May 16, 2005

The Indepedent's Incredible Self-Fisking Mr. Buncombe

The UK-based Independent (Robert Fisk's employer) is running an Andrew Buncombe story reporting an "AWOL crisis" as a result of the War on Terror, with this lede:

As the death toll of troops mounts in Iraq and Afghanistan, America's military recruiting figures have plummeted to an all-time low. Thousands of US servicemen and women are now refusing to serve their country.
The problem is, the Independent don't have any figures to support that contention, and the one set of hard numbers the author provides at the end of the article suggests just the opposite; a significant reduction in desertions since 9/11.

Welcome to the self-Fisking of Andrew Buncombe.

Instead of interviewing credible expert witnesses, the Independent reporter stoops to using unsupported these third-party anecdotes:

Staff who run a volunteer hotline to help desperate soldiers and recruits
who want to get out, say the number of calls has increased by 50 per cent since
9/11. Last year alone, the GI Rights Hotline took more than 30,000 calls. At
present, the hotline gets 3,000 calls a month and the volunteers say that by the
time a soldier or recruit dials the help-line they have almost always made up
their mind to get out by one means or another.

"People are calling us because there is a real problem," said Robert
Dove, a Quaker who works in the Boston office of the American Friends Service
Committee, one of several volunteer groups that have operated the hotline since
1995. "We do not profess to be lawyers or therapists but we do provide both
types of support."

In other words, the author is relying upon uncorroborated information from biased sources that readily admit to providing services for which they are not qualified (other than Congress).

In addition to collecting hearsay evidence from these amateur therapists, the Independent author also interviewed three soldiers who went AWOL:

  • Jeremiah Adler: who admitted to lying about being homosexual to get out of boot camp;
  • Jeremy Hinzman: a Fort Brag paratrooper who's application for amnesty was rejected by Canada;
  • Kevin Benderman: a Bradley IFV mechanic that claims to have seen acts that would constitute war crimes... if they turn out to be real.

These three soldiers were the only ones interviewed, but what about the growing thousands of other soldiers that are deserting according to the Independent? They don't exist. The preceding 20 paragraphs of Buncombe's thesis were completely undone by his final three lines.

It turns out that the number of soldiers deserting is on a significant decline:

The Pentagon says it does not keep records of how many try to desert each year. A spokeswoman, Lieutenant Colonel Ellen Krenke, said the running rally[sic] had declined since 9/11 from 8,396 to the present total of 5,133.[emphasis added --ed.] She added: "The vast majority of those who desert do so because they have committed some criminal act, not for political or conscientious objector purposes."

I think I'm going to become of conscientious objector myself, at least as it relates to Mr. Buncombe's shoddy and eventually self-defeating brand of journalism.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at May 16, 2005 12:09 AM | TrackBack