Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Will The Real Baghdad Diarist Please Stand Up

The New Republic has been publishing articles purported to be written by a soldier serving in Iraq under the pen name Scott Thomas. A number of people now argue that the unsavory depictions he's drawn of what goes on in Baghdad are fictional. He describes in one column a soldier who likes to run over stray dogs in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle. He also describes soldiers cruelly mocking a disfigured woman in the dining hall.

The New Republic has had its share of problems with fabulism. So you would have to assume that they've taken some extra care in vetting this Thomas character's writing and background. But maybe not.

None of Thomas's stories sound especially far-fetched to me. When you get right down to it, they're pretty mild. They don't depict major Mai Lai style crimes perpetrated by American soldiers. Generally they are stories of soldiers as monumental jerks who veer in the direction of psychopathology, but haven't quite reached that point just yet. I've known plenty of civilian jerks. And while I don't know a lot of soldiers, I've met a few vets who fall squarely into the category of asshole. At the moment it seems as though some people would argue that no soldiers are assholes to say otherwise would be unsupportive of the troops. Right.

But the real issue at play here is that any argument about veracity of these stories distracts from the larger problem: The War in Iraq is a complete clusterfuck. Let's all keep that in mind as we go forward.

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