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Friday, August 10, 2007

TNR's Complete Intellectual Dishonesty

The New Republic has issued a statement and in it they once again show amazing intellectual dishonesty:

For several weeks now, questions have been raised about Scott Beauchamp's Baghdad Diarist "Shock Troops." While many of these questions have been formulated by people with ideological agendas, we recognize that there are legitimate concerns about journalistic accuracy. We at The New Republic take these concerns extremely seriously. This is why we have sought to re-report the story, in the process speaking with five soldiers in Beauchamp's company who substantiate the events described in Beauchamp's essay.

Indeed, we continue to investigate the anecdotes recounted in the Baghdad Diarist. Unfortunately, our efforts have been severely hampered by the U.S. Army. Although the Army says it has investigated Beauchamp's article and has found it to be false, it has refused our--and others'--requests to share any information or evidence from its investigation. What's more, the Army has rejected our requests to speak to Beauchamp himself, on the grounds that it wants "to protect his privacy."

First off, the military, once they have conducted a formal investigation, owes the TNR absolutely nothing by way of cooperation, in fact it was the TNR's own lack of verification that led to the Military having to be distracted and conduct an investigation to begin with.

Let us first deal with what they call "investigating". Thanks to Confederate Yankee we have a very good example of their "fact checking" process as we showed in a recent post, at the bottom as an update.

Once again, no sources were named. That TNR would not reveal who these sources are who was a decision many interpreted as an attempt by TNR to keep others from interviewing these same experts. In the paragraph above, TNR mentions that they spoke to a spokesman of the company of manufacturers the Bradley.

Guess what? I did, too.

Doug Coffey is the Head of Communications, Land & Armaments, for BAE Systems, the Bradley IFV's manufacturer that TNR wouldn't name.

He was indeed contacted by a TNR staffer, but that the questions asked by the researcher were couched in generalities.

Bob, I received your earlier email and wanted to talk to some others about the specific questions you asked. To answer your last question first, yes, I did talk to a young researcher with TNR who only asked general questions about "whether a Bradley could drive through a wall" and "if it was possible for a dog to get caught in the tracks" and general questions about vehicle specifications.

In short, the TNR researcher did not provide the text of "Shock Troops" for Mr. Coffery to review, and only asked the vaguest possible questions. It seems rather obvious that this was not an attempt to actually verify Beauchamp's claims, but was instead designed to help The New Republic manufacturer a whitewash of an investigation.

Feeling that a little context was in order, I provided Mr. Coffey with Beauchamp's text from "Shock Troops" related to his company's Bradley IFV:

I know another private who really only enjoyed driving Bradley Fighting Vehicles because it gave him the opportunity to run things over. He took out curbs, concrete barriers, corners of buildings, stands in the market, and his favorite target: dogs. Occasionally, the brave ones would chase the Bradleys, barking at them like they bark at trash trucks in America—providing him with the perfect opportunity to suddenly swerve and catch a leg or a tail in the vehicle's tracks. He kept a tally of his kills in a little green notebook that sat on the dashboard of the driver's hatch.

One particular day, he killed three dogs. He slowed the Bradley down to lure the first kill in, and, as the diesel engine grew quieter, the dog walked close enough for him to jerk the machine hard to the right and snag its leg under the tracks. The leg caught, and he dragged the dog for a little while, until it disengaged and lay twitching in the road. A roar of laughter broke out over the radio. Another notch for the book. The second kill was a straight shot: A dog that was lying in the street and bathing in the sun didn't have enough time to get up and run away from the speeding Bradley. 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. I didn't see the third kill, but I heard about it over the radio. Everyone was laughing, nearly rolling with laughter. I approached the private after the mission and asked him about it.
"So, you killed a few dogs today," I said skeptically.

"Hell yeah, I did. It's like hunting in Iraq!" he said, shaking with laughter.

"Did you run over dogs before the war, back in Indiana?" I asked him.

"No," he replied, and looked at me curiously. Almost as if the question itself was in poor taste.

Along with the context the TNR researcher didn't provide, I'd asked a set of questions, including these:

Would a Bradley driver who "took out curbs, concrete barriers, corners of buildings, stands in the market," run a significant risk of damaging the vehicle's track systems? Would such actions also possibly damage the vehicle's armor? Could it have an adverse affect on other crucial vehicle components? Please elaborate as much as possible. I'd also like to ask you about the claims made by the author as he describes the process of killing three dogs using the tracks of the Bradley IFV. I recognize this is more speculative in nature, but would ask that you comment about the possibility that a Bradley's driver could "jerk the machine hard to the right and snag its leg under the tracks. The leg caught, and he dragged the dog for a little while, until it disengaged and lay twitching in the road."

I don't pretend to be the most mechanically-minded person, but I think that a tracked vehicle such as a Bradley turning "hard to the right" would have a right tread that is either stationary, or nearly so. Is this a correct statement?

If this is a true statement, then it seems the possibility of any animal being run over by a stationary or near stationary track is quite slim. Would you agree with that assessment?

What is the likelihood that a Bradley's track system would "drag a dog for a little while?

Mr. Coffey's response:

I can't pretend to know what may or may not have happened in Iraq but the impression the writer leaves is that a "driver" can go on joy rides with a 35 ton vehicle at will. The vehicle has a crew and a commander of the vehicle who is in charge. In order for the scenario described to have taken place, there would have to have been collaboration by the entire crew.

The driver's vision, even if sitting in an open hatch is severely restricted along the sides. He sits forward on the left side of the vehicle. His vision is significantly impaired along the right side of the vehicle which makes the account to "suddenly swerve to the right" and actually catch an animal suspect. If you were to attempt the same feat in your car, it would be very difficult and you have the benefit of side mirrors.

Anyone familiar with tracked vehicles knows that turning sharply requires the road wheels on the side of the turn to either stop or reverse as the road wheels on the opposite side accelerates. What may not be obvious is that the track once on the ground, doesn't move. The road wheels roll across it but the track itself is stationary until it is pushed forward by the road wheels.

The width of the track makes it highly unlikely that running over a dog would leave two intact parts. One half of the dog would have to be completely crushed.

It also seems suspicious that a driver could go on repeated joy rides or purposefully run into things. Less a risk to the track though that is certainly possible but there is sensitive equipment on the top of the vehicle, antennas, sights, TOW missile launcher, commander and if it was a newer vehicle, the commander's independent viewer, not to mention the main gun. Strange things are known to happen in a combat environment but I can't imagine that the vehicle commander or the unit commander would tolerate repeated misuse of the vehicle, especially any action that could damage its ability to engage.

In other words, BAE System's Head of Communications over the division than manufactures the Bradley IFV was never specifically asked to comment on the claims made in "Shock Troops" by TNR's legion of fact-checkers.

When he saw the claims made in "Shock Troops," he stated, by citing the physical properties of his company's vehicle, that it is highly unlikely, if not impossible, for the Bradley story told in "Shock Troops" to have been correct.

Less interested in the truth than in perpetuating Scott Beauchamp's lies, they deliberately did not check the facts, they simply dealt in generalities, while praying no one else decided to fact check THEIR fact checking process.

So, there goes incident #3, shown here.

Incident #1, was already discounted by TNR themselves because they admitted that it didn't even happen in the country their anonymous writer said it did, in which he was trying to prove the point of what a monster the war had made him, but the incident happened before he ever even got to Iraq.

So, TNR, without having to get any statements from the military already has sufficient proof that their writer is a liar, and yet, according to todays article, they are still standing by the story.

At the beginning, TNR could have very well been portrayed as a victim, but at this point, by standing by a story that has already been proven on many instances to be false, they are now complicit in the lies, perpetuating those lies and now have become liars themselves.

This was handled very badly.

Another portion of their new release states:

At the same time the military has stonewalled our efforts to get to the truth, it has leaked damaging information about Beauchamp to conservative bloggers. Earlier this week, The Weekly Standard's Michael Goldfarb published a report, based on a single anonymous "military source close to the investigation," entitled "Beauchamp Recants," claiming that Beauchamp "signed a sworn statement admitting that all three articles he published in the New Republic were exaggerations and falsehoods--fabrications containing only 'a smidgen of truth,' in the words of our source."

Here's what we know: On July 26, Beauchamp told us that he signed several statements under what he described as pressure from the Army. He told us that these statements did not contradict his articles. Moreover, on the same day he signed these statements for the Army, he gave us a statement standing behind his articles, which we published at Goldfarb has written, "It's pretty clear the New Republic is standing by a story that even the author does not stand by." In fact, it is our understanding that Beauchamp continues to stand by his stories and insists that he has not recanted them. The Army, meanwhile, has refused our requests to see copies of the statements it obtained from Beauchamp--or even to publicly acknowledge that they exist

Since Pew Reseach Center just this morning has shown that an overwhelming amount of Americans trust the military on issues regarding Iraq, far more than they trust the media, I am glad it is the military that has conducted this investigation and it was not left to TNR and their incomplete fact checking processes.

The Pew also stated that many Americans believe that our media reports "inaccurately" as well as tries to "cover up" those inaccuracies when caught and one has to wonder if TNR hasn't helped create that opinion with their latest intellectual dishonesty.

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