July 24, 2007

Two Simple Questions for Franklin Foer

Yesterday, after days of withering criticism by named military officers, well-recognized combat journalists, and anonymous soldiers over the claims made by pseudonym-hidden "Scott Thomas," I suggested that the New Republic boil down their investigation to answering two simple questions:

  • When did the verbal assault take place on the badly-burned woman at FOB Falcon?
  • What was the name and location of the combat outpost where a mass grave was discovered?

This are eminently reasonable questions to ask at this time and I think most would agree that these questions should have been asked by Franklin Foer, editor of the New Republic, well before Thomas' claims were published in the first place.

The New Republic has had six days to investigate Thomas' disputed claims. I think the time has come for Franklin Foer to provide detailed answers.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at July 24, 2007 12:29 AM

I'm sorry, but the Mr Thomas narrative has too many cliche's and stereotypes to be real. Yes, there is always a hint of truth to certain stereotypes, but almost every part of the story is based on stock characters or situations. How many do we see here

Military Stock Characters:
1. The Writer/Poet
2. The Misogynist
3. The Torturer
4. The Joker
5. The incompetant Lieutenant
7. The grizzled senior NCO
8. The Latently Gay Homophobe

Military Stock Situations:
1. The Chow Hall
2. In the barracks
3. On Patrol
4. Working the crap detail (lots of digging)

Other featured fallacies:
1. The 'secret' mercenary army
2. The tens of thousands of maimed/disfigured soldiers

Posted by: BohicaTwentyTwo at July 24, 2007 09:03 AM

I love when bloggers think they matter.

Posted by: jeph at July 24, 2007 09:13 AM


Do not hold your breath on getting a response. If "Scott Thomas" is currently in theater has sphincter has probably tightened up significantly because of his fabulism and TNR will dodge by saying that they cannot respond in order to "protect" sources from exposure.

Posted by: wjo at July 24, 2007 09:37 AM

I'm not sure I understand why you'd want to get stuck on those two questions, especially since it now seems that the "Saddam-era dumping ground" has likely been identified as in fact a children's cemetery, not a mass grave, associated with a particular unit and outpost attached to FOB Falcon. I don't believe that "Scott Thomas" uses the term "mass grave" in his piece (does he?).

The larger question is what if anything Foer could do to persuade anyone (other than perhaps himself) that the articles do not engage in exaggeration and embellishment for the sake of ingratiating the author with his editor and TNR's readers - that is, by satisfying their prejudices. As you yourself have recognized, Foer and his writer will likely never be able to persuade the rest of us that these stories are accurate either in detail or on the whole.

Anyway, it's not the skewed and distorted particulars that matter the most. The scandal has as much to do with the willingness of Foer to publish defamatory material, along with his and his associates' inability to recognize it as such. To Foer et al, the pieces are just atmospheric renderings of this inhumanity of THIS war, the equivalent in "belles lettres" of some of the TV and literary fiction set in Iraq that we've already seen, and that we're likely to see more and more of.

Put more simply, it's just war porn for BDS liberals. It happens to cross several lines of basic decency, but saying so risks getting caught up in the details again. It's what those details add up to - the image of a decadent military in an absurd and de-humanizing environment - that really matters. It's what people like Foer apparently believe about the war. They believe that stuff like this must be happening: THEY believe that WE are supporting a gigantic atrocity that MUST be eating away the souls of our soldiers. The author recognizes this idea over and over again when he seems to take pride in his own de-humanization. The confessional is what's winning over his publisher, and serving his editor's purposes. The particular details aren't important. Even the fact that a soldier would lie in this way serves the theme, if not quite as strongly.

In short, it's not just the military, or even principally the military, that's being defamed: It's the entire war that's being painted as deranged and evil, and the principle culprits are not the soldiers, but implicitly those of us who are could be so barbarically shameless as to support the enterprise.

Posted by: CK MacLeod at July 24, 2007 09:38 AM


Has Foer responded yet?

Frankly if everything was ok I'd imagine he'd respond immediately in order to gloat.

That it's taking this long for a writer who has already provided at least 3 articles makes me think that either Thomas is full of BS, TNR is up to it's butt in issues or both.

Posted by: memomachine at July 24, 2007 01:21 PM

CK, that's a long winded way to say "fake but accurate"

Posted by: Capitalist Infidel at July 24, 2007 06:16 PM

Here's an even easier question for Mr Foer; where did you meet this writer? Was it here in the States? I think if the nebbish Foer had visited Iraq we would know about it by now. Therefore he has met "Scott" out side the AO. Was he in uniform? Did he present any creds? What a putrid fraud and what a sorry state these people must be in to a) insipidly believe such tales that violate not merely the laws of probability but the laws of physics and b) stake their personal identity on such claptrap, since obviously, however crummy they are, they are miles superior to any boneheaded babyraper of a soldier or, needless to say, George Bush. Like Alger Hiss and a thousand other garrish fictions, this will live on in the brainpans of our least worthy citizens 'til doom cracks. If not longer. Regardless of, or perhaps in spite of, their mendacity. I am fuming. Never will I let this bilge be pumped in my presence: not by my sainted mother. Not that she would in a million years.

Posted by: megapotamus at July 24, 2007 06:18 PM
It's the entire war that's...deranged.

Welcome aboard, Mr. MacLeod. We've been expecting you.

Posted by: Doc Washboard at July 24, 2007 10:33 PM

And the person formerly known as Doc Washboard stands revealed as... Maureen Dowd!!!

I thought there was something familiar about the writing style, the casual disregard for the facts, the contempt for country, etc., ad infinitum, ad nauseam, ad infinitum nauseam... and back.

Oh, and jeph, if we don't matter, then shouldn't you prove how much more of a life you have by being too busy to post here?

Posted by: SDN at July 25, 2007 05:13 AM

Quoting CK MacLeod: I don't believe that "Scott Thomas" uses the term "mass grave" in his piece (does he?).

Although the author does not use the term "mass grave," that is clearly the impression that is intended. The exact phrase is "Saddam-era dumping ground"; in context below:

it was clearly a Saddam-era dumping ground of some sort

The modifier "Saddam-era" certainly introduces the image of atrocities, with mass graves being a frequent product. So, I'm not sure what an alternative interpretation of the phrase might be. Old cars? No, the author certainly wishes to convey the image of a mass grave.

Posted by: Bob Arthur at July 25, 2007 09:18 AM

I'm imaging that the insurance policies on civilian contractors is pretty sweet.

If an individual did suffer disfiguring burns, I'm of the belief that they would have received significant compensation, sufficient enough so that returning to Iraq would not be neccessary.

Anybody know the policy for payment by the private contracting firms, for injuries suffered? I'm sure the libs would love to know, so that they could point out that civilian contractors are just fodder for hb and blackwater. Somehow I doubt that it is the case.

Still worth asking HB and Blackwater corporate what the compensation would be for someone who is injured while working for them.

Posted by: paul at July 25, 2007 11:37 AM

Another small detail that troubles me...

If the contractor did suffer burns, they would have been older than a year, as the healing is usually atrociously slow, combining the 'taking' of a skin graft and the protection against infection until it is healed.

The implication that Scott Thomas knew that the individual suffered her injuries from an IED, and was also present when she returned( to the same location where the injuries were received) would suggest a timeline that exceeds even a 15 month rotation.

The ST initials, suggest that the 'writer' chose the pseudonym, as it would be 'TS' in military speak, inspired by 'TS' Eliot's Wasteland.

Posted by: paul at July 25, 2007 11:56 AM


I was obviously kidding around, but I'm happy to give you the opportunity to blow off some steam, if you need one that badly.

Posted by: Doc Washboard at July 25, 2007 03:00 PM