Foer’s two public statements on the matter do absolutely nothing to suggest that he’s seriously looking into the matter and that he is treating the criticism that’s been leveled at “Thomas” fairly. He’s playing defense by going on offense, not by basic fact-finding.
Given Foer’s smear as quoted by [Howard] Kurtz, he should not be be trusted when he comes out in a few days or weeks and says “It’s all true. I can’t show you any evidence or introduce you to a single corroborating witness, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.”
And what’s he asking us to do today? Why, he’s asking us to trust his relaying the word of a bunch of anonymous sources. “I can’t show you any evidence or introduce you to a single corroborating witness…”
Oh, he has “corrorborating witnesses,” or so he says. But they’re all anonymous. And they might all be the same person. We have no way of evaluating what the witness or witnesses say, because conveniently for TNR they’re not identified.
Ace has already gone through line by line and fisked TNR’s get-out-of-town statement, so I’ll refer you there. I’ll also refer you to the JunkYardBlog, where Geoff has bundled the TNR up and tossed it down a well.
For my part, I’m going to remind TNR what their man in Baghdad actually wrote about one incident, and then ask a simple question. It’ll be a familiar question by now.
At first, we found only household objects like silverware and cups. Then we dug deeper and found children’s clothes: sandals, sweatpants, sweaters. Like a strange archeological dig of the recent past, the deeper we went, the more personal the objects we discovered. And, eventually, we reached the bones. All children’s bones: tiny cracked tibias and shoulder blades. We found pieces of hands and fingers. We found skull fragments. No one cared to speculate what, exactly, had happened here, but it was clearly a Saddam-era dumping ground of some sort.
One private, infamous as a joker and troublemaker, found the top part of a human skull, which was almost perfectly preserved. It even had chunks of hair, which were stiff and matted down with dirt. He squealed as he placed it on his head like a crown. It was a perfect fit. As he marched around with the skull on his head, people dropped shovels and sandbags, folding in half with laughter. No one thought to tell him to stop. No one was disgusted. Me included.
That’s from Shock Troops. It describes a stratified mass grave. Here’s what TNR is saying now.
In the second anecdote, soldiers in Beauchamp’s unit discovered what they believed were children’s bones. Publicly, the military has sought to refute this claim on the grounds that no such discovery was officially reported. But one military official told TNR that bones were commonly found in the area around Beauchamp’s combat outpost. (This is consistent with the report of a children’s cemetery near Beauchamp’s combat outpost reported on The Weekly Standard website.)
Yes, it’s consistent with the Army finding and moving a children’s cemetery. But it’s not consistent with what Scott Thomas Beauchamp actually wrote. See above, compare and contrast.
Where, TNR, is the stratified mass grave? This is a physical location, if Scott Thomas wrote about it accurately, and can be verified without resorting to anonymous sources. Where. Is. It?
Remember the melted woman? Thomas’ abuse of her was supposed to have been a result of his having been dehumanized by Bush’s war. Today, TNR says Beauchamp got some niggling details wrong.
The recollections of these three soldiers differ from Beauchamp’s on one significant detail (the only fact in the piece that we have determined to be inaccurate): They say the conversation occurred at Camp Buehring, in Kuwait, prior to the unit’s arrival in Iraq. When presented with this important discrepancy, Beauchamp acknowledged his error. We sincerely regret this mistake.
Anonymous sources, who now put the story in an entirely different country, prior to Scott’s entry into Bush’s dehumanizing war. That’s one heck of a mistake.
TNR says today–
All of Beauchamp’s essays were fact-checked before publication. We checked the plausibility of details with experts, contacted a corroborating witness, and pressed the author for further details.
Yet TNR has now moved the melted woman story to pre-deployment, peaceful Kuwait instead of hellish war-torn Baghdad, and still hasn’t offered up a shred of proof that the stratified mass grave exists. As for the dog-and-Bradley story, TNR says this:
TNR contacted the manufacturer of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle System, where a spokesman confirmed that the vehicle is as maneuverable as Beauchamp described. Instructors who train soldiers to drive Bradleys told us the same thing. And a veteran war correspondent described the tendency of stray Iraqi dogs to flock toward noisy military convoys.
None of that answers whether any NCO or officer is going to let his drivers run amok in a war zone playing some macbre game of Pac-Man with a massive military machine that’s moving in a convoy. We’ll have to wait for the outcome of Beauchamp’s AR 15-6 investigation to find out; TNR has moved the ball precisely not at all.
And we’re supposed to believe this?
Short of doing the right thing and coming clean, TNR has done the only thing it can: Bury its bogus stories under layers of additional anonymous reporting to try to misdirect its critics and satisfy its base. The second will probably work; the first has little chance of doing so.
TNR concludes by blaming the Army for its own slapdash, anonymously sourced report:
Although we place great weight on the corroborations we have received, we wished to know more. But, late last week, the Army began its own investigation, short-circuiting our efforts. Beauchamp had his cell-phone and computer taken away and is currently unable to speak to even his family. His fellow soldiers no longer feel comfortable communicating with reporters. If further substantive information comes to light, TNR will, of course, share it with you.
TNR doesn’t need any of Beauchamp’s fellow soldiers, and TNR knows that. It’s all very, very simple: Where is the stratified mass grave?