Attention, military readers: Is this story true or false?

posted at 9:46 pm on July 18, 2007 by Allahpundit

I’m skeptical, but I’ve been skeptical before and gotten burned. A friend of mine tells me he’s hearing from his military sources that some of the minor details in the piece are questionable, though, which was how the Jesse Macbeth thing first started to unravel. Of course, the skepticism in that case was entirely justified.

What say you? It’s far-fetched, but is it impossible?

Belated exit question! Assuming it’s bogus, precisely how mad will Chuck be?

Update: Blackfive’s readers think it’s BS.

Update (Bryan): I’ve been thinking about this off and on since reading it earlier today. There are problems with all three stories that make them very suspect in my mind. Regarding the human remains story, the “soldier” describes digging through a mass grave and coming upon artifacts in more or less discrete layers; first mundane household objects, then clothes, then bodies and body parts. That makes for good drama but I don’t see any good reason for a mass grave to be so clearly layered like that. We’re not talking about sediments in the Grand Canyon settling over millions of years; we’re talking about objects and people hastily pushed into a hole (probably with a bulldozer) and then buried. Stuff gets jumbled together in a grisly scene like that. Neat stratification just seems unlikely to me, never mind any NCO tolerating some idiot in his unit running around with a skull on his head. And never mind whether a kid’s skull would even fit on a grown man’s head. And do you mean to tell me that some sharp LT over there never found out about this children’s mass grave and made sure to get it out to the press in all these years? And the unit’s intelligence officer would probably be required to investigate what had occurred there, contrary to the “soldier’s” statement that “no one cared to speculate what, exactly, had happened there.”

The story of the woman in the DFAC makes no sense for the simple reason that the soldier claims not to know whether she was civilian or military. A real soldier ought to know at a glance whether she was one or the other if he was as close to her as he claims to have been. He’d know because US uniforms worn on base have to comply with regulations. Uniforms that look out of place either belong to foreign military, in which case their regulations apply making their uniforms obvious, or they belong to civilian contractors, in which case they won’t comply with US regs and also won’t look like, say, the Aussie or UK military. You see someone in your AO once or twice wearing strange or unique clothing, you find out or hear about who they are and what they’re there for. Especially if they’re as obviously unusual as A) a woman who B) survived an IED attack, C) lived to tell the tale, and D) came back wearing unusual clothing. And if this soldier doesn’t know a civilian from a troop when she’s a few feet away from him, how in the world can he tell friend from foe in a firefight? Never mind the fact that, from what I saw during my limited stay in Iraq, no one jokes about, let alone directly mocks, anyone wounded by an IED. Ever. Gallows humor is alive and well among the troops in Iraq as it should be, but mentioning IEDs tended to turn conversations reflective and quiet very quickly.

The dog story makes little sense for several reasons, not least of which is that such careless driving in a Bradley isn’t likely to be tolerated by the unit’s CO for long. That kind of driving can not only lead to IED attacks, but even to simple accidents with parked cars and whatnot that can quickly turn into ambushes. You might get away with driving like that once, but not twice. And fwiw, the only dog I saw in Iraq was a more or less honored guest on FOB Justice. He was a little on the mangy side, but no one minded his presence and certainly no one was allowed to abuse him.

Poke away at my thinking on this, but the bottom line is that the New Republic was damnably irresponsible for publishing that “soldier’s” tales without verifying them and without giving NR’s readers enough of a basis to fact check them for ourselves. You’d think they would have learned after Stephen Glass. Evidently not.

I’m going to call BS on all three stories until the NR outs the author and he proves that they’re true. That’s what it will take. We have no reason at this point to believe that any of the stories are true and several reasons, not least of which is that this whole thing is reminiscent of the ghoulish stories John Kerry’s liars fabricated under the Winter Soldier project, to believe that they are most likely false. NR should not have published them.

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I’m not a military person, but immediate members of my family are and we often joke about how they talk. Military people use a lexicon and oral cadence that is uniquely military. They speak (and write) in abbreviations and generally avoid anything but the most direct description of events. I believe a little amateur rhetorical analysis of The New Republic piece suggests quite strongly that it was likely not written by what I presume is a young, front-line soldier. Consider the following from his piece:

she was intently staring into each forkful of food before it entered her half-melted mouth.

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

One private, infamous as a joker and troublemaker, found the top part of a human skull, which was almost perfectly preserved

He observed that he was grateful his hair had just been cut

Its front half was completely severed from its rear, which was twitching wildly, and its head was still raised and smiling at the sun as if nothing had happened at all.

These are not “dispatches” from a war zone. There is a literary quality there — imagery if you will — (“staring intently” “He observed that” “smiling at the sun”) that suggests this was written by…well, by a writer. You know, like a magazine writer.

The only “military” language he uses are those phrases known to the general public (chow hall, IED, Bradley Fighting Vehicle).

I think this story smells. It smells like a lefty writer intently staring into each key of his computer, as he finishes his bogus story and runs to the printer, his half-finished tray of sushi and green tea nearly falling to the floor. This writer, infamous as a joker and fiction writer, observed that he was grateful to have found a magazine unethical enough to publish his lies (heck, they had done it before; he knew they’d do it again). His hand was twitching wildly as he pulled the pages out of the printer, and he was smiling at the sun.

Rational Thought on July 19, 2007 at 9:06 AM

RightWinged on July 19, 2007 at 8:14 AM

Looks like TNR didn’t quite recover from the Stephen Glass fiasco.

mram on July 19, 2007 at 9:08 AM

“No one was disgusted. Me included.”

But then later you send this to the media?

That makes no sense.

MamaAJ on July 19, 2007 at 9:08 AM

The story about the woman doesn’t make sense for another reason. If this lady had been blown up, been seriously injured, horribly disfigured and was then right back out there doing the job and facing getting blown up again, well…she’s got enormous Malkins.

It doesn’t sound right that she’d be a shrinking violet in the face of rude, juvenile behavior and sexual harassment. A gal like that probably wouldn’t have been waiting for an NCO to intervene. She’d probably have stomped right up and down such dipsh*ts herself, right then and there.

Pablo on July 19, 2007 at 9:27 AM

Total liberal BS!
Why was the burned woman even back on base? Severely burned patients would not be back on duty, as they require extensive reconstructive surgery that may take years. She would also have had some sort of covering or dressing on the burned area. Let’s say it did happen, are we to believe that EVERYONE in the mess hall just watched and did nothing? BS.

Second story, a mass grave of that size would stink, yet they kept digging and one supposedly even wore a even wore a child’s skull on his head. How would a child’s skull fit on a grown man’s head. Wouldn’t the ones who murdered them have looted their stuff, too? More liberal BS

Third story, a dog that gets up and runs away on two legs still smiling at the sun, after having his body severed by a Bradley? Come on!!!!

Sounds like the libs are getting desperate.

bloggless on July 19, 2007 at 9:35 AM

Not only is the story radiating a genre of fiction, but the timing of this story must also be considered. This is a Dan Rather piece of journalism: libs wanting so bad for it to be true that they go forward with it and assume the risk of being exposed.

jediwebdude on July 19, 2007 at 9:39 AM

OOPS! I see the dog did not get up and run away, he merely acted as if nothing happened. Still… BS.

bloggless on July 19, 2007 at 9:39 AM

When I was in jet school at Memphis many years ago some of our instructors were USMC. One of them told us the difference between a fairy tale and a “sea story”; a fairy tale begins “Once upon a time…” and a sea story begins “No sh*t man, this really happened!”

– intentionally screwing with media – is exactly the sort of things most Marines would find deliciously funny.

Yes, and in no small part because our military personnel realize that most of the MSM are eagerly searching for a way to cast our troops as the most brutal people in history.



BS ad infinitum

oldleprechaun on July 19, 2007 at 9:47 AM

csdeven on July 19, 2007 at 8:56 AM

WTF? I’m sorry, but I have a real hard time buying these stories. You make some good points, but you seem to be trying to prop up this crap as plausible…

I think it’s more likely that the following happened: First, convoys hit dogs all that time (sometimes people). I bet one guy hit more than his fair share. Someone started joking about how he must have “meant it”. In 3 generations it morphed into tales of “Joe the Dog Hunter” always prefaced with “No Shit, there I was” or “I knew this guy in my last unit who…”

The people who believe this is because they WANT TO or it fits their agenda. As for me, I realize people DO do crazy and wierd things everywhere and soldiers are no different. If you get me a Soldier who stands up and says “I saw X,Y,and Z in this town/mission on this date done by PV2 Snuffy” then I’ll give it full consideration. Your comment puts you in the camp of the former group.

BadBrad on July 19, 2007 at 9:49 AM

I don’t believe these stories for the same reasons stated in most of the comments below. I couldn’t imagine anyone doing those things and not getting a boot up their ass when I was over there.

This reminds me of the Dan Rather guard documents. A reporter is handed something that reaffirms their political beliefs and runs with it. Now we wait for the New Republic to admit that it’s “fake but accurate.”, right?

krabbas on July 19, 2007 at 10:45 AM

Why was the burned woman even back on base? Severely burned patients would not be back on duty, as they require extensive reconstructive surgery that may take years. She would also have had some sort of covering or dressing on the burned area. Let’s say it did happen, are we to believe that EVERYONE in the mess hall just watched and did nothing? BS.

That’s the thing. That person would’ve been sent immediately to Germany and then probably to BAMC in San Antonio if we’re talking about extensive burns to that degree. It’s not like that could just get treated in the field and a ‘ok, you’re fit to return to duty.’

This whole article is over the top.

krabbas on July 19, 2007 at 10:48 AM

Seems like such an obvious sham that I wonder why it’s even made the blogs. Quit advancing the story.

EduardoOTI on July 19, 2007 at 10:49 AM

I question the timing.

Amazing how this story comes out the day after Harry’s sleepover.

swami on July 19, 2007 at 11:00 AM

It took me 36 years to finally reconcile my anger and disgust at the twisting and falsifying of events when I served in Vietnam. Now I read this and realize it will never go anyway. Take three “episodes” do a Hollywood enhancement ala Michael Moore and print with impunity.
I believe these stories to be false. Sad, when I went into the Corps , I was trained to kill. And I STILL have to apologize for it… Makes me sick to be an American. Sorry for the rant I’ll be better in an hour.

MNDavenotPC on July 19, 2007 at 11:16 AM

IED lady story: The guy would have received a serious and near-instantaneous ass-kicking. Even forgetting for a moment basic decency, there’s a serious “there but for the grace of God go I” philosophy.

That final bit is a very good point. Even ignoring all the rest – and even admitting young men, even soldiers, can be cruel – it’s impossible to believe they’d be mocking WOUNDS, while still in theater, and still facing the possibility of having the very same wounds inflicted on them.

It’s just not possible.

I saw the way Marines reacted to wounded Marines. Every single time, and I mean every time, the reaction was one of three things:

1) A surprisingly emotional response that sometimes included tears and a few “I love you, man” type statements (and at the time, it didn’t seem remotely hokey – and yeah, Marines are human, too);

2) A quiet clenching of the jaw, usually followed by creatively curse-filled oaths to get a little payback for the wounded friend; or

3) An absolute avoidance of the subject.

That last one seemed strangely common to me. Guy’s in the hospital missing a body part, and nobody mentions it; instead they talk about the nurses cup-size or something.

Every reaction fit into one of those. Some had a little of each.

But I can’t even imagine somebody – somebody still in combat – making fun of somebody’s wounds.

Even setting aside all of the rest, all the facts that are wrong (I’m especially bothered that there are no mention of unit designations), this simple truth makes the story ridiculous.

I’d like to have a little chat with the reporter.

Professor Blather on July 19, 2007 at 11:21 AM

MNDavenotPC on July 19, 2007 at 11:16 AM

The same people who believed Kerry decades ago as he talked about the atrocities that never happened, will be the same mindset that gobbles this junk up.

…and they don’t care about the pain it creates in so many great men and women who serve our country.

right2bright on July 19, 2007 at 11:39 AM

right2bright on July 19, 2007 at 11:39 AM

You are sooo right but I guess, just like Laura Ingraham, I have just had it with this garbage..

MNDavenotPC on July 19, 2007 at 11:45 AM

MNDavenotPC on July 19, 2007 at 11:16 AM

It won’t go away until the terrorists bring a nuke across the southern border to Los Angeles and eliminate Hollywood for the next thousand years.

9/11 wasn’t nearly big enough to wash away the moral equivalence and rationalization of our enemy’s motives that the Left has. Indeed, until the two large poles of leftism in this country, Los Angeles and New York, experience some kind of Islamic massacre akin to the invasion of Constantinople in 1453, they never will see the light.

PRCalDude on July 19, 2007 at 12:19 PM

“Professor Blather” has got it exactly right – soldiers simply don’t act that way toward eachother, or even toward civilians. Sure, we can be extremely crude, and many of our conversations would probably cause most civilians to leave in disgust, but none of that involves intentionally harming another person, let alone another service member who’s obviously been through hell and will live with a daily reminder of it for the rest of her life. It just doesn’t happen. I could maybe see some of the more degenerate privates mocking her when she’s not around, but even then they’d have their asses handed to them in short order.

c6gunner on July 19, 2007 at 12:30 PM

The third one I can see happening. I saw some footage a couple years ago of some soldiers using this poor dog for target practice. Seriously, the poor dog just wouldn’t die. They must’ve shot that animal about 5 or 6 times and it was just screaming and howling like crazy (understandably). Finally a soldier walked up and shot it in the head and put it out of its misery. Very disturbing.

Yakko77 on July 18, 2007 at 10:01 PM

I still don’t see it happening with a tracked vehicle.

Shooting them is different, a lot of dogs over there are wild. Many of guys that I know who have been there, have told me that they did shoot a lot of dogs, because they were wild and often were attacked by them and that some were used as warning devices to give heads up during raids.

Tim Burton on July 19, 2007 at 12:33 PM

It won’t go away until the terrorists bring a nuke across the southern border to Los Angeles and eliminate Hollywood for the next thousand years.

PRCalDude on July 19, 2007 at 12:19 PM

Not that this makes it any better, but it won’t take a thousand years to move back in. Most of the fallout will be gone within a year.

Tim Burton on July 19, 2007 at 12:35 PM

9/11 wasn’t nearly big enough to wash away the moral equivalence and rationalization of our enemy’s motives that the Left has. Indeed, until the two large poles of leftism in this country, Los Angeles and New York, experience some kind of Islamic massacre akin to the invasion of Constantinople in 1453, they never will see the light.

PRCalDude on July 19, 2007 at 12:19 PM

Unfortunately were that to happen, I don’t even see a Giovanni Giustianiani in our country to even defend the battlements

MNDavenotPC on July 19, 2007 at 12:44 PM


Just because it is a chow hall scenario doesn’t mean that there isn’t some kind of supervision. If not an officer eating, probably a senior NCO, or a chow hall NCO supervisor.

Any Officer or NCO, or for that matter a disciplined gentleman (which most soldiers are), would have stepped in and dressed this man down. Appologies, eviction from the facility, and maybe disciplinary action would ensue.

The fact that we even have to ask if this kind of nonsense is true, tells us a lot about how far we have fallen into the trap of biased media propaganda against the war.

Lawrence on July 19, 2007 at 12:48 PM

Not that this makes it any better, but it won’t take a thousand years to move back in. Most of the fallout will be gone within a year.

Tim Burton on July 19, 2007 at 12:35 PM

Depends on the type of bomb.

PRCalDude on July 19, 2007 at 12:50 PM

I’d like to believe it wasn’t true

congsan on July 19, 2007 at 12:51 PM

Well, my sister’s best-friend’s cousin used to wait tables at a restaurant that Brad Pitt went to all the time. One day he left her a thousand dollar tip and kissed her on the cheek. She hasn’t washed her face since then!

Just about as believable as the stories in that article. Show me some proof (independent corroboration, dates and locations, pics) and then we’ll talk.

Snidely Whiplash on July 19, 2007 at 12:57 PM

Been a long time since I was in, but I was a 19D Cav Scout with the 3/2 ACR and 2nd AD. I did not spend a lot of time driving a M3 Bradley, mostly spending time as a gunner, but unless things have changed, with the way the drivers seat is placed, it is almost impossible to see much at all on your right side, let alone hitting a target on the right side while driving. Buttoned up, you can pretty much only see what is directly in front of you. Sitting in the upright position, the turret blocks most of your vision on the right.

coyoterex on July 19, 2007 at 12:58 PM

These are not “dispatches” from a war zone. There is a literary quality there — imagery if you will — (”staring intently” “He observed that” “smiling at the sun”) that suggests this was written by…well, by a writer. You know, like a magazine writer.

There are quite a few formally educated GIs in the service at present. However, this story smells for all the reasons mentioned.

baldilocks on July 19, 2007 at 1:51 PM

More: most notably for the fact that no NCO or officer put any of these “GIs” in check.

baldilocks on July 19, 2007 at 1:52 PM

Sounds like BS to me.

I wasn’t in on an Iraqi deployment, but during my 2nd stint in the Oregon Army National Guard I spoke with a lot of Cav Scouts who had been there. Comparing the TNR “stories” to what the Iraq vets told me – and I spent many, many hours listening to them talk of their experiences – it simply doesn’t add up.

For instance, experiences with IEDs were uniformly traumatic. Even two years after he’d been in one such attack, in which he’d lost a man, my platoon sergeant would break down in tears on the rare occasions when he’d recall it.

Nobody – and I mean nobody – ever referred to an IED hit with even a small amount of humor for the event itself, or disdain or revulsion for anyone who had been injured. There’s simply too much sense of, “There but for the grace of God go I” for any such display of cruelty toward others.

As for dogs in Iraq, the vets I spoke with marvelled at how ill-treated those animals were even when they had owners, and at how many strays there were. One staff sergeant spoke of the time when he shot a dog, but only after it made a charge at him. Otherwise, the general concurrence was that it was hard enough winning over the locals to think of us as the “good guys” without randomly and pointlessly destroying their property or kiling their animals.

On another note … I’m frankly stunned that the editors at TNR didn’t notice any massive red flags waving when they saw ths story, replete with unnamed sources, unnamed locations and uncorroborated by anyone – in the era of Jesse MacBeth, “Jamil Hussein,” “flushed korans” and the “Massacre at Haditha” that apparently wasn’t.

That they ran with the story anyway speaks not of journalistic incompetence, but malice aforethought.

Spurius Ligustinus on July 19, 2007 at 2:11 PM

Concerning the grave site “story”. The one thing that no one has mentioned that disproves this tale is smell. No sane person could tolerate decomp smell unless they were routinely exposed to it to the point they have their head ready for it. Decomp smell saturates your clothes, your skin and your sinuses. And that is just from being in the same area, much less having the decomposing tissue touch you. And all that means, you don’t eat for a couple of days, because every time you bring your food (usually meat) up to your mouth, you smell decomp. So, to place a “skull” on your head with “rotting flesh” touching your skin…I don’t think so. Not if you’re sane. And not if you want to be within 15-20 feet of the rest of your platoon. Not if you want to eat those great MREs. So this sounds more like an educated Jihadi Joe writing or someone else is having a good laugh at the Republic’s expence. Of course Michael Moore will probably take it and make a “documentary”.

Catseye on July 19, 2007 at 3:00 PM

This has Painted Bird written all over it. As one of the commenters on the Weekly Standard link says, “To believe this crap, you have to want it to be true.”

JackOfClubs on July 19, 2007 at 3:24 PM

We killed dogs in ’03… but only after they, in packs, started becoming aggressive toward us (nothing like doing your “business” at night sitting on a 1/2 of a 55gal drum with plywood lid out in the open and hearing “grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr” just outside your limit of vision). And then it was done by the Vets and AF security who had shotguns. Just like I remember in Kosovo, when you drive out and/or kill the owners the dogs go wild, get desperate, reproduce and become overly aggressive to survive.

Now the Russians were more cruel. Our translators told stories of how they would tie chem lights to the tails and have night-time target practice. US/UK soldiers were universally disgusted by the thought of this and the lack of discipline displayed by those who would do such a thing. I frankly cannot imagine this being done or allowed and, if done, let go unpunished.

When I hear a name/unit then I’ll give this actual consideration. Until then… just another anti-war smear campaign.

BadBrad on July 19, 2007 at 3:43 PM

Seems like only one person in the comments believes the stories, but wants to excuse them.

Whatever dude. You are the only one that thinks they are real, maybe you are the writer.

WoosterOh on July 19, 2007 at 4:23 PM

BadBrad on July 19, 2007 at 9:49 AM

Yeah, you’re probably right.

csdeven on July 19, 2007 at 5:22 PM

This story was such an absurd caricature that I called BS right away. I’m not in the military anymore, nor was I ever in the army, but come on. This smacks of Jesse MacBeth/John Kerry reporting.

PRCalDude on July 18, 2007 at 10:42 PM

It reads like badly written fiction.
Jim Webb’s prose came to mind instantly.
(Now don’t all think I meant he probably wrote it – NOOOO. Just, same kind of lurid, phony macho … )

Question, would someone that badly injured still be on active duty or normally be sent stateside for reconstructive surgery?

naliaka on July 19, 2007 at 6:49 PM

No commanding officer worth their salt would permit any of his men to engage in behavior that degrades the unit. So, how does a soldier run around for a few days with a “skull cap” and not at a minimum! get dropped, tours, moto, whatever.
The media is pushing the Heart of Darkness theme that they like to present about out of control soldiers off in the jungles of … er … desert of Iraq.
THe sad sad sad thing about Apocalypse Now is that it was based on Conrad’s Heart of Darkness which was to expose the Belgium travesty of colonialism by enslaving the African population – the Belgium government promoting and permitting atrocities on the Africans for rubber and ivory. The American soldier as the Belgium overlord, on order there of the King Leopold and his dream of empire – well, it just doesn’t fit and never did. Americans really don’t DO “empire.” Europeans do, tho.’ ARabs, do too- all those monarchies, kings, princes etc.

naliaka on July 19, 2007 at 6:57 PM

For a military member to mock the injuries of a fellow soldier in the open, in a mess hall, where literally hundreds of other soldiers and Airmen are eating, would result in a swift removal and a public dressing down. The offender could be apprehended under Article 117 (Provoking Speeches and Gestures), UCMJ.

You would have to be a calloused buffoon to pull a stunt like that. Sounds like an engineered string of commentary by either a retired old fool or a Code Pink moonbat. (Remember the Target Stores/Veteran conspiracy? That wasn’t true, either)

I’m an Air Force Tech Sergeant, and a policeman. I highly doubt someone would act in such a capacity. If they did, it wouldn’t be repeated on the internet to brag about later after they had time to marinate on their stupidity.

Black Adam on July 20, 2007 at 3:27 AM

Walking around with a skull covered with decaying flesh? Are you kidding me! The lying writer of that article has obviously never been acquainted with the aroma of decaying flesh. Anyone who could do that would be obviously nuts and wouldn’t be tolerated in his unit. As a former crime scene officer I know I couldn’t be around the odor of decaying flesh for more than a couple of minutes without a putrefaction mask. This is utter libel of our troops by a left-wing, America hating, propagandist for the foot soldiers of tribal barabarism (better known as Islamic jihadists)!

Theseus on July 21, 2007 at 7:33 AM