Ace deconstructs The New Republic‘s most recent attempt to explain away Scott Thomas’ rather strange, and almost impossible to corroborate, claims about his macabre and novelistic experiences in Iraq. The more one learns, the more it seems that Thomas wanted to write a semi-biographical version of the great anti-War novel, and therefore went to Iraq bound and determined to test his preconceived plot scenarios. In this way, he reminds me of Kerry, who pretty much did the same thing with his prosy little Vietnam diary (where he served, you know).
Anyway, there was one thing Ace wrote about that struck me as very peculiar. First, I give you Ace’s bit, including quotations from TNR, all of which is followed by my comment. This particular quotation has to do with the claim that the soldiers dug up a mass grave and one soldier spent the day wandering around wearing a child’s skull on his head (emphasis below mine):
Their next case of “confirmation” is curious. First I’ll give you their “confirmation.” Read carefully.
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.
Funny, I thought it had be reported far and wide, citing military sources, that a children’s cemetery had been dug up.
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.)
Er, no it’s not. This deception disguises a key dispute between WS and TNR: WS confirmed “children’s cemetery.” Scott Beauchamp claimed mass grave — not in those words, but in words strongly suggesting a mass grave.
TNR claims vindication in that bones were found — that was known from day one or, I guess, day two, when army sources confirmed (and did not seek to “refute” Beauchamp’s story by claiming no bones had been “officially discovered”) a children’s cemetery had been routinely dug up to be relocated due to an engineering project. They prove here what is not disputed. Except that Beauchamp didn’t just call it “bones,” did he?
Here’s what he claimed:
No one cared to speculate what, exactly, had happened here, but it was clearly a Saddam-era dumping ground of some sort.
From the get-go, this has been challenged because the wording is clearly intended to suggest “mass grave,” and mass graves usually are dug after mass-executions. But no mass grave was found, and TNR’s “confirmation” does not claim it was. Now they only claim “bones” were found — which does then little good, as the Army has long confirmed “bones” were found. What they disputed was a “mass grave,” or as Beauchamp calls it, “clearly a Saddam-era dumping ground of some sort” where “no one cared to speculate what, exactly, had happened.”
There is no “confirmation” for anything other than children being buried in a graveyard where little “speculation” as to “what, exactly, had happened” was necessary, no more than one needs to speculate “what, exactly, had happened” in your local graveyard. What, exactly, had happened? People had died and then had been buried, as is usually the case with dead people.
The next claim of “confirmation.” Note how little is confirmed.
More important, two witnesses have corroborated Beauchamp’s account. One wrote in an e-mail: “I can wholeheartedly verify the finding of the bones; U.S. troops (in my unit) discovered human remains in the manner described in ‘Shock Troopers.’ [sic] … [We] did not report it; there was no need to. The bodies weren’t freshly killed and thus the crime hadn’t been committed while we were in control of the sector of operations.” On the phone, this soldier later told us that he had witnessed another soldier wearing the skull fragment just as Beauchamp recounted: “It fit like a yarmulke,” he said. A forensic anthropologist confirmed to us that it is possible for tufts of hair to be attached to a long-buried fragment of a human skull, as described in the piece.
Am I being paranoid here, or is there may than a whiff of anti-Semitism in the unknown corroborator’s claim that the bone fragment fit like a “yarmulke”? Maybe centuries of blood libel accusations have made me sensitive to negative connotations when people make accusations that link dead children and Jews.
Or maybe there’s something very peculiar about this description, one that’s simultaneously weird and esoteric. I doubt that most American soldiers are going around comparing bone fragments to yarmulkes. It’s also hard to imagine the practical reality of this claim, given that the curvature of a child’s skull is so much smaller than that of an adult’s. Smells bad to me, not to mention unnatural and as artificial as the rest of Thomas’ literary version of war.
Hat tip: LGF
UPDATE: Michelle Malkin has put together an excellent collection of quotations and links regarding TNR’s latest attempt to explain away its decision to publish, apparently unread, Thomas’ novelistic confabulations.