Written last month, this straightforward account of life in Iraq by a Marine officer was initially sent just to a small group of family and friends. His honest but wry narration and unusually frank dissection of the mission contrasts sharply with the story presented by both sides of the Iraq war debate, the Pentagon spin masters and fierce critics. Perhaps inevitably, the "Letter from Iraq" moved quickly beyond the small group of acquantainaces and hit the inboxes of retired generals, officers in the Pentagon, and staffers on Capitol Hill. TIME's Sally B. Donnelly first received a copy three weeks ago but only this week was able to track down the author and verify the document's authenticity. The author wishes to remain anonymous but has allowed us to publish it here - with a few judicious omissions.