In order to get around the prohibition on pets in the war zone, “a Navy lieutenant helped designate Smoke a therapy animal” and the donkey thus “started receiving care packages of treats and blankets along with the troops.”

As for two-legged pieces of Iraq, these enter the story in the form of an Iraqi sheikh to whom Smoke was ceded after the Marines evacuated Taqaddum. The article continues:

Last fall, Folsom decided he wanted Smoke to see the USA. By now, he was the head of Wounded Warriors Family Support, a non-profit organization that helps the families of servicemembers who are killed or wounded in action. Among its offerings to families are free trips to Florida condominiums that are near theme parks and resorts in the Orlando area.

Folsom tracked down the sheik who had Smoke but was told that the former mascot had been given to a family near Fallujah. The sheik said he could get the donkey from the family for $30,000.

‘We heard that and said, “As long as you are taking care of the donkey, that’s fine with us,” ‘ Folsom says.

The sheik relented and agreed to round up the donkey for free. Now the challenge is to get Smoke shipped to the USA, he says.

Folsom is working through the Operation Baghdad Pups program, run by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals [SPCA] International, to arrange transport.”

According to the SPCA International website:

U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan befriend local animals as a way to help cope with the emotional hardships they endure every day while deployed in a war zone.  The Operation Baghdad Pups program provides veterinary care and coordinates complicated logistics and transportation requirements in order to reunite these beloved pets with their service men and women back in the U.S. These important animals not only help our heroes in the war zone, but they also help them readjust to life back home after combat.”

The USA Today article informs us that, unlike dogs and cats, “Smoke will require a special cargo flight” but that “a spokeswoman for SPCA International says her group would foot the bill.”

No matter that there are presumably already a sufficient number of donkeys in America to go around, and that Smoke is presumably serving some sort of function in the familial context in which he is currently located in Iraq.

The fact that such feel-good mobilization can occur on behalf of a donkey while the devastating effects of war on the human population of Iraq are ignored meanwhile suggests that ours is not a humane society at all.


Belén is co-editor at Pulse Media. Her articles also have appeared in CounterPunch, Narco News, Palestine Chronicle, Palestine Think Tank, Rebelión, Tlaxcala, The Electronic Intifada, Upside Down World, and Her book “Coffee with Hezbollah,” a humorous political travelogue chronicling her hitchhiking trip through Lebanon in the aftermath of the 2006 Israeli assault, is available at Amazon, Amazon UK, and Barnes and Noble.

Born in Washington, DC, in 1982, Belén earned her bachelor's degree with a concentration in political science from Columbia University in New York City. Her diverse background of worldwide experiences, created a fantastic writer; one whose work we are extremely happy to share with viewers. You can contact Belén at:

Comments Leave a comment on this story.

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catbyte June 7, 2011 2:04 pm (Pacific time)

Wow, way harsh, there, belen. Yikes. Do you pull the wings off flies? Your compassion seems confined to only humans. Pity.

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.


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