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War Stories: FOB Falcon Responds (update)
Posted by: McQ on Saturday, July 21, 2007

Michael Goldfarb at the Weekly Standard continues to follow up on The New Republic story "Shock Troops" where certain claims were made which many in the military community (characterized as 'conservative blogger') found dubious at best.

The Public Affairs Officer at FOB Falcon has responded. You can read the whole thing here. One of the more interesting points is the one he makes about the desecration of the mass grave. You remember it supposedly happened during the construction of a Combat Outpost (COP).
I was able to immediately refute the assertion that a mass graveyard of children's skeletons was found; an event such as this would have been reported during the construction of Coalition Outpost Ellis, the only such COP that exists in the area the blogger described (rural, south of BIAP).
What he's telling you is a bunch of unsupervised privates with e-tools wouldn't have been out in the middle of indian country mucking around digging holes. COPs are construction projects and as such, they're put in place by construction teams with soldiers pulling security. Said another way, there'd be lots of people there and it would be swarming with both officers and NCOs.

Additionally, when the only COP which matches the description given in the story was constructed, no mass grave was discovered.

While he can't, as he says, "decisively dispute" the other stories, he says:
The stories of the burned woman and hitting dogs with Bradleys can't be as decisively disputed, however, I have not encountered a woman matching that description at any time on Falcon since arriving here on 17 Feb. You would think that someone with such visible wounds would stand out in memorable fashion. This doesn't mean that she wasn't a visitor at some point, but I find the account of Soldiers mocking her dubious at best.
As for the Bradley and the dogs? COL Boylin, (PAO for General David Petraeus) put this out:
Due to the threat of IEDs, our combat vehicles are driven professionally and in control at all times. To be driving erratically so as to hit dogs or other things would be to put the entire vehicle's crew at risk and would be gross dereliction of duty by the noncommissioned officer or officer in charge of the vehicle. Drivers aren't allowed to simply free-wheel their vehicles however they see fit, and they are *not* allowed to be moved anywhere with out a vehicle commander present to supervise the movement. Therefore- claims of vehicles leaving the roadways to hit animals are highly dubious, given the very real threat of IEDs and normal standards of conduct.
Fairly clear and concise, wouldn't you say? And btw, vehicles don't travel alone, so there would have had to have been witnesses in other vehicles who would also be considered derelict in their duties if they didn't stop such conduct and report it. And for that matter, that would also apply to the other two stories.

Go read the rest.

Previously on QandO here and here.

UPDATE:
Howard Kurtz is on the story as well. And he ends his column with this:
As the criticism mounts, Foer says he sees an ideological agenda.

"A lot of the questions raised by the conservative blogosphere boil down to, would American soldiers be capable of doing things like the things described in the diarist. The practical jokes are exceptionally mild compared to things that have been documented by the U.S. military. Conservative bloggers make a bit of a living denying any bad news that emanates from Iraq."
What a greasy piece of crap this guy Foer is. Mr. Foer, no one is denying "bad news" comes out of Iraq. We covered Abu Ghraib extensively and condemned the military and the chain-of-command roundly for it. What we won't put up with however is a bunch of arrogant and clueless "journalists" using anonymous "authors" to make up crap that is implausible just to play to the prejudices of their equally clueless readers while attacking the professionalism and reputation of our soldiers. If that's a problem for you I suggest you start identifying your authors, sourcing your "facts" and learning at least a little bit about the subject matter, i.e. the military, before you go shooting your dumbass mouth off.

And yeah, I'm ticked.
 
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Let’s assume that “Scott Thomas’s” stories are true. Let’s assume that the US is in a war in Iraq with an enemy (or enemies) that is (are) skilled in using the media to advance its(their) causes. Let’s assume from past experience (say Abu Ghraib or flushing korans down the toilet - whether true or false), we know that negative publicity for our troops (not Bush’s but our troops), whether true or false will be used by our enemies to incite more violence against our troops and likely result in more of our troops being killed or injured.

What is New Republic’s / Foer’s options when it gets Scott Thomas’s stories?

It seems to me New Republic / Foer has several choices.

New Republic / Foer can bury the story or save it for publication after we are done with the war with Islamic jihadists or at least the Iraq phase.

New Republic / Foer can take the story to the military authorities / Congress, etc. and ask that the stories be investigated and any wrongdoers punished accordingly. For the conspiracy theorists out there, New Republic / Foer can threaten that if a proper investigation is not undertaken, New Republic / Foer will publish the stories.

However, neither of those actions will sell New Republic’s / Foer’s magazine nor will they help turn the American public against the war, but they will almost certainly save lives of American soldiers.

New Republic / Foer can run the stories hoping to sell a few more magazines and help turn American public against the war even though our troops will pay for it with their blood.

New Republic / Foer chose to run the stories hoping to sell a few more magazines and help turn American public against the war even though our troops will pay for it with their blood.

One could conclude that New Republic / Foer places more importance on making money for the New Republic magazine and /or they want to they help turn the American public against the war, more that they care about saving the lives of American soldiers.

It is ironic that Foer claims “Conservative bloggers make a bit of a living denying any bad news that emanates from Iraq” when it appears that he makes “a bit of a living” present any bad news that emanates from Iraq, be it true of false.
 
Written By: DCM
URL: http://
The practical jokes are exceptionally mild
Now they’re "practical jokes"

And there’s the final indicator needed to judge what a load of crap this all is- the first signs of a subtle rollback aimed at ret-conning this in the cradle before it gets out of hand

Har-de-har-har
 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
NOTE: Col. Boylan is Col Steve Boylan, PAO for General David Petraeus.
 
Written By: Confederate Yankee
URL: http://confederateyankee.mu.nu
NOTE: Col. Boylan is Col Steve Boylan, PAO for General David Petraeus.
Thanks - edited.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Clearly our combat vehicles are driven professionally and in control at all times.
 
Written By: Retief
URL: http://
"Clearly our combat vehicles are driven professionally and in control at all times."

Ooh! Scandalous!! Convene the War Crimes Tribunal immediately!!
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Clearly our combat vehicles are driven professionally and in control at all times.


I sure didn’t see they zig zagging all over the place trying to kill dogs. And did you happen to notice there was not a soul to be seen in the video?

Should they be racing? IMHO no. But does that video suggest all drivers are crazy and willing to risk their lives and the lives of their crew? Hell no.
 
Written By: meagain
URL: http://
They’re Americans. If you build two of anything that moves, at some point in time they will be raced.

For the longest time NASA wouldn’t allow two astronauts out of the shuttle with EVA packs on because they knew at some point they were going to drag race.
 
Written By: Jay Evans
URL: http://
That’s what fascinates me.

They are IDENTICLE items. Not Honda Civics each driver has modified based on his wishes, ability, and budget. They are the exact same vehical in every way...

And yet you know drivers of them go "Dude, mine’s faster than yours..."
 
Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://
It’s sad how badly lefties like Retief want this stuff to be true. Pure scum.
 
Written By: Jordan
URL: http://
Sad, but hardly surprising...
 
Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://


The difference between this and Abu Ghirab are that Abu Ghirab was investigated.
There’s no investigation being conducted here. By anyone on either side. Just a bunch of speculative baloney.

As Yglesias said:

Obviously, it’s not beyond the realm of the conceivable that The New Republic would be taken in by a fabulist or else that they would just decide to publish slanders against other people, calling them anti-semites or Nazi collaborators or whatnot.

That said, the specific contentions being made against the piece (most of them can be found by scrolling around the Standard’s blog) are pretty unconvincing. You have a bunch of nitpicking about the technical details of some of the hardware described, plus some Army public affairs people denying that anything improper would happen in Iraq, plus a lot of huffing and puffing. On the other side, TNR says their editors have spoken to other soldiers who witnessed the key events, and they corroborate the story.

On some level, this is a simple numbers game. If you had any group of people where 95 percent of them behaved extremely well all the time, you’d call that a very upstanding group of people. But if that was a group of 150,000 people, that would still leave you with 7,500 bad apples. Military officers will tell you that they, like supervisors everywhere, probably spend 95 percent of their time worrying about just 5 percent of their subordinates — the troublemakers. And say they generally do a good job of it, and on any given day 95 percent of the 7,500 bad apples are still perfectly in check. Well, that’s still 375 heavily armed people in a strange country far from home where they don’t speak the language and are regularly subjected to stressful, dangerous conditions.

And this situation persists for seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, for over four years. Under the circumstances, it would be shocking if there weren’t random acts of cruelty happening in Iraq. Understanding this is crucial to understanding military strategy — in particular, a strategy that depends on every single soldiers doing the right thing all the time is very unlikely to succeed; you just can’t make plans grounded on the premise that you have hundreds of thousands of completely perfect people at your disposal.


That’s why there’s a need for ideological supporters to fall back on to suppress information - which is why Abu Ghirab took as long as it did for the story to break - and demonize whistleblowers for telling stories, or the media for reporting them. And it has nothing to do with the military in specific, and everything to do with the desire for message control, shared by every institution big enough to get name recognition.

It never stops. It never will stop. Anyone who isn’t ideologically motivated to destroy and conceal truth ought to be okay with investigations. That’s how complaints and credible allegations are handled.

It’s been documented that non-anonymous sources get punished, especially in this administration, by every means at their disposal. Often, the same people howling to punish them are the ones salivating to dump on a source for its anonymity.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
Yeah, I read what Yglesias said. I found it to be a specious argument that assumes a whole bunch of stuff not in evidence. I guess that’s why I’m not surprised you found it persuasive enough to quote.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
"On the other side, TNR says their editors have spoken to other soldiers who witnessed the key events, and they corroborate the story."

Great! So they wrote a follow-up article documenting all this. How do I access it?
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
I found it to be a specious argument that assumes a whole bunch of stuff not in evidence.

Like what? What, exactly, does it assume? A Fair question?

So far what you have are appeals to character. "This didn’t happen because none of our boys would do something like that." No one out of 160,000 people, huh? That’s quite a claim. Appeals to character are not convincing arguments, especially when spread across institutions at large.

 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
Like what? What, exactly, does it assume? A Fair question?
A. It assumes the makeup of the military as a whole reflects the makeup of society as a whole and thus numbers which are fairly common there apply to the military (even with Yglesias’ attempted tweaks).

B. It assumes the culture of the military to be just like the culture of the civilian world, thus that 5% have the freedom to do what Yglesias claims the ’bad apples’ would do and all the military could do is react when it happened.

C. It assumes that "troublemakers" are a static problem (i.e. the military "puts up with them") and that "troublemakers" are likely to be deployed or complete a tour.

D. It assumes this small group of identified troublemakers would be allowed outside the wire and given unlimited opportunities to do what he claims they’d do.

Not one of those things is a valid assumption. In the volunteer military, they simply don’t put up with troublemakers - they don’t have too. Additionally, they are pretty rigorously screened and commanders will flat use whatever administrative avenues are open to them to remove a troublemaker from the unit and the military (and that happens all along the line - case in point, Jesse MacBeth, who never got out of basic). While they might be willing to see if they can’t turn them around in peacetime, they have absolutely no time for them in combat and get rid of them immediately when identified.

This isn’t your local public school where you’re stuck with the troublemakers and the troublemakers are given unlimited opportunities to disrupt the class. So Yglesias’ numbers are very suspect.

All that to say that doesn’t mean bad things still don’t happen in Iraq, it’s to say Yglesias claims about having a sense of the proportion are nonsense.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
So far what you have are appeals to character. "This didn’t happen because none of our boys would do something like that." No one out of 160,000 people, huh? That’s quite a claim. Appeals to character are not convincing arguments, especially when spread across institutions at large
No, the claim has been that no one in the military could do it and get away with it. Not an appeal to character, just an assessment of how the system works.
 
Written By: Steverino
URL: http://steverino.journalspace.com/
Interesting that Foer has no comment at all about how an M2 simply cannot swerve to take a tail or a leg off a dog (or how he’s stupid enough to believe a dog would lie in the street while a noisy tracked vehicle bore down on it, even if it could swerve like a car to just barely hit a dog).

Glasnost: If the Nation wants an investigation, they’re welcome to name some names and the unit to DoD.

They, not "the other side", are the ones in possession (ostensibly) of such names, and not providing them.

(Also, you see, there’s a difference between an "anonymous source" derelict in his duty to report misconduct to commanding officers and an "anonymous source" spilling confidential beans for political gain.

I can certainly believe the latter are "punished", as they should be. But they’re not the same sets, and nobody thinks of them as the same sets, except, evidently, you - and equally evidently, for political point scoring.)
 
Written By: Sigivald
URL: http://
B. It assumes the culture of the military to be just like the culture of the civilian world, thus that 5% have the freedom to do what Yglesias claims the ’bad apples’ would do and all the military could do is react when it happened.
From whom did we first start hearing about "bad apples" again? Oh yeah, it was from the military and the Bush partisans wrt Abu Ghraib. Claims the military has some bad apples and occasionaly a bad apple problem don’t come from the side you suggest the come from.
 
Written By: Retief
URL: http://

 
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