July 20, 2007

A Matter of Lessening Credibility

I just sent the following to

Dear The New Republic,

I just finished re-reading the claims made in Shock Troops, an article by "Scott Thomas" in The New Republic containing very inflammatory, very hard to believe claims.

TNR states that Thomas is a pseudonym for someone that claims to be a soldier operating in Iraq.

An active duty officer currently serving at Camp Falcon considers the Thomas stories "absolute nonsense." Highly-respected Iraq War combat journalist Michael Yon, who has embedded with the 1-4 Cav stationed at Camp Falcon, emailed me a while ago to state that the story "sounds like complete garbage."

But perhaps more problematic for TNR are the biological, medical, and forensic improbabilities--and what some experts consider absolute mechanical impossibilities--of the stories told by this author. I am forced to conclude that the claims made by "Scott Thomas" are either gross exaggerations or outright lies that TNR editors could have easily verified before publishing this inflammatory article if they were interested in publishing an account that meets assumed journalistic standards of accuracy, fairness, and editorial integrity.

Did New Republic editors ask for credible documentation from "Scott Thomas" to prove his identity as a present duty soldier or as a discharged veteran? If so, did they receive such documentation, and did New Republic editors make an attempt to verify the accuracy of that documentation? Considering not dissimilar and thoroughly debunked claims by fake Ranger and former member of the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) Jesse MacBeth, this would be the only prudent first reaction upon reading such dramatic claims as those made by Thomas, especially considering TNR's own Stephen Glass problem.

Did it ever cross the minds of New Republic editors to determine the approximate date that the burned woman in the dining facility was verbally brutalized by Thomas? Did it ever occur to the New Republic to check with the military to see if such a person existed at that base, at that time, or ever?

Did the New Republic ask for verification of the mass grave discovered at the site of a combat outpost south of Baghdad, to see if the story was even possible? Did it not seem unlikely to NR editors from even the fictional television forensic dramas such as CSI, that Saddam-era mass graves would contain extremely decomposed bodies, not those like the author claimed were still rotting?

Did it ever occur to any New Republic editor to contact someone who is an expert on Bradley IFVs--say, the companies who build them, the soldiers that drive and them, etc--to see if Thomas claims of being able to attack dogs and structures in such a manner are even technically possible? Former Bradley drivers and other tracked vehicle personnel have all stated Thomas' claims verge from improbable to impossible.

But beyond merely fact-checking Thomas' series of suspicious and unlikely claims, where was an opposing viewpoint? Where is even the appearance of journalistic objectivity in this article?

To borrow a phrase from another periodical with apparently similar standards, "enquiring minds want to know."

Update: Does anyone know Richard Peters? Stationed at Camp Falcon from "15 Nov 05 - 18 Nov 06," I'd be willing to bet that if Iraq Veterans Against the War Member Peters has heard or witnessed the stories told by Thomas, then he'd probably be more than willing to share or confirm them.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at July 20, 2007 01:09 AM

From The Editor's Desk Of The New Republic:
Dear Mr. Owens,
Please rest assured that the stories retold by Mr. "Scott Thomas" are 100% true. While we didn't have time to verify every single part of his story, we did speak to several dogs from Iraq who have actually witnessed some of their fellow dogs getting run over by US soldiers in Bradley Fighting Vehicles. If you wish, we can supply you with the names and telephone numbers of these dogs and you can speak to them yourself. We only request that you do not tell anyone the names of these dogs or their telephone numbers either. I sincerely hope that I've put all your doubts to rest. Please keep in mind that we at the 'New Republic' take pride in running a legitimate operation, and we certainly would not have published this story without first confirming it with an eye-witnees dog. We are not the AP!
Sincerely yours,
Doug Bradley
Editor In Chief
The New Republic

Posted by: Doug Bradley at July 20, 2007 04:48 AM

To borrow a phrase from another periodical with apparently similar standards, "enquiring minds want to know."

Ouch, that's gotta smart.

Posted by: brainy435 at July 20, 2007 08:53 AM

We need to figure out which Combat Outpost near FOB Falcon is also a mass grave site. If only for hygiene reasons, as having a bunch of troops living, eating and sleeping with bits rotten flesh laying around can't be very safe.

Posted by: BohicaTwentyTwo at July 20, 2007 09:03 AM


In the flurry of emails which I was copied on, someone, perhaps you, made the point that any one of these stories is highly improbable -- unless TNR WANTED to believe them.

Furthermore, if the author really were an actual soldier/veteran, he/she wouldn't have made such obvious blunders.

"I saw her nearly every time I went to dinner in the chow hall at my base in Iraq. She wore an unrecognizable tan uniform, so I couldn't really tell whether she was a soldier or a civilian contractor."

What utter nonsense. That's a contradiction in terms. The very purpose of uniforms is to IDENTIFY. After the chow hall bombing it is highly unlikely that anyone would be allowed to enter in an "unrecognizable" uniform, nor would a real soldier write such a stupid thing.

Posted by: Bill Smith at July 20, 2007 09:13 AM

Tehran - Mr. Owens;

As you know I am a very, very busy man, but I manage to cover a lot of territory in Iraq. I can assure you that the incidents reported in TNR are, absolutely, categorically, 100% the truth. How, you may ask, do I know this. I was an eyewitness for each of the incidents described. Surely my word is good enough to vouch for the accuracy of the statements.

If you need any more information, please contact me through the Associated Press. They are the only ones who know how to get in touch with me.

Posted by: Jamil Hussein at July 20, 2007 10:46 AM

You know, screw Scott Thomas or whatever his real name is. If there is one fact that I want to verify out of his entire story, it is to find out who this woman is? Odds are, she doesn't exist, but if she does, I am in awe of her courage and fortitude. To suffer such terrible injuries and then to come back, man. We need to find this woman and throw her a parade or something.

Posted by: BohicaTwentyTwo at July 20, 2007 02:26 PM

We all know that liberals have a seething rage of our military. It can't really come as much of a surprise that after 4 years they would be smearing our troops. How long did it take Kerry to smear our soldiers in 1971? Liberals can only fake their "support the troops" for so long.

Posted by: Capitalist Infidel at July 20, 2007 03:59 PM

CY - I just posted this to the new thread -

The authors story about the "skull" is eerily similar to this incident:

Maybe NR has a plagiarizing idiot on board?

Posted by: Enlightened at July 20, 2007 05:43 PM

Well, sadly there is evidence that US soldiers have killed dogs in Iraq by shooting them, or have taunted a crippled dog by throwing rocks at it. Videos are out there. And there were orders to kill stray dogs on US bases - so it is entirely possible that some dog killing is going on. The tank incident is not that far of a stretch, but perhaps the author embellished stories already out there.

Posted by: Enlightened at July 20, 2007 06:23 PM
To borrow a phrase from another periodical with apparently similar standards, "enquiring minds want to know."

Now that's going too far!! The National Enquirer would never run a story this thinly sourced!

Posted by: Random Numbers at July 20, 2007 09:50 PM

I can recall him recounting in the chow hall incident that his freind says "i cant eat like this" and he replies "like what? chow hall food getting you down?" I dont believe that a real solder on base in iraq would even ask a question like that. My brother who was recently stationed there calls it kbr heaven, absolutly the best chow he has had anywhere bar none.

Posted by: kevin at July 21, 2007 02:26 PM

It does make you wonder doesn't it? How much of what the MSM reports have been lies over the years? Before there was the internet there was no real fact checking. I suspect these folks have been lying for a very long time in support of their political agenda.

What's it called? "Troothiness"? "Fake but Accurate"? If it helps the agenda, which is of course why we write what we write, it must be, in some sense "true".

Posted by: Increase Mather at July 21, 2007 04:40 PM
We all know that liberals have a seething rage of our military.

Just at a guess, Capitalist Infidel, I'd say that you aren't a reliable source on anything a liberal actually thinks.

Posted by: Doc Washboard at July 21, 2007 10:38 PM

Aren't these the same people who keep insisting they support the troops? Aren't these the same people who keep insisting Bush is lying about Iraq?

The hypocrisy is how loud they yell at what they perceive as others messing up the facts and then so nonchalantly keep doing this stuff (TIME and NEWSWEEK have as well).

Tanji had a great comment that if TNR can corroborate their story he'd get a subscription. I don't they will though.

Posted by: Mark E. at July 22, 2007 11:24 AM

This is so disgusting! My son is at FOB Falcon right now. He's been there a year and has been extended and will be there at least until the Fall.

He has told me there are NO women at FOB Falcon. It's in a very violent, rough area and it's not the kind of FOB the press and politicians go to when they go over to Iraq. He's told me they only occasionally even see Iraqi women.

He's also mentioned to me that the food in the FOB is not bad (they call it D-FAC, not chow hall). I can't imagine them complaining about the food when they have so many other things to complain about there.

It really angers me when I have a little bit of a clue of what those guys are dealing with - although I'm certain my son doesn't tell me everything.

I do know they have to account for every time they fire their weapons. They don't just go around randomly shooting up dogs or anything else.

They CERTAINLY don't think there's a thing funny about IEDs. That particular group has suffered heavy casualties and I've never heard one hint of humor when they are talking about IEDs. There's nothing funny about them to me - I'm absolutely sure the guys that live there don't think there's anything funny about them.

When I think of what my son and others are sacrificing to be there it just infuriates me for these idiots to slander them. They'd piss themselves spending one night there, much less a year or more.

Posted by: beth at July 22, 2007 05:45 PM