MRC/NB's Bozell on Hannity & Colmes About Magazine's Derogatory Soldier Tales
Bozell pointed out how the New Republic only says “they know who he is with near certainty,” which is like saying you're “almost pregnant.” Noting that the magazine's editors now promise to look into the accuracy of the stories, Bozell wondered: “Ought not they not to have done that before?” Bozell recited a list of previous media distortions about Iraq, from CBS's National Guard story to exaggerating Haditha, and agreed with Sean Hannity that the magazine has an agenda. Bozell contended the magazine is motivated by wanting to make a statement that “America is wrong in Iraq,” an assertion rejected by Alan Colmes.
Video clip (5:03): Real (3.8 MB) or Windows Media (3.2 MB), plus MP3 audio (1.8 MB)
Below are excerpts from two articles/postings about the New Republic's claims.
The Washington Post on Saturday ran a nice summary by Howard Kurtz. An excerpt:
The column in the New Republic, described as being penned by a U.S. soldier in Iraq, is filled with tales of petty, stomach-churning behavior.
The "Baghdad Diarist," writing under the pseudonym Scott Thomas, says he was "shocked by my own cruelty" as he recounts soldiers getting their kicks by running over dogs with Bradley Fighting Vehicles and playing with Iraqi children's skulls taken from a mass grave.
But now the liberal magazine, responding to questions raised online by the Weekly Standard and other conservative Web sites, is looking into whether the soldier's account in this and two earlier columns can be substantiated.
"The Standard raises some important questions about the piece, and we're investigating them," New Republic Editor Franklin Foer said yesterday. "I've been in touch with several members of the author's unit who corroborate the details under question. And the author has provided compelling responses himself."
Standard Editor Bill Kristol remains unconvinced. "Right now, it looks as if the New Republic has been the victim -- and the perpetrator -- of a fraud," he said. "Many vets and experts have raised questions devastating to 'Thomas' s' credibility. Not a single individual has come forward to confirm any aspect of 'Scott Thomas's' account. And who is 'Scott Thomas' anyway?"
Foer said he and another editor have met "Thomas," whose identity the magazine is protecting to shield him against retaliation from his superiors. He said the soldier's three columns were fact-checked, to the extent possible, before publication, and that he is now trying to resolve the critics' objections "to my complete satisfaction."
The issue of veracity is especially sensitive for the New Republic, which fired associate editor Stephen Glass in 1998 for fabrications that editors concluded had appeared in two-thirds of his 41 articles.
Foer called the soldier "an amazing resource -- a guy who's on the front lines, who has a gift for observation and can write."
Standard writer Michael Goldfarb this week called on the blogosphere to investigate, and many have tapped into experts who challenge key details of the columns. At National Review Online, columnist John Podhoretz questioned whether the writer is "the Stephen Glass of Baghdad." Blogger Michelle Malkin said the diarist's account was "punctuated with red flags and adorned with incredible embellishment."
Some of the anecdotes in the soldier's July 13 "Baghdad Diarist" column read like perfect little melodramas, although other members of his unit have told New Republic editors that they either witnessed or were told about the episodes. The magazine's editors recognize that his friends might be covering for him, according to someone with knowledge of the inquiry. Before publication, this person said, editors contacted people who have served in Iraq to ask whether the incidents sounded plausible.
The diarist described how soldiers in a mess hall had openly mocked a woman -- he wasn't sure whether she was a soldier or contractor -- whose face was severely scarred from an injury presumably suffered in Iraq: "The disfigured woman slammed her cup down and ran out of the chow hall, her half-finished tray of food nearly falling to the ground."...
After inquiries by the Standard, Foer identified the mess hall as being at Forward Operating Base Falcon. Michael Yon, a respected military blogger who spent time with the unit this year, wrote: "That story about American soldiers at FOB Falcon sounds like complete garbage." Other bloggers said military personnel always wear uniforms and could not possibly be confused with contractors.
The diarist wrote of a private who enjoyed using his Bradley vehicle to crash through concrete barriers, corners of buildings "and his favorite target: dogs." He would "suddenly swerve and catch a tail or a leg in the vehicle's tracks. He kept a tally of his kills in a little green notebook."
One commenter at the Ace of Spades blog wrote: "I have been awarded the Army Tracked Driver's Badge for driving a Bradley...There is no way this story is true. A Bradley cannot routinely bust through concrete...It is loud and cannot pivot as quickly and easily as a M113 or M2a1 because of the steering system."
In describing a mass grave -- now said by the New Republic to be near the Baghdad airport -- "Thomas" wrote: "One private, infamous as a jokester and troublemaker, found the top part of a human skull, which was almost perfectly preserved. It even had chunks of hair...He squealed as he placed it on his head like a crown. It was a perfect fit."
In an earlier column, the diarist reported seeing a 9mm shell casing with a "square back." American Spectator staffer John Tabin wrote: "I've Googled in vain for evidence of [a] 9mm cartridge that features a 'square back.'"...
The Weekly Standard's "Worldwide Standard" blog has the best day-by-day updates on developments.
An excerpt from Tuesday's posting by Michael Goldfarb:
....Meanwhile, it's been a week since we first contacted the New Republic with our questions about this piece, and, to date, the magazine has failed to produce a single piece of evidence that corroborates "Thomas"'s account. In that time, not a single person has stepped forward to say that they remember a woman, described by "Thomas" as horribly disfigured by an IED, at FOB Falcon. In fact, many have written in to say that they remember no such woman at the base in the past two years -- and one would think that such a woman would be seared into the memory, as it were.
Further, not a single person has come forward to corroborate the existence of a mass grave as described by "Thomas," containing the remains of murdered children. One person reported the possible existence of an unmarked children's cemetery in the area described by "Thomas", but he also reported that the remains were properly handled and reinterred at another site -- that the events described by "Thomas" could not have transpired as reported.
And finally, numerous experts and soldiers have written in to question "Thomas"'s account of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle careening around the streets of Baghdad in an attempt to kill as many stray dogs as possible. These experts tell us that the account could not have happened as "Thomas" describes owing to the mechanics of the vehicle and the position of the driver. Do soldiers kill dogs? On occasion, yes. Do they kill them in this fashion, not according to anyone who has come forward in the past week.
Doubts have also been raised about previous stories written by "Thomas" for the New Republic, most notably the claim that his men stopped their Humvee in knee-deep sewage to change a tire. According to experts and soldiers who have written in to us, the Humvee is equipped with run-flat tires that would make such an operation completely unnecessary.
The bottom line is that many legitimate questions have been raised and the New Republic must now provide evidence to support "Thomas"'s charges. We await the results of their investigation.