Even when he's fact-checking someone else (good to know J-Kel at least knows the concept of "fact-checking") he can't help but spin things himself. Case in point, this sunday's column.
He's telling the tale of a piece found in the New Republic called "Shock Troops." In that piece the then-pseudonymous author (turns out his name is Scott Thomas Beauchamp) describes some nasty things he and some others have been doing over there in Iraq.
Here's how Jack Kelly details one incident:
Next he described finding the remains of children in a Saddam-era mass grave uncovered when his unit was constructing a combat outpost: "One private ... found the top part of a human skull ... He marched around with the skull on his head ... No one was disgusted. Me included."And his criticism of it later on in the piece:
No mass graves have been discovered during the time Pvt. Beauchamp has been at FOB Falcon.
Sounds pretty cut and dried for the column doesn't it? Beauchamp is discredited because he claimed to have found a Saddam-era "mass grave" when it was impossible for him to do so. Nice work, Jack. But let's take a look and see what was actually written in "Shock Troops":
About six months into our deployment, we were assigned a new area to patrol, southwest of Baghdad. We spent a few weeks constructing a combat outpost, and, in the process, we did a lot of digging. At first, we found only household objects like silverware and cups. Then we dug deeper and found children's clothes: sandals, sweatpants, sweaters. Like a strange archeological dig of the recent past, the deeper we went, the more personal the objects we discovered. And, eventually, we reached the bones. All children's bones: tiny cracked tibias and shoulder blades. We found pieces of hands and fingers. We found skull fragments. No one cared to speculate what, exactly, had happened here, but it was clearly a Saddam-era dumping ground of some sort.Notice anything missing? Like the phrase "mass grave"? Beauchamp never claimed to have found a "mass grave" only a "Saddam-era dumping ground of some sort." Turns out that this part of the story has actually been corroborated. Here. At the conservative's conservative-leaning Weekly Standard, some criticisms of "Shock Troops" have been printed. The second one states:
There was a children's cemetery unearthed while constructing a Combat Outpost (COP) in the farm land south of Baghdad International Airport. It was not a mass grave. It was not the result of some inhumane genocide. It was an unmarked cometary where the locals had buried children some years back. There are many such unmarked cemeteries in and around Baghdad. The remains unearthed that day were transported to another location and reburied.Now take a look at the New Republic piece. It fits, doesn't it?
So it is Jack Kelly who is wrong here, isn't it. He claimed that Beauchamp said he found a "mass grave" (except he never made that claim). And it turns out that according to a critic of Beauchamp's, they did find a children's cemetery (just like Beauchamp said they did).
Another incident. Here's what Kelly writes:
And his criticism a little while later:
Finally, Pvt. Beauchamp described another friend "who only really enjoyed driving Bradley Fighting Vehicles because it gave him the opportunity to run things over. He took out curbs, concrete barriers, corners of buildings, stands in the market, and his favorite target: dogs."
Pvt. Beauchamp described how his friend killed three dogs in one day: "He slowed the Bradley down to lure the first kill in, and, as the diesel engine grew quieter, the dog walked close enough for him to jerk the machine hard to the right and snag its leg under the tracks."
It is physically impossible for the driver of a Bradley to see a dog to the immediate right of his vehicle.Now what Beauchamp actually wrote:
I know another private who really only enjoyed driving Bradley Fighting Vehicles because it gave him the opportunity to run things over. He took out curbs, concrete barriers, corners of buildings, stands in the market, and his favorite target: dogs. Occasionally, the brave ones would chase the Bradleys, barking at them like they bark at trash trucks in America--providing him with the perfect opportunity to suddenly swerve and catch a leg or a tail in the vehicle's tracks. He kept a tally of his kills in a little green notebook that sat on the dashboard of the driver's hatch. One particular day, he killed three dogs. He slowed the Bradley down to lure the first kill in, and, as the diesel engine grew quieter, the dog walked close enough for him to jerk the machine hard to the right and snag its leg under the tracks. The leg caught, and he dragged the dog for a little while, until it disengaged and lay twitching in the road. A roar of laughter broke out over the radio. Another notch for the book. The second kill was a straight shot: A dog that was lying in the street and bathing in the sun didn't have enough time to get up and run away from the speeding Bradley. Its front half was completely severed from its rear, which was twitching wildly, and its head was still raised and smiling at the sun as if nothing had happened at all.Bauchamp a paragraph later says he didn't see the third kill. On a simply logical basis, not being able to see immediately to the right does not mean that the driver of the Bradley couldn't snag a dog's leg. Just that it would be very difficult. And notice that that's not the only way this person killed dogs. The second kill was a straight one, Beauchamp wrote. The Bradley simply rolled over it. I am guessing the driver could see straight a head.
None of this is to say that everything that Beauchamp wrote is true. All I am saying is that Jack Kelly, former "National Security Correspondent" for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, can't help but manipulate the facts in order to support his politically motivated conclusions. He should be doing better work than this. In the meantime, I'll just go with what Andrew Sullivan wrote about the hysteria on the right side of the blogosphere on this story:
Look: I don't know the roots of everything Scott Thomas Beauchamp has written. If there are aspects to his first-person accounts that do not pan out, we need to know. But so far, there's no evidence of anything wrong. So far, the hysteria says far more about the hysterics than about TNR.And if atrocities in Iraq are what you're looking for, check this article from The Nation. One example:
Maybe Jack Kelly should have written about that instead.
We heard a few reports, in one case corroborated by photographs, that some soldiers had so lost their moral compass that they'd mocked or desecrated Iraqi corpses. One photo, among dozens turned over to The Nation during the investigation, shows an American soldier acting as if he is about to eat the spilled brains of a dead Iraqi man with his brown plastic Army-issue spoon.
"Take a picture of me and this motherfucker," a soldier who had been in Sergeant Mejía's squad said as he put his arm around the corpse. Sergeant Mejía recalls that the shroud covering the body fell away, revealing that the young man was wearing only his pants. There was a bullet hole in his chest.
"Damn, they really fucked you up, didn't they?" the soldier laughed.
The scene, Sergeant Mejía said, was witnessed by the dead man's brothers and cousins.