2007-08-27

Neocon thugs for war!

You might wonder whether the title of Scott Horton's piece in Harper's, Those Thuggish Neocons, is a parody. Actually no; neocons who have the insolence to question the veracity of sages like Scott Thomas Beauchamp are, by definition, thugs. And the liberal press has long since passed the outermost orbit of parody, and is hurtling deeper and deeper into the interstellar depths of psychosis.

So, here is Scott Horton at Harper's:
Over the last two weeks there was a flap over a piece published in The New Republic by an American soldier in Iraq named Scott Beauchamp. He described a number of gruesome scenes, some of which did not portray his fellow soldiers in the best of light. The piece drew ferocious blow-back from the Neocon war party, whose hallmark is complete control over the news on the ground and from the front ranks in Iraq. They viewed the report as a violation of their sacred monopoly and were determined to destroy Beauchamp and to lash out at The New Republic.

I have no idea whether Beauchamp’s story was accurate. ...

But that's not going to deter Scott Horton from telling a war story of his own:
But at this point I have seen enough of the Neocon corner’s war fables to immediately discount anything that emerges from it. One example: back last spring, when I was living in Baghdad, on Haifa Street, I sat in the evening reading a report by one of the core Neocon pack. He was reporting from Baghdad, and recounted a day he had spent out on a patrol with U.S. troops on Haifa Street. He described a peaceful, pleasant, upscale community. Children were out playing on the street. Men and women were out going about their daily business. Well, in fact I had been forced to spend the day “in the submarine,” as they say, missing appointments I had in town. Why? This bucolic, marvelous Haifa Street that he described had erupted in gun battles the entire day. In the view of my security guards, with which I readily concurred, it was too unsafe. And yes, I could hear the gunfire and watch some of the exchanges from my position. No American patrol had passed by and there were certainly no children playing in the street. This was the point when I realized that many of these accounts were pure fabrications.

Well, who was this disgraceful excuse for a journalist? A lot of us would like to know, just as we'd have liked to know more about Beauchamp's accomplices in the morally depraved acts he boasted of committing. (You know, the fellows who made fun of that burned woman soldier - or was she a contractor? - in Iraq ... or was it Kuwait? And why have we never heard from the burned woman herself?)

Pro-war or anti-war, liberal or neocon, a journalist who falsely reports on a war does our whole Nation a disservice. As Confederate Yankee says,
We need a thorough investigation, and if the charges are accurate, this liar should be purged from his news organization and the profession altogether.

But first, we need information. ...

Strangely enough, though, Scott Horton seems to be rather quiet when asked for any identifying details that might bring this neocon fabulist to justice. Odd, that.

Bookworm Room observes
a few striking things about Horton’s red hot attack on the conservative media and on the US military. The most obvious thing is how he glosses over the core fact, which is that Beauchamp lied. Beauchamp, perhaps with help from his wife (shades of Wilson/Plame here), got himself a huge forum in a nationally respected magazine to tell lies about the American troops. There was no witch hunt here, which implies that the person being hunted is innocent. Instead, what happened was that the new media instantly exposed a con man, a scam artist, someone who in the old days would probably have been derided and shunned for what he did. ...

And all this righteous rage on Horton's part, BR says,
is manufactured. What he can’t admit apparently, even to himself, is that someone told a lie that he hoped was the truth, and that this lie was then exposed. All he can do, therefore, is create a swirling sea of anger about everything but the initial lie, in the hopes of obscuring the truth at the core of it all — Beauchamp fabricated just about everything.

Go read the full post at the link.

My own thoughts: The liberal press is trashing the military again; the phrase "like it was going out of style" springs to mind. They're going down, and they know it; the Beauchamp affair stings because it's another nail in the coffin of liberal establishment journalism. And also, at some level, I think the press realize that the public does not have an endless appetite (or even tolerance) for military-bashing and America-bashing. The shtick is getting old. So, they are getting their last licks in while they can.

I'll be sure to update if - err, I mean, when - Scott Horton comes through with the name of this journalistic malpractitioner. But for now, I'll let George Roper have the last word:
Horton obviously wants us to believe, though he doesn't say, that both his experience and the "neo-con" report occurred on the same day, on the same street during the same time frame. That may or may not have been the case for I've heard many stories about peaceful scenes that were later pictures of hell. Mr. Horton, does the difference between 8:00:00 AM and 8:46:41 AM on September 11, 2001 on a certain densly populated island in New York ring a bell? If he is accurate, and the two "images" are the same at the same time on the same day in the same place then certainly the author of the "bucolic" scene deserves condemnation of the worst kind. But, notice that Mr. Horton does not name the day of the so called fictious story or the author of the false scene. Why would that be Mr. Horton? If you know of it, and don't reveal it one has to wonder why. Maybe you just didn't think it important? This could be your chance at immortality Mr. Horton... go on, tell us who, when, and what exactly happened and I'll be one of the very first to condem the scoundrel.

Senator Larry Craig (R - Idaho) Busted for Lewd Conduct

MSNBC:
Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho pleaded guilty this month to misdemeanor disorderly conduct after being arrested at the Minneapolis airport.

A Hennepin County court docket showed Craig pleading guilty to the disorderly conduct charge Aug. 8, with the court dismissing a charge of gross misdemeanor interference to privacy.

... Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, which first reported the case, said on its Web site Monday that Craig was arrested June 11 by a plainclothes officer investigating complaints of lewd conduct in a men’s restroom at the airport.


Gay Patriot:
I join Hugh Hewitt in saying that Idaho’s Senior Senator, Larry Craig, should resign.

I first read about this earlier this afternoon (Pacific Time) on Townhall’s blog. When I first saw the headline, I thought it was a reference to old unsubstantiated reports about the Senator seeking sexual liaisons in public restrooms.

Given those reports (which now apparently have more substance than I once believed), this man should have been understood that people were aware of his unsavory behavior. That he continued (despite the reports) suggests a terrible lapse in judgment.


Tammy Bruce:
The hypocritical Republican meltdown continues. This time it's the revelation that Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) was arrested on a lewd conduct charge in an airport bathroom.

Craig is a 62-year-old married man and allegedly, despite efforts to keep the arrest report secret, indicated in code to another man (a policeman--dontcha just hate it when that happens?) in the next stall that he wanted to engage in "lewd conduct." Craig, a senator with a 100% favorable rating from the Christian Coalition, quietly plead guilty. ...


CNN: Craig resigns from Romney campaign post.

Hugh Hewitt: Senator Craig should resign.

2007-08-03

Scott Thomas Beauchamp and Source Biases

Except for linking to Greyhawk's post, I've put off commenting on the business of Scott Thomas Beauchamp's article "Shock Troops" at The New Republic, because I wanted to wait until I had a good clear picture of the incident. Now that TNR has issued its response to the various questions raised about the article, I think it's time to offer a few thoughts of my own.

1. How do you determine a source's biases? That's the topic of a popular post that appeared here at DiL last year. I think the Scott Thomas Beauchamp affair is a good opportunity to review some of the ideas I presented there.

First, there's the business of anonymous (or in the case of "Scott Thomas", pseudonymous) sources. Neo cited a 2003 Poynter report - written by 18 prominent journalists in the wake of the Jayson Blair scandal - offering some suggestions for improving credibility when citing anonymous sources. Here are the Poynter report's recommendations on "attribution and sourcing", in the report's own words:
Our responsibility to the reader is to make clear where we got our information.

We focused on two areas: anonymous sources and attribution in narrative reconstructions.

The use of anonymous sources should be a last resort when the story is of compelling public interest and the information is not available any other way. A supervising editor must know the source’s identity.

We also agreed that:

• Anonymous sources should be encouraged to go on the record.

• We should weigh the source’s reliability and disclose to readers the source’s potential biases.

• The more specific we can be in describing the source in the story, the better.

• Anonymous sources should not be used for personal attacks, accusations of illegal activity, or merely to add color.

• The source must have first-hand knowledge.

• Journalists should not lie in a story to protect a source.

Journalists may not be able to avoid the use of anonymous sources in such places as Washington, D.C., but they should constantly challenge their use. The use of anonymous sources should never be routine.

News wire services should share their standards for the use of anonymous sources and aspire to the ones articulated above.

Narratives are a form of vicarious experience and put readers at the scene. We admire the power of this technique but remain concerned about making clear to the reader where the information comes from. Use deft textual attribution, detailed editor’s notes, or the newspaper equivalent of "footnotes."

The attribution in the narrative should ensure the reader knows the information is verifiable.

Well, I don't think there's really anything for me to add here, do you? In my post on source biases, I went on to suggest some factors to consider; these included:
- the source's ideological orientation
- the source's financial interests
- debts and favors
- role of the publisher or broadcaster
- the source's experiences and perceptions
- psychological factors


I also listed some factors that I think are important in determining the reliability of a piece of information:
- internal consistency
- external consistency
- insider details
- dialog and dissent
- nuance
- the human voice

For full explanations of what I mean by these terms, please go to How can you determine a source's biases? And keep them in mind as you read the rest of this post, and as you continue following the Scott Thomas Beauchamp / TNR affair.

2. Beauchamp wasn't twisted by war - he was twisted to begin with. We've already established that Scott Thomas Beauchamp is an asshole. In fact, he should probably be listed in the Wikipedia article on "asshole" ("this article may require cleanup"), but that's outside the scope of this discussion.

What is important, though, is TNR's admission that the famous (or infamous) story of Beauchamp mocking the burned and disfigured woman - with which Beauchamp begins his article - did not take place in Iraq, but in Kuwait:
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.

So "Beauchamp acknowledged his error," did he? Well that was mighty damn brave of him. "When presented with this important discrepancy, Beauchamp acknowledged his error." Those ten little words just tell such a story, don't they? Oh, but I'm ranting. Let's move on.

The point is, this isn't a minor detail, it's the focal point of the article. Here, I'll let TNR tell it:
Beauchamp's latest, a Diarist headlined "Shock Troops," was about the morally and emotionally distorting effects of war.

And again, that's right out of the magazine's own statement on the controversy. But the incident with the burned woman in the mess hall didn't have anything to do with "the morally and emotionally distorting effects of war", did it? Because no such "effects" could be present in someone who had not, as yet, been exposed to war.

Here's Michael Goldfarb at the Weekly Standard:
So just to be clear, the first line of the original piece stated that Beauchamp "saw her nearly every time I went to dinner in the chow hall at my base in Iraq." That turns out now to be a blatant lie--and one that Beauchamp stuck with after THE WEEKLY STANDARD first asked Foer to reveal the base at which this incident occurred. Further, TNR says in this new statement that "Shock Troops" "was about the morally and emotionally distorting effects of war." But now we find out that Beauchamp hadn't even gotten to Iraq when this incident allegedly took place. He was, in fact, a morally stunted sadist before he ever set foot in Iraq.


None of this would have come to light, of course, without the pressure and scrutiny of the military blogging community. This post at the Standard has a roundup of some of the important ones. Better yet, just go to Michael Goldfarb's main page (or his July 2007 archives) for links to the milbloggers. Kudos to Goldfarb for the hard work he's been putting into this - and of course, kudos to the milblogging community for knowing what questions to ask.

And it was the milbloggers who pinned down STB and TNR on the disfigured woman in the messhall incident. When presented with this important discrepancy, TNR acknowledged its error.

UPDATE: Right now there are a couple of new threads emerging which - if they pan out - look very bad for STB and TNR. But I haven't got anything I consider solid enough to post about yet. I'll write a new post when I've got something.

Military Progress Unwelcome at Yearly Kos

Ezra Klein at The American Prospect blog:
AN ODD CLOSE. As the Military and Progressives panel came to an end, a young man in uniform stood up to argue that the surge was working, and cutting down on Iraqi casualties. The moderator largely freaked out. When other members of the panel tried to answer his question, he demanded they "stand down." He demanded the questioner give his name, the name of his commander, and the name of his unit. And then he closed the panel, no answer offered or allowed, and stalked off the stage,

Wes Clark took the mic and tried to explain what had just occurred: The argument appears to be that you're not allowed to participate in politics while wearing a uniform, or at least that you shouldn't, and that the questioner was engaging in a sort of moral blackmail, not to mention a violation of the rules, by doing so. Knowing fairly little about the army, I can't speak to any of that. But it was an uncomfortable few moments, and seemed fairly contrary to the spirit of the panel to roar down the member of the military who tried to speak with a contrary voice.

In the Comments, a response to JoeCHI produces this memorable quote:
"Since when is it a progressive principle to act as the "thought police"?"

Shut up, troll. you have become tiresome.