The Damage Caused by Lies
If there is to be honest debate about the war, it is not going to come from liars
By Michael Tanji | July 20, 2007
Unless you have been living under a rock for the last several days, you are no doubt aware of the Shock Troops story published at the New Republic as well as the corresponding Fact or Fiction article in the Weekly Standard. Wrapping all of this controversy up is the related blogswarm, which is addressed by more milblogs than can be captured here. I will save you some time though and gist the general consensus about Shock Troops from anyone who has worn the uniform in recent history: its bunk.
(In the interest of full disclosure it is important to note that your author has written for the Weekly Standard, which in the minds of some colors this commentary slightly red. It is left to the readers to determine if this is a political piece or one focused simply on issues related to reason.)
It is no secret that readers of the New Republic are not fans of the war. They are exercising their right to say so, but they do not have the right to perpetrate frauds and disseminate slander in order to bolster their arguments. "All is fair in love and war," but that does not extend to war correspondence, at least not responsible correspondence.
I expect reasonable people to disagree about myriad issues, but in a sort-of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington fashion, I expect them to do so honestly. This is particularly important when it comes to issues related to war, because as opposed to issues like wetlands, the consequences are so lasting and severe.
Those who would claim the article in question is factual will no doubt point to Abu Gharib and Hamdania and justify their beliefs using the broad brush theory, but given the number of soldiers in Iraq and the sheer volume of operations that take place there, these horrific incidents are clearly aberrations. In a zero-defect Army where troops are as likely to be spending time in "sensitivity training" as combat training, that such blatantly offensive and reprehensible behavior would occur repeatedly without adverse action is inconceivable.
This is not to say that the military does not have its share of jerks, tools, and other offensive personalities, but to imagine a unit filled with nothing but such reprobates is to imagine that your average combat arms unit are extras from the movie Platoon. Remember that this is the war where small teams of soldiers can and are identified as murder suspects, and violators of human rights and dignity capture their antics on digital cameras, yet we are to believe that an entire squad or more of men spend their days violating the UCMJ with impunity. At best, it strains credulity.
While it is probably a safe bet that the editors of the New Republic are not well versed in all things military, one would think that the former home of fabulist Stephen Glass would pay particular attention to checking facts, but there are ample reasons to doubt that this was done. The only reasonable explanation then is that the New Republic is unconcerned with facts when it comes to the war. If true, and absent a retraction or rock-solid proof of these activities, they cannot be trusted to engage in honest war-related discourse: there is no hope in arguing with a liar.
The most amazing thing about this situation is that knowing they were at a disadvantage when it came to military issues and facts on the ground, and knowing the power of bloggers - particularly milbloggers - they ran such a suspect story anyway. Did they think such an item would go unnoticed? Do they have some secret cache of corroborating evidence they are going to trot out in order to shut up and embarrass all the nay-sayers? If so, why not run a rock solid piece to begin with?
Iraq is not a garden party. Iraqis are dying daily and the surge, which just started in earnest a few weeks ago, is not guaranteed to bring about the conditions necessary for a political solution to Iraq's problems. There is plenty of bad news to go around without having to make up stories about war crimes. Such efforts only feed the propaganda machines of our enemies and fuel the distrust if not outright hatred of those who are dying for Iraq: soldiers. Soldiers who now also have to suffer the slander of those who lack the intestinal fortitude to state their case publicly.