Carol Platt Liebau: The New Republic and our troops

Friday, August 03, 2007

The New Republic and our troops

TNR has published a statement about their research into Scott Thomas Beauchamp's writings. They say that, after exhaustive research, that most all of his story holds up.
All of Beauchamp's essays were fact-checked before publication. We checked the plausibility of details with experts, contacted a corroborating witness, and pressed the author for further details. But publishing a first-person essay from a war zone requires a measure of faith in the writer. Given what we knew of Beauchamp, personally and professionally, we credited his report. After questions were raised about the veracity of his essay, TNR extensively re-reported Beauchamp's account.

In this process, TNR contacted dozens of people. Editors and staffers spoke numerous times with Beauchamp. We also spoke with current and former soldiers, forensic experts, and other journalists who have covered the war extensively. And we sought assistance from Army Public Affairs officers. Most important, we spoke with five other members of Beauchamp's company, and all corroborated Beauchamp's anecdotes, which they witnessed or, in the case of one solider, heard about contemporaneously. (All of the soldiers we interviewed who had first-hand knowledge of the episodes requested anonymity.)
There is one detail that was false and they acknowledge this.
Three soldiers with whom TNR has spoken have said they repeatedly saw the same facially disfigured woman. One was the soldier specifically mentioned in the Diarist. He told us: "We were really poking fun at her; it was just me and Scott, the day that I made that comment. We were pretty loud. She was sitting at the table behind me. We were at the end of the table. I believe that there were a few people a few feet to the right."

The recollections of these three soldiers differ from Beauchamp's on one significant detail (the only fact in the piece that we have determined to be inaccurate): They say the conversation occurred at Camp Buehring, in Kuwait, prior to the unit's arrival in Iraq. When presented with this important discrepancy, Beauchamp acknowledged his error. We sincerely regret this mistake.
This is not an inconsequential error. The point of the whole story was how the war had hardened these men so that they were now capable of such cruelty to an injured woman. But, if their vile teasing occurred in Kuwait, before they even arrived in Iraq, it's rather hard to blame the war. All they have shown is that they were vile people before they started fighting in Iraq. It is a self indictment of Beauchamp and his buddies rather than an indictment of the war. And all the other anecdotes should be read in this light. With about 160,000 men and women serving in Iraq, it's likely that some of them were rotten people before they entered the military. Just think of your own place of work and the percentage of nasty folks there. The story now becomes one of how Beauchamp and his friends were jerks before they got to Iraq and, if the rest of his story is to be believed, continued to be so. It is not an indictment of the war or our armed services in general.

However, some critics of the TNR story have not let up. Dean Barnett has several significant objections to the other two stories - about the guy going all day with a child's skull on his head and about the guy who drove his Bradley around swerving to hit things including stray dogs. Comparing the original story to the TNR statement demonstrates that there are still problems. The army has shut down Beauchamp's communication with reporters so we don't know if we'll get any more information. But compare Barnett's objections with the TNR statement and see if you are convinced by either.

And Barnett maintains, and I agree, that the original problem was hiring this guy, who was engaged to a TNR staffer at the time, to give what they wanted to project as a picture of the typical American soldier rather than just one jerk who, according to his own blog, joined the military so that he would have more validity as a writer.
TNR by its own admission hired Scott Beauchamp “to provide our readers with a sense of Iraq as it is seen by the troops.” As I’ve written several times, this is The New Republic’s original sin in this matter. Scott Beauchamp didn’t give TNR’s readers a sense of Iraq as it is seen by the troops but rather a sense of Iraq as seen by a spouse of a TNR writer with an ideological axe to grind. His purported experiences, and his attitude, are far from typical. The fact that at this late date, TNR is insisting that he was a fitting tour guide of Iraq for TNR’s readership is appalling, and continues TNR’s ongoing slander of the 160,000 men and women who are serving nobly in Iraq.


This is from Betsy Newmark and is cross posted at Betsy's Page

24 Comments:

Blogger Chepe Noyon said...

I think that everybody is making far too much out of this. The stories do not constitute any kind of slander upon anybody else -- they are stories of one small group of men. Generalizing this group of men as typical of all soldiers in Iraq is silly. Generalizing them as jerks from the outset is equally silly. They are human beings -- individuals -- and these stories must be treated in that light.

Let's be honest. We know a great deal about the behavior of men in combat. We have countless first person reports from wars dating back to the Revolutionary War. This mass of information DOES allow us to draw some generalizations:

1. Men in combat don't fight for any cause. They fight for their buddies.

2. Most just try to get along as best they can.

3. Some are saints, some are sinners. Most fall somewhere in between.

4. There are always a few who take advantage of the situation to engage in barbaric behavior. Always.

5. Most soldiers viewing such behavior don't want to make trouble; they just let it pass. If the behavior is particularly egregious, or the bystander particularly saintly, he objects.

6. The moral standards of soldiers compared to civilians are substantially more permissive.

Again, these observations have been made in wars stretching back over two hundred years. It is true that standards have risen during that period, especially since VietNam. But the notion that soldiers are all saints -- or that they are all sinners -- is not justified by the evidence.

6:39 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

I think it's fair to say that when TNR published this story as a view from a soldier's perspective, they were, by default, making generalizations regarding the entire U.S. military. The entire presentation was as if this is what the soldiers are seeing in Iraq. This certainly slanders the entire U.S. military.

Therefore, it's equally fair - obligatory, in fact - that others enthusiastically step up to defend the U.S. military. With few exceptions, our military has performed better and more honorably than any other military in history. That is the truth as best as I can tell. It is apparent that, by not placing these astonishing stories in context, TNR is trying to dishonor and destroy the credibility of the entire U.S. military with this story.

This is important stuff. Either we are the good guys or we are not. Either we are trying to do good in the world or we are not.

When outlandish stories like this get publicized, the exact thing the publishers are trying to do is to "make much" of it. It's when the story begins to crumble under scrutiny that the provocateurs try to downplay the entire episode.

No. If these stories are true, charges, prosecution, and sentencing should follow. If they are false, public humiliation and scorn of TNR should follow.

Let's make much of this!

8:19 AM  
Blogger Carol Platt Liebau said...

Coyote here.

I respectfully disagree with Chepe Noyon.

This fellow was a plant. His stories are propaganda. He came with an agenda, and his damage to the image of the troops and the moral of the homefront is great. As we are in a war for the hearts and minds of people in Iraq, he also gives aid an comfort to the enemy.

I would also take issue with Chepe's individual points (except for point 4), which make our soldiers in Iraq sound like Post Office employees.

9:24 AM  
Blogger Chepe Noyon said...

Greg, I disagree with much of your comment. Among my disagreements:

when TNR published this story as a view from a soldier's perspective, they were, by default, making generalizations regarding the entire U.S. military.

By what default? Are all the bridges in the USA falling down? The fact that ONE story is told does NOT justify any generalization. We know for a fact that individual soldiers or groups of soldiers in Iraq have tortured Iraqis, raped them, and murdered them. The existence of one instance never supports a broad generalization -- not unless you can show that this one instance is in fact representative of the entire group. As far as I know, TNR made no such claims.

it's equally fair - obligatory, in fact - that others enthusiastically step up to defend the U.S. military.

I disagree. Our obligation is to truth, not to the party line, whatever that party line might be. If it really is true that our soldiers are doing bad things, then that truth should be exposed for all to see. And if they're doing good things, that truth should also be exposed for all to see.

our military has performed better and more honorably than any other military in history.

I thought I'd single this out as one of the few statements that I agree with.

Either we are the good guys or we are not.

This is where I disagree with you most strongly. I am repelled by the "football game" perception of war used by so many Americans. This is no game, it's a big complicated mess. Yes, there are lots of good guys on our side -- but there are bad guys, too. There are lots of bad guys on the opposing side -- but can you deny that there might be some true Iraqi patriots who fight with fairness and civility? (Before you answer this, think about the American Revolution.)

I will go even further -- I am disgusted by this notion that war is some sort of game with good guys, bad guys, cheerleaders, and roaring crowds of spectators. War is ugly, bloody, nasty business. Nobody ever wins a war, because nobody ever comes out better off after a war than before. The best you can do is not lose. Either way, it's still a losing proposition -- just not as losing as the alternative (if all goes well).

Our troops are not saints, nor would I even call most of them heroes, because if everybody is a hero, then the term loses all significance. Our troops are normal people caught up in horrific situations that often require them to do things that no civilized person would otherwise do.

Coyote, I disagree with these statements of yours:

This fellow was a plant. His stories are propaganda.

What information coming out of any war zone is NOT propaganda of some sort? The military has an agenda to make itself look good. There are reporters there who have an agenda to make the USA look bad, and other reporters with an agenda to make it look good. Hence, there's just no use in labeling information as "propaganda". It's all propaganda.

his damage to the image of the troops and the moral of the homefront is great.

No, it's his damage to a particular political agenda that is great. His stories are almost entirely true. We're always better off knowing an unpleasant truth than being blissfully ignorant.

As we are in a war for the hearts and minds of people in Iraq, he also gives aid an comfort to the enemy.

You know, I tire of the right's constant refrain, "If you publicly disagree with our political platform, you're a traitor." This is a democracy. Democracies bloom in truth and wilt in suppression of truth. We NEED dissent to keep us honest. Attempting to suppress dissenting information is far more destructive to the fabric of democracy than telling the truth.

As to your disagreement with my generalizations about the troops, perhaps you should look over this story from the Dallas News. About 10% of American troops "reported that they had mistreated civilians in Iraq".

So let's lose the hagiography and get real.

10:04 AM  
Blogger Carol Platt Liebau said...

Coyote here,

Your comment, "His stories are almost entirely true", reminds me of the wondeful line from the beginning of Huck Finn that Mark Twain, "told the truth, mainly".

Your discussion of propaganda seems to confirm, rather than contradict my own statement. The fact that this guy held himself out as an average Joe soldier and that his publisher held out his stories as true, not "almost entirely true", makes him a plant.

You say that democracies need the truth. I agree. But the truth requires the whole truth -- which includes context, and excludes embellishments or outright fabrications. The National Review failed miserably in providing the truth that both of us value so highly.

On your last point, I would say that far more than 10% of postal workers mistreat the public.

10:46 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

Chepe,

"By what default? Are all the bridges in the USA falling down?"

By the same default that applies when NPR, pushing for any given domestic entitlement, focuses microscopically on the most heart-wrenching, needy situation as a means to frame the entire discussion.

"Look at this poor situation. The government simply HAS to do something about this." Segue to the liberal activist/politician espousing their pet entitlement legislation.

As I said, TNR framed this story as a view from a soldier's perspective. That clearly implies this story is something "the soldiers" are seeing in Iraq. In my opinion that is intentionally generalized to fit TNR's political purposes.

The "frame of focus" on the collapsed bridge, on the other hand, is precisely that this is a rare occurance. That is the critical context missing from TNR's story. And that's even if these stories are true, which is becoming more and more doubtful.


"Our obligation is to truth, not to the party line, whatever that party line might be."

Agreed. So let's agree to find the truth about these stories rather than downplay them. As I said in my previous comment, if these stories are true then charges, prosecution, and sentencing should follow. That's hardly espousing a pre-disposed "party line". Wouldn't you agree?


"I am repelled by the "football game" perception of war used by so many Americans."

I don't think it's possible for you to have misunderstood (or misrepersented) me more on this point. Who said anything about a football game? In no way did I explicitly or implicitly indicate that I think we are involved in some sort of game. To the contrary, I think we are involved in a deadly serious struggle.

I agree with you that there may be some "bad guys" on our side. But I still firmly believe that the overall objective of freeing millions of people from oppression in hopes that they can live peaceful, productive lives is and overall and obviously "good" thing.

I think the strategic plan to use this freeing of millions from oppression as a springboard to free millions of others from oppression is an overall and obviously "good" thing.

I think the hope that this freedom movement will bring peace to a region that has seen precious little peace is an overall and obvious "good" thing.

I think that if this radical plan succeeds and in the process oppressive regimes are thrown out of power that is an overall and obvious "good" thing.

On the other hand, I think intentionally murdering innocent people to terrorize them into submission is an overall and obviously "bad" thing.

I think the general goal of forcing anyone - let alone everyone - to either submit to your religious doctrine or die is overall and obviously a "bad" thing.

Yes, Chepe, I still believe in "good" and "bad". And I don't think it's a game.

I think some things are so obviously "bad" that sometimes those who desire "good" must rise up and defeat the "bad". I think this is one of those times.

Maybe you think that's overly simplistic. Maybe it's not nuanced enough. But I'd rather be a non-nuanced simpleton than to be blinded to the very real dangers in this world by moral and cultural relativism.

Let me ask you a few simple questions.

Do you believe in "good" and "bad"?

If so, do you believe the U.S. is, generally speaking, a force for "good" in the world?

Do you believe Islamic Fascism exists?

If so, do you believe it is "bad"?

If you believe Islamic Fascism exists and is "bad", do you believe it is "bad" enough that it needs to be stopped?

This is not a game.

11:09 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

Apparently the mililtary has concluded its investigation into these stories. Their conclusion is that these stories have been:

"refuted by members of his platoon and proven to be false"

Proven is a strong word!

How long before the left accuses the military of a cover up?

11:13 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

I didn't include this in my earlier post because it wasn't addressed to me. However, I am a bit perplexed by this statement from Chepe Noyon:

"The military has an agenda to make itself look good."

On what, exactly, is this statement based?

Is it based on the information coming from official military channels being proven wrong? Is it based on other sources of information having been proven to be more fair and balanced? Is it based on some documented policy that the military is to market itself in a positive light?

Or, is it based on a pre-conceived political point of view? If it is based on a pre-conceived political point of view, that flies in the face of this comment by Chepe:

"Our obligation is to truth, not to the party line, whatever that party line might be."

11:29 AM  
Blogger Chepe Noyon said...

Coyote, there was only one deviation from the truth: the location of the incident in which they made fun of the disfigured woman. This error does not undermine the entire tale, nor does it make the man a liar.

I think you go too far when you try to completely discredit the entire story as propaganda. Can you name ANY infallible source of information on the events in Iraq? Everybody makes mistakes, everybody has an axe to grind. The reasonable course of action is not to reject everything the man says, but to take it as one small perspective on a huge event. Then add more perspectives -- lots more perspectives. I for one would like to hear more from everyday Iraqis caught up in the war. They seem greatly underrepresented in the stream of information we get from Iraq, especially after the loss of Riverbend.

11:29 AM  
Blogger Chepe Noyon said...

Curses! I meant to strip out that last sentence of my post because it is rude. I must have pushed the wrong button. My apologies, Greg, for the cheap shot.

1:20 PM  
Blogger Chepe Noyon said...

Double curses!! Apparently my comment previous to my 1:20 comment got lost in the ether, so I'll have to reproduce it from memory.

In order to confine my comments to a reasonable length, I'll forgo commenting on many interesting points with which I disagree and focus on answering just one of Greg's questions.

Do you believe in "good" and "bad"?
I follow the advice of Jesus Christ on this: 'Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's." Good and bad are moral judgements that are part of God's sphere, not Caesar's. It's not my place to make such judgements. It *IS* my place to protect myself and others from harm, and so it is appropriate to take actions that prevent such harm. Thus, I support military action that reduces overall human suffering. I don't need to hate those whose efforts I seek to foil, or think of them as bad. "Hate the sin, not the sinner."

There's another consideration here: does the proposed military action actually promise to reduce net human suffering? This requires not just moral fiber, but education, intelligence, and wisdom. The best intentions in the world can still lead to evil results if they are ill-considered. And that, I think, is the situation in Iraq. The history of that region and the sociology of its people clearly show that a military effort to impose democracy upon Iraq is doomed to failure. The best we can hope for is the establishment of a new dictatorial regime that is less anti-American than Mr. Hussein's was. However, even this is beginning to appear beyond the realm of possibility. Unless we are prepared to expend stupendous resources far exceeding anything we have dreamt of, the outcome in Iraq will be a new dictatorship with strong anti-American sentiment. Even with the surge, even with hundreds of billions of dollars of additional expenditures, even with thousands more deaths, that's what will happen.

Given that, what is the "good" thing to do? How do we minimize human suffering? I think the best way to do so is to pull all troops out as soon as possible.

5:12 PM  
Blogger Carol Platt Liebau said...

Coyote here.

No need to curse, Chepe Noyon.

I rejected your post because of that last sentence, irrespective of whether it was "almost entirely true."

Keep on blogging, brother.

5:32 PM  
Blogger Marshall Art said...

"Given that, what is the "good" thing to do? How do we minimize human suffering? I think the best way to do so is to pull all troops out as soon as possible."

You're of course free to believe that, but our experience in Viet Nam, as well as the opinions of military leaders in the field and some Iraqis themselves dispute the notion. I agree that the extent of human suffering is a major consideration, but it's possible to reduce it overall by inflicting it in the short term. It's a sorry way to do business, but in a war, it can't always be helped. There was plenty human suffering before we went there, what is there now is the fault of the scumbags we fight, and what will indeed occur upon our departure is sure to be a horror.

But your answer to the question is a dodge. Of course we can determine good or bad, or right or wrong. We have our own standards as well as that which God has imparted through Scripture. To say that it is not for us to make such determinations is abdication.

Just my two cents.

6:02 PM  
Blogger The Flomblog said...

Ok, here's a practice that has become common to the left. You state an untruth as the truth, then keep on talking, basing your argument on that premise. The falsehood becomes accepted. SOm of the foundation arguments are questionable, to say the least:

1. Men in combat don't fight for any cause. They fight for their buddies.

2. Most just try to get along as best they can.

5. Most soldiers viewing such behavior don't want to make trouble; they just let it pass. If the behavior is particularly egregious, or the bystander particularly saintly, he objects.

6. The moral standards of soldiers compared to civilians are substantially more permissive.

By sandwiching two rather vague statements that could be interpreted as true between four flagrantly obscene statements an inconsistent air of false validity is unleashed

This a a very complex issue. WHile this might have been closer to the truth 35 years ago, when we had a draft, one must be aware of one point. the military of my day is in no way today's military. These kids are better than we were. I say that with pride.

They are better trained, better equipped and most of all Better Motivated than us old grunts ever were

I base that on the Vets who I see in my classes. These are great young people. I thank G-d we have them.

7:15 PM  
Blogger Chepe Noyon said...

Marshall Art questions my refusal to judge others. I am following the admonitions of Jesus Christ on this point: "Judge not, that ye be not judged" and "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." BTW, I'm an atheist, but I recognize the wisdom of Christ's teachings. Would that more self-declared Christians do so.

Yes, war is a sorry business, but the point here is not to merely shrug our shoulders and say, "Oh, well, too bad -- that's war!" My point is that we must intelligently evaluate the situation in order to make a decision.

Consider the history of Mesopotamia. In 5,000 years of history in that land, there has not ONCE been a shred of democracy. These people have known 5,000 years of despotism and we expect to just waltz in and they'll convert overnight into proper democrats? Be reasonable! If you want an example of how difficult it is, look at the two best examples, right next door.

Turkey was a despotism until Ataturk. He despotically imposed democracy on the Turkish people, and by brute force dragged them into the 20th century. The Turkish democracy has only now begun to behave like a real democracy -- 80 years after Ataturk began to force democracy down their throats. And Ataturk was their George Washington! It took 80 years to implement the teachings of the man they all revered.

Meanwhile, next door in Iran, the leadership began the attempt to modernize the country at roughly the same time as Ataturk, but the fellow then did not command the respect that Ataturk enjoyed. They stumbled along for a while; they finally got a semi-democratic government in place -- only to have it overthrown by the CIA and replaced by a despotism (the Shah) -- which in turn was overthrown by a new despotism under Mr. Khomeni.

The Iranians failed to pull it off despite decades of effort. The Turks managed to pull it off after 80 years. And we're going to do it in just 10 years!?!? C'mon!

8:52 PM  
Blogger Chepe Noyon said...

The Flomberg challenges my assertions about the behavior of men in combat. It's true that I failed to cite any references, so I can understand his disbelief. Nonetheless, the claims I made are all conclusions based on combat experience. I'll make up for my failure here with a few quotes:

"In the last analysis, the soldier fought for them and them alone, because they were his friends and because he defined himself in the light of their respect and needs."

John Ellis, The Sharp End of War, pg 315.

Here's a quote from John Keegan's classic "The Face of Battle", describing an incident in World War I:

"Just as we got into their line, an officer came out of a dugout... he held his glasses out to S____ and said, "Here you are Sergeant, I surrender. S____ said, "Thank you sir"... and shot the officer straight through the head. What the hell ought I to do?" The narrator was advised by a fellow officer not to do anything.

I strongly urge you to read some of the digests of first-person experience in various wars. The best of these is the above-quoted book by Keegan. "The Sharp End of War" is also quite good. "Experience of War", a collection of essays, has some nice pieces. Then there are lots of great individual memoirs from all the wars. My personal favorite is Guy Sajer's "The Forgotten Soldier".

In any case, I suggest we remember that soldiers are human beings, not saints, not heroes, but ordinary human beings caught up in extraordinary situations, and they don't always behave according to our Hollywood notion of war and fair play.

9:17 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Chepe,

I'm finding I disagree with many of your points. But I am thoroughly enjoying the "conversation". Please keep posting. Also, evidently I missed the "cheap shot", but I appreciate the apology. It's easy to get carried away and cross a line. I've done it myself.

It seems you're engaged in several conversations on this thread, so I'll try keep my comments brief and be done.


"Coyote, there was only one deviation from the truth: the location of the incident in which they made fun of the disfigured woman."

That's according to TNR. The official military investigation has apparently proven all the stories to be false.


"It's not my place to make such judgements. It *IS* my place to protect myself and others from harm, and so it is appropriate to take actions that prevent such harm."

Jesus does, however, teach us to exercise good judgement and actually gives us the responsibility to do so. "You know a tree by the fruit it bears..." and all that. But I actually take hope in your response to my question. First, you do believe in good and bad. That's a refreshing departure from so much of the moral relativism I hear. Second, you believe in a responsibility to protect yourself and others from harm. That is very encouraging! We can debate methods and decision-making principles. But at least we both believe in good/bad and the need for security.

8:15 AM  
Blogger Chepe Noyon said...

The official military investigation has apparently proven all the stories to be false.

Proof would require positive information to the contrary. Since they're trying to prove a negative -- that these incidents didn't happen -- it's almost impossible for the military to prove the statements false.

I would accept as proof a recantation by the witnesses. Did the military obtain such a recantation? If not, I don't think you can say that proof has been attained.

But at least we both believe in good/bad and the need for security.

Yes, we both believe in the need for security, but there remain a few differences on our notions of good and bad. I tend to think in terms of harm or injury as bad. You seem to prefer to assign evil to the perpetrator rather than the action. We need not argue this difference, as I don't think it's necessary to our discussion. Let's just be aware of that difference.

11:02 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

It is being reported that on the first day of the military investigation the author of these stories voluntarily recanted his stories. He signed a sworn statement that all three stories were fabrications.

If true, this does not bode well for TNR.

It is being reported further that his platoon and company were interviewed and no one could substantiate the claims in the stories.

8:26 AM  
Blogger Chepe Noyon said...

Well, if the author has recanted, then TNR should publish that fact and be done with it. Do we have any substantiation on the recantation?

11:34 AM  
Blogger Chepe Noyon said...

Some additional information appears in a Washington Post article published today.

It appears that the entire situation is a complete muddle. The Army claims to have investigated it and decided that it can't find any corroboration for the stories. Of course, inasmuch as they are mildly punishing the author for his statements, there's a pretty good motivation for soldiers NOT to corroborate his stories.

The New Republic also claims that it HAS corroborated the author's stories.

And the claim that the author retracted his statements? That's from an anonymous source, and the Army refuses to confirm or deny it.

I think this whole mess is best summed up by the concluding paragraph of the Washington Post story:

Mark Feldstein, a journalism professor at George Washington University, called the Army's refusal to release its report "suspect," adding: "There is a cloud over the New Republic, but there's one hanging over the Army, as well. Each investigated this and cleared themselves, but they both have vested interests."

9:55 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

It's been reported that the author volunteered to recant and signed a sworn statement that the stories were false. I haven't seen or heard of anyone seeing the actual signed statement.

Also, a military source has said the platoon and company were interviewed and no one corroborated the assertions in the stories.

Yet, even after this has come out, TNR refuses to admit any error. Go figure.

So, without seeing the statement, and without hearing directly from the author, we are at a place where we must choose to believe one side or the other. Either the military is covering up serious crimes, or TNR is stonewalling.

I'm inclined to believe the military in this case. And I expect there will be more verifiable proof in the near future.

6:07 AM  
Blogger Chepe Noyon said...

So, without seeing the statement, and without hearing directly from the author, we are at a place where we must choose to believe one side or the other.

No, given contradictory evidence, our most logical conclusion is that no conclusion can be drawn. The choice to believe one side or the other is a political choice, not a logical choice.

9:30 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

"No, given contradictory evidence, our most logical conclusion is that no conclusion can be drawn."

Good point regarding not being able to come to a conclusion. I'll concede that from my vantage point it is too soon to conclusively say one way or another.

However, I don't think you can say we are faced with contradictory evidence. So far we only have contradictory assertions.

Given the TNR's history, an assertion from them doesn't carry the same weight as would an assertion from The New Yorker magazine. On the other hand the Army's assertion seems much more in line with the vast majority of reporting done by a large number of reporters imbedded with the military all over Iraq for the duration of this conflict who nearly unanimously report on the honor, dignity, and professionalism of our troops.

Perhaps it's too soon to decisively conclude this matter. But certainly history and common sense yield considerably more weight to the Army's assertion in this case. Perhaps we'll see some actual evidence soon.

11:05 AM  

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