Fact or Fiction?
6:23 PM, Jul 18, 2007 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
UPDATED 12:37 pm
A mission for milbloggers:
The New Republic runs a piece in this week's issue titled "Shock Troops" (sub. req.) and authored by Scott Thomas--described by the magazine as a "pseudonym for a soldier currently serving in Baghdad." "Thomas" is the author of two previous dispatches from Iraq for the New Republic, both of which recount deeply disturbing anecdotes (in one, an Iraqi boy who calls himself James Bond has his tongue cut out for talking to Americans; in the other, dogs feast on a corpse in the street). His latest piece is even more disturbing. It recounts several instances of gross misconduct by the men in his unit, some of which are, to echo the title of his piece, deeply shocking--If they are true--a big if, according to several people with experience in Iraq. One described it to me as sounding like a "pastiche of the 'This is no bullshit . . . stories soldiers like to tell."
The first episode puts "Thomas"'s unit at a "chow hall" at an unnamed base. A woman eating there is wearing "an unrecognizable tan uniform, so I couldn't really tell whether she was a soldier or a civilian contractor." The woman's face is described as having been "more or less melted, along with all the hair on that side of her head," by an IED. She sits down for lunch next to the men. Here's how "Thomas" describes what happens next:
Is it possible that American soldiers would be so sadistic when confronted by a badly burned woman, who may be a fellow soldier? Well, yes: Anything is possible when it comes to human depravity. But consider: these are enlisted men who, by the author's own account, don't know who this woman is or what rank she might hold. (Incidentally, wouldn't soldiers be able to distinguish a soldier from a contractor--especially if she is a regular at the chow hall?) Would they really ridicule her with raised voices in a public place, on "one especially crowded day"?
The next episode is every bit as shocking. Indeed, the behavior it describes is a clear violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The author claims that his unit stumbled across a mass grave filled with the remains of Iraqi children, and, rather than report the find, chose to desecrate the corpses: