Friday, July 27, 2007

Is The New Republic Lying?

I know most of you don't read "The New Republic." I get it for free from work and I enjoy it. They save their back pages for diaries. This time around an annonymous soldier in Iraq wrote the diary and it contains some really disturbing stuff about the behavior of some American soldiers in a war zone. The broad theme is that under the stresses of war some young soldiers have developed a maccabre "sense of humor" that involves wearing found human skulls on their heads and using armored vehicles to run over stray dogs.

The right says the story is phony, another moment where The New Republic has been lied to by a writer.

Two observations: First, Stephen Glass, "The New Republic" writer who made up stories and was featured in the movie "Shattered Glass" has not worked there in over a decade. Also, the magazine learned from that and would never let it happen again. To invoke Glass here is to imply that the magazine should never be trusted again, an assertion that makes no sense in the face of the good reporting its staff has done since.

Second, I know one person who fought in Iraq. He told me, in an admiring way, that his commander strapped the bodies of slain insurgents to his jeep and drove through the streets. So, what I read in "The New Republic" is entirely consistant with what I've heard from a soldier who had been there.

Finally, though the piece documents attrocious behavior, that wasn't the soldier's real point. The point was that war changes people, especially young people. I think it's arrogant for critics on the outside to cry "fake" just because the message disturbs them.

I have no doubt the article was accurate. That doesn't mean that our soldiers have turned feral or that the behavior is commonplace. It's just something that somebody saw and was moved to report.


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