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.
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.