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October 28, 2007

Comments

Do I really need evidence to show that criticizing the troops is bad for morale?

This is one of the most dishonest shell games out there. Saying that a couple unnamed soldiers in your unit did something naughty is not criticizing "the troops," any more than criticizing General Petraeus - a single indiviudal, last I checked - is equivalent to criticizing "our men and women in uniform."

I don't think our tens of thousands of combat troops in Iraq suddenly find their morale flagging every time someone, somewhere, says something bad about a couple of individual soldiers. It doesn't work that way. Rhetoric of this sort is an attempt to immunize every single person in uniform against any negative statements whatsoever.

But in the real world, if you say "man, this guy I served with in Iraq was a real ass," it doesn't magically undermine the war effort.

"Gary, from my above link"

I cited that here the other day to OCSteve, and asked what he thought, but he'd already quit talking about it.

Gary:

I have to get back to work and can only offer a limited response:

Can we get rid of the condescension? And opinions do matter. You clearly don't value mine. Fine.

"Time of War" certainly has meaning. The cost of the small engagements is nowhere near the cost of full-scale war. My point (before taken off on a tangent) was that the MIC makes plenty of money even when not in full-scale war. Do you dispute that? And how do you think I am fuzzy on dates (now you're going to make me look them up)? And why does it really matter vis a vis my main point?

How about reciting the Gettysburg Address and the Preamble for me so I can see if you are "worthy" to talk to me, Gary? How about sending me your resume? (NOT! I don't care) I'd appreciate it if you'd get off your high horse.

And there is such a thing as inference and circumstantial evidence. It is often as close as we can get to "facts." Beauchamp reupped and is not confirming his story. That's enough for me. Although I acknowledge the possibility he was telling some version of "truth," based on the facts as we know them the reasonable inference is that he was lying.

"Do I really need evidence to show that criticizing the troops is bad for morale?"

Simpler answer: yes.

"And opinions do matter. You clearly don't value mine. Fine."

No, I believe that opinions are meaningless as regards questions of fact. And questions of fact are pretty much all I'm interested in discussing, because of that.

I don't rate your opinion as any more meaningless, absent relation to fact, than anyone else's, including my own.

You seem to have a basic category confusion between opinion and fact, though, if you think opinions carry any weight as evidence towards what is or isn't fact, or that in a discussion of what's fact, weighing in with opinion as a substitute for evidence is relevant.

"The cost of the small engagements is nowhere near the cost of full-scale war."

Ah: your assertion is that we are presently in a "full-scale war," then, is it? Do I have that right?

"Beauchamp reupped and is not confirming his story. That's enough for me."

Thank you for clarifying what you consider sufficient evidence of a fact. It's edifying.

bc: Beauchamp reupped and is not confirming his story. That's enough for me. Although I acknowledge the possibility he was telling some version of "truth," based on the facts as we know them the reasonable inference is that he was lying.

The reasonable inference for me is that because he reupped, he's not about to say anything more to the press. That's only sensible. He doesn't have to "confirm his story" to anyone: as noted above, we have his word for it and the word of five other people in his unit. You think they're all lying, and the best reason you can come up with is "because Beauchamp reupped, all six of them are lying"?

bc:

And there is such a thing as inference and circumstantial evidence. It is often as close as we can get to "facts." Beauchamp reupped and is not confirming his story. That's enough for me. Although I acknowledge the possibility he was telling some version of "truth," based on the facts as we know them the reasonable inference is that he was lying.

Sorry, I don't understand the reasoning here at all. Why would any of that imply that Beauchamp fabricated anything? Maybe he's not confirming because he reupped? Because the initial story caused an enormous shitstorm for himself and his unit, and he doesn't feel like going through it again while he's still in uniform? Could you maybe explain just what it is about this that causes you to infer that he's lying?

Save the poor puppies! Glenn needs them for his blender!

"It seems to me that you're arguing from an arm-chair warrior's perspective, with not a lot of experience in the military. You're not very well informed, you're arguing with people who've been in the field in the military and you're arguing with people who've faced enemy fire.

Why should we take your comments seriously?"

Because I can spot a strawman argument, and you can't (not even as you're making them). I challenge anyone to find anything in what I have posted in this thread that has anything to do with the military (other than the fact that some of the individuals involved are serving). For those of you who are more than semi-literate, it should be clear that I entered this discussion by asserting that Beauchamp had to prove his stories true or he should be assumed a liar. This was immediately followed by the truly idiotic assertions that it was up to everyone else to prove he's lying. The assumption that I view this as some sort of attack on the military, that I am a right-winger, and that I know nothing of the military are all quite false (though unlike some, I won't lie and claim I served when I didn't). The fact remains that none of those false beliefs are germane to the points I raised. In short, you receive a failing grade for your efforts. Next time try to argue on topic. Fake but accurate indeed...

And by the way, guys. How is that effort to disprove Saddam had WMD's going? Remember, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, and also remember we must believe such assertions until disproven (as some have argued on this very thread), rather than expecting those who made the assertion to back it up. Now do you begin to see the foolishness of that logic?

Crimso: it should be clear that I entered this discussion by asserting that Beauchamp had to prove his stories true or he should be assumed a liar.

You will doubtless go on believing anything anyone tells you, as long as it squares with your preconceived notions.

Because I can spot a strawman argument, and you can't (not even as you're making them). I challenge anyone to find anything in what I have posted in this thread that has anything to do with the military (other than the fact that some of the individuals involved are serving). For those of you who are more than semi-literate, it should be clear that I entered this discussion by asserting that Beauchamp had to prove his stories true or he should be assumed a liar. This was immediately followed by the truly idiotic assertions that it was up to everyone else to prove he's lying. The assumption that I view this as some sort of attack on the military, that I am a right-winger, and that I know nothing of the military are all quite false (though unlike some, I won't lie and claim I served when I didn't). The fact remains that none of those false beliefs are germane to the points I raised. In short, you receive a failing grade for your efforts. Next time try to argue on topic. Fake but accurate indeed...

Completely missed the point.

The point is that what Beauchamp talked about is not remarkable in a combat zone. You have, by your discussion, are treating it like it is, and moreover, are treating his behavior like a mortal sin, as opposed to the venality it is.

THAT is the relevent point. THAT is the topic here.

Next time, YOU try to keep on topic.

crimso: "though unlike some, I won't lie and claim I served when I didn't"

By all means, do be specific, and not coy, as to whom you are accusing. That's a very serious charge, and one that shouldn't be made other than seriously and clearly.

"and also remember we must believe such assertions until disproven (as some have argued on this very thread)"

Please link to and quote the comments in which people have done this, so we may all indict the malefactors.

"Completely missed the point.

The point is that what Beauchamp talked about is not remarkable in a combat zone."

Fake but accurate...

And by the way, guys. How is that effort to disprove Saddam had WMD's going? Remember, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, and also remember we must believe such assertions until disproven (as some have argued on this very thread), rather than expecting those who made the assertion to back it up. Now do you begin to see the foolishness of that logic?

Given that presence of WMDs would leave certain trace evidence, which were not found, I don't think the foolishness is where you think it is.

Moreover, in trying to apply that analogy to this situation, I'm less than convinced you understand how evidence fits into hypothesis testing and confirmation.

Crimso: Fake but accurate...

It beats me why wingnuts keep going back to the Kilian memos, but there you go.

Fake but accurate...

And still missing the point, I see.

Blowhards are dime a dozen. Not worth the effort that's being marhsalled here.

(Though what would you say about the other members of his company that confirmed his statements, I don't know)...

By all means, do be specific, and not coy, as to whom you are accusing.

Any of a number of people (both on the left and right, and for various reasons). I did not accuse anyone here of doing so, insofar as I know nothing about any of you, nor is it germane to my original point.

"Please link to and quote the comments in which people have done this, so we may all indict the malefactors."

Scroll up and indict away:


Why? He was there, he was a witness. Why is the burden on him to prove his stories true? Or are we now supposed to take all war stories as false until proven otherwise by right-wing blogs?

Posted by: Doug H. | October 29, 2007 at 12:34 PM

The burden is on him to prove his
assertions.
Says who? And how would he go about doing that?

Posted by: Davebo | October 29, 2007 at 12:38 PM

The point, Crismo, is that you're simply assuming the "fake" part, when that's simply not determinable at this time.

Let' say that I wrote a piece for TNR and mentioned in it that I had seen a particularly beautiful rainbow outside my house on Tuesday. Some unhinged person, after reading this, posted on their blog that this was impossible, that there hadn't been measurable rainfall within a hundred-mile radius of my house on that date, and that furthermore he had done simulations with a garden hose and a spotlight that proved that a rainbow wouldn't have been visible from my house even if it had rained. TNR checks with my neighbors and finds several who also saw a rainbow on that day. Under those circumstances, you believe that it's reasonable to assume that I'm lying unless I can produce a date-stamped picture of the rainbow, maybe with my house number in the corner of the picture?

If you did take a picture, someone in the blogosphere would call upon an expert who would confirm that it was obviously photoshopped. The blogger would then provide a Williams-Sonoma catalog number for your obviously gold-plated house numbers.

"I'm less than convinced you understand how evidence fits into hypothesis testing and confirmation."

Having published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, having peer-reviewed both manuscript submissions to such journals and grant applications, and having had grant applications funded after peer-review, I think you are incorrect. But I guess it would be up to me to prove that to you since I could be lying.

As for the Killian memos, please show me where they have been proven genuine.

Let me write slowly and using small words. No one with any shred of integrity and/or knowledge (I know, those were big words) believes that the burden of proof rests with those who don't believe the published assertions. If I claim to have conducted an experiment which demonstrates that such-and-such is true, then it is up to me to supply such evidence. Period. It is no wonder so many people will believe virtually anything they're told (as long as it is consistent with their beliefs).

I did not accuse anyone here of doing so

you just decided you'd attack a position nobody here was taking.

Crimso: "and also remember we must believe such assertions until disproven (as some have argued on this very thread)"

Me: "Please link to and quote the comments in which people have done this, so we may all indict the malefactors."

Crimso, apparently finding linking too complicated to manage, nonetheless cites Doug H. as saying:

Why? He was there, he was a witness. Why is the burden on him to prove his stories true? Or are we now supposed to take all war stories as false until proven otherwise by right-wing blogs?
I thank Crimso, and note that, agree or disagree with Doug H., his words do not, indeed, constitute asserting that "we must believe such assertions until disproven," as all can see.

Instead, Doug H. asked about the burden of proof, and made no affirmative claims at all.

Either Crimso is unable to understand the distinction, or is presenting as evidence something that clearly does not support the claim; either way, it's useful information.

Crimso repeats the same inability to understand English, or suffers what the problem is again, with the other offered cite:

The burden is on him to prove his
assertions.
Says who? And how would he go about doing that?
Similarly, there is no statement of any kind here as to what anyone "must believe," let alone any generalized ukases that "we must believe such assertions until disproven."

If you have any other cites to offer to support your assertion, Crimso, please put them forward. Otherwise, your claim is clearly not supported, and your assertion would seem to have been false.

Incidentally, while you're lecturing people for being "semi-literate," I'd like to introduce you to my friends, the quotation marks: "".

They're terribly useful in indicating when you are quoting something, may I suggest? Alternatively,

you can blockquote, but perhaps we should take
one step at a time.

"The point, Crismo, is that you're simply assuming the "fake" part, when that's simply not determinable at this time."

It should be assumed fake until demonstrated otherwise. Sort of like innocent until proven guilty but in reverse. I can't publish assertions without backing them up, and neither should Beauchamp. At this point, I really don't care if he's telling the truth or lying. It just really sets me off to see people claim that he doesn't have to prove anything. If you write it, you stand by it. And if you stand by it, you'd better be able to back it up.

Having published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, having peer-reviewed both manuscript submissions to such journals and grant applications, and having had grant applications funded after peer-review

Ordinarily, unless there was some reason to suppose you lying, I would take your word for this series of statements.

However, since you yourself have asserted that unless a statement can be proved true the person asserting it must be assumed to be a liar, I fear I'll have to assume you're a liar.

Unless you're prepared to provide your real name and a list of the peer-reviewed scientific journals in which you claim to have been published, with a list of the peer-reviewed scientific journals, I think we should assume that every comment you make is a lie; that you are an outrageous fantasist: and therefore, that we should ignore everything a liar like you has to say - since that is what your own standards require.

For those of you who are more than semi-literate, it should be clear that I entered this discussion by asserting that Beauchamp had to prove his stories true or he should be assumed a liar.

Look, chanting "liar, liar pants on fire!" without more is not an argument requiring a response.

Unless you're prepared to provide your real name and a list of the peer-reviewed scientific journals in which you claim to have been published, with a list of the grant applications funded after peer-review

Oops. And I did use Preview.

Crimso: "I entered this discussion by asserting that Beauchamp had to prove his stories true or he should be assumed a liar."

Could you please acknowledge TNR's claim to have accounts from five members of Beauchamp's company verifying what he says?

Silly me. You are all correct, and I am all wrong. No need to try anymore. Back to my copy of "The Hitler Diaries" so you can have your adult discussion. You know, this book is full of so many fascinating facts that I never knew...

"If you write it, you stand by it. And if you stand by it, you'd better be able to back it up."

Generally speaking, I agree, and I don't believe this is a terribly controversial sentiment.

But you seem to be extracting and extrapolating and deducing a lot of opinions that either don't exist, or exist in relatively small measure, around here, and then denouncing them vehemently, making it appear that in fact you're angry at a lot of people elsewhere, and you're taking your anger out on people here inappropriately, as stand-ins for your outrage at those people who hold those opinions.

Unfortunately, substituting the voices in your head for the people here, or trying to cram what they say into those boxes in your head, doesn't tend to result in productive conversation.

"Silly me."

Indeed. Content-free creebing persuades no one of anything, other than that you've run out of substantial things to say.

"You are all correct...."

Do you often have the feeling that a bunch of strangers, individuals, of a multitude of views, are all conspiring against you?

Given how much disagreement goes on here without you, a claim that everyone is a clone is quite hilariously nonsensical, and the archives of almost every post proves you wrong.

This is a reversion back to the "you people" brand of lunacy, which is again suggestive of someone arguing with voices in their head.

Crimso,

It should be assumed fake until demonstrated otherwise.

So then, you're in agreement with those questioning the rainbow?

If you're a scientist, you should be aware of the skeptic's maxim: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The corollary, of course, is that less extraordinary claims require less extraodinary evidence, and banal claims little evidence at all. This is where I think the Beauchamp doubters founder. They argue that he is making shocking, almost unbelievable claims, and thus must be required to provide rock-solid evidence of his crazy accusations. But in fact these are not extraordinary assertions at all. They may not be quite banal, but they aren't far off. Soldiers killing dogs and other domestic animals for sport is hardly uncommon in war zones. Soldiers taking pride in a sort of black humor regarding death and human remains is also not uncommon (see the numerous photos on the web of soldiers in Iraq posing with dead bodies). Do you contest this? TNR's investigation found several of Beauchamp's fellow soldiers who backed him up, which seems to be an appropriate level of support for the sort of things Beauchamp wrote about. Where do you disagree?

Gary: "suggestive of someone arguing with voices in their head"

[Insert my standard request that we avoid psychoanalyzing each other.]

"At this point, I really don't care if he's telling the truth or lying. It just really sets me off to see people claim that he doesn't have to prove anything."

I should add, for the sake of clarity, that of course that's not all you've been claiming. You've been insisting that "some have argued on this very thread," that "we must believe such assertions [of Beauchamp's] until disproven," whereas, in fact, no one is saying or has said that Beauchamp has written anything anyone "must believe."

No one has said anything of the kind, so far as I'm aware, and you've failed to identify anyone as saying anything of the kind.

An unkind person might suggest that you were simply making it all up, and that therefore everything you say should be regarded as false until proven otherwise, but I find it entirely plausible that you're simply confused, and over-impassioned with your rhetoric.

However, confusing people saying that they don't have to pass judgment on Beauchamp's veracity until more facts are in with saying that everyone or anyone must believe him is an interesting spectacle, but it's not an argument.

You assert that "[i]t should be assumed fake until demonstrated otherwise," whereas the view that there's no necessity to pass judgment without more information is perfectly legitimate, if less satisfying for the purpose of a good Two-Minute Hate.

And, again, even if it turns out that every single thing Beauchamp ever wrote was made up while he was dozing on his cot, saying that there's plenty of ambiguity remaining, and that there is no reason for those not personally dealing with Beauchamp to pass judgment on him at this time, isn't at all the same as claiming that everyone must believe him.

Perhaps RF's request could be incorporated into the posting rules. We could call it the Krauthammer Clause.

I don't have time to read up on this whole thread since I last commented, but have we now dived so deep into the silly that some are comparing the fact-checking needed before publishing this kid's war stories with the type of sourcing and fact-checking needed and demanded of peer-reviewed scientific articles, and further claiming they should be in any way comparable?

Because if that is the case, my former comrades on the right have reached new depths of dumb.

I don't have time to read up on this whole thread since I last commented, but have we now dived so deep into the silly that some are comparing the fact-checking needed before publishing this kid's war stories with the type of sourcing and fact-checking needed and demanded of peer-reviewed scientific articles, and further claiming they should be in any way comparable?

Because if that is the case, my former comrades on the right have reached new depths of dumb.

I wouldn't say that for the Right, in general.

But for the less rational members, some of whom are quite prominent and well known, that's been the case for quite some time.

Jesurgislac:
"The reasonable inference for me is that because he reupped, he's not about to say anything more to the press. That's only sensible. He doesn't have to "confirm his story" to anyone: as noted above, we have his word for it and the word of five other people in his unit."

We have the word of TNR that they have the word of five other anonymous, yet to be identified people. And we have the word of the military investigators that interviewed his unit including his company. I think I read only 12 weren't available. That would be about 90%? of his company? And none could verify?

Have I missed something about these five in the past week or so?

Good lord, are we still debating whether those memos were fake?

For the billionth time, they were fake. The inter-character spacing displayed in the published memos is exactly the same as Microsoft Word's default font and settings. As the TrueType pseudo-kerning that results in such spacing was not invented until the late 1980s by Microsoft, the memos could not have been produced earlier than that, assuming that no one owns a time machine.

Moving on, I hope ...

Larv's 4:10 is right on.

if Beauchamp had made claims about the presence of WMD, or that he'd capture OBL, or solved Sam Loyd's 14-15 puzzle, we'd expect detailed, vigorous, verifiable proof. but that's not the kind of story he wrote. he wrote something that most people didn't even bother telling anyone else about - nobody would've known about Beauchamp at all if CY didn't make such a big deal out of it. and now that people do know, the typical (ie. non-wingnut) reaction isn't "OMG! Send investigators!" it's more like "err... so what? that's the kind of stuff bored soldiers have always done. old news." true or not, who cares ? nothing changes either way.

the only really interesting bit of this whole thing is the right's frantic exasperated overreaction. a boycott ? that's awesome. too bad they couldn't be bothered investigating all the questionable things in Bush's foreign policy.

Subsequent comments were fair enough. I sometimes get angry, and have been here. I may have made a mountain out of a molehill, but I see it as a symptom of a much larger problem in our society. One of the worst things you can do in my profession is lie, and so I tend to view it passionately even when it happens outside of science. Holding TNR to the same standard as a scientific paper is harsh, but I felt that some were suggesting that there should be no standard at all (note the word "suggesting"). If I was offensive, I do apologize. Perhaps I will come back again some time and butt heads over something else.

My work here is done.

Gary - Good, because Bill is waiting for you on the Obama thread.

Crimso: "Perhaps I will come back again some time and butt heads over something else."

Please do. Note that you entered a conversation here where people have been discussing similar issues for several years or more and it's not always obvious what methods and data commenters are basing their claims on - what they're dismissing out of hand because of long-settled arguments, what possible sins they dismiss as venal at worst because it is established that those protesting are ignoring mortal sins. We strive to be reality-based, but don't always clearly go over old trodden-to-death ground.

Also, we hate America.

double plus: Good lord, are we still debating whether those memos were fake?

Yes, because people are still repeating as if factual the nonsensical claims that Microsoft "invented" the Times New Roman font and kerning that had been available since the 1930s, and was certainly available on commercial typewriters in the 1960s for the Kilian memos. This wingnut assertion was debunked thoroughly over three years ago. So yes, d-p-u-g - it appears we do have to "keep arguing it": we can't move on from it so long as people are still clinging to the idea that they can prove a fake by pointing out that they themselves can mimic a 1970s typewriter in Microsoft Word. Duh. Of course you can. That doesn't prove that anyone did.

America bad.

Group hug, fellow America haters.

Regarding the TANG documents, wasn't one of the points that a document referred to some general who had actually retired a year previously? It wasn't entirely about the kerning, as I recall.

Yes, because people are still repeating as if factual the nonsensical claims that Microsoft "invented" the Times New Roman font and kerning that had been available since the 1930s, and was certainly available on commercial typewriters in the 1960s for the Kilian memos.

This indicates a lack of understanding of fonts. Times Roman is a style, not a hard specification, Jes. Times Roman on an Apple is not identical to Times Roman on Windows, much less on a Times Roman font on a forty year old typewriter. And even if the faces were completely identical (which they aren't), the spacing between the individual characters is propitiatory technology. Patented, even. A typewriter, a typesetter, or a different computer could not produce that document without using Microsoft's TrueType fonts. I encourage you to try.

Regarding that "debunking" by Hunter on Kos -- Hunter spent an evening reading up on typewriters on the web. Personally, I have decades of print and typography experience, yet I would only consider myself a neophyte in the technology. Hunter was saying that his own evening's worth of web browsing outweighed industry experts. It was an embarrassment. I usually expect self-appointed instant experts to be coming from the other side of the ideological fence.

Me: ...the spacing between the individual characters is propitiatory technology.

...or possibly proprietary. Oops.

propitiatory ...

i done learned a new word.

"Regarding that 'debunking' by Hunter on Kos -- Hunter spent an evening reading up on typewriters on the web. Personally, I have decades of print and typography experience, yet I would only consider myself a neophyte in the technology. Hunter was saying that his own evening's worth of web browsing outweighed industry experts. It was an embarrassment."

I agree. And I say this not to get at Jes, who is as right about facts somewhat more often as she is wrong. But in this case it's a matter of having prior knowlege sufficient to give one context enough to judge what's relevant to debunking and what is not.

I further say this as someone who was mildly prominent in the original discussion.

I first debunked the initial claims that the documents were forgeries here, in what may be the most linked and viewed post I've ever written, which was linked to by Atrios, and people all over; until sometime in the last year, a link to that post was my only link from Wikipedia, from their article on the controversy, but it vanished for some reason at some point in mid-2007.

I followed that post with this one, in which I still defended the possibility that the documents weren't forged, until the evidence convinced me that they were. So many people wrote up the final details at the time that I didn't bother, so I'll leave that to d-p-u (note his presence then).

But I didn't come to the forgery conclusion eagerly, to say the least.

Hopefully Crimso will turn his/her eagle eye for lies to this administration. He/she will have plenty to write about, and most posters here will be cheering him/her on.

But I didn't come to the forgery conclusion eagerly, to say the least.

Me either. But to to those with some understanding of the technology, it was like seeing a da Vinci painting done in acrylic. And frustrating to try and explain that acrylic was something fairly new only to have people say that acrylic was just a type of paint, and that paint had been around for centuries, and wasn't acrylic just based on earlier oil paints anyway? Arrgh.

gary--
a fine point of english (of the sort you like):

do you think it is correct to say in your 8:27 that you "debunked" the initial claims that the documents were forgeries, when in the end it turned out that they were?

i guess my ear tells me that "debunk" is like "refute": you only refute p if you demonstrate that p is false *and p is false*; and you only "debunk" a claim if you show that it is false *and it is false*. to put it differently, i treat "debunk" as a success-word; you can certainly *try* to debunk something that later turns out true, but the fact that it later turned out true means that you never actually debunked it.

any other ears out there with intuitions the same or different?

"do you think it is correct to say in your 8:27 that you 'debunked' the initial claims that the documents were forgeries, when in the end it turned out that they were?"

Yes, because I specifically said that I debunked the initial claims. Those claims were, in fact, wrong, erroneous, based on false assumptions and misunderstandings. See the post for details.

Later claims turned out, in my judgment, to be correct.

Perfectly fair question, though.

Fun fact!:

[...] WORD HISTORY One can readily see that debunk is constructed from the prefix de–, meaning “to remove,” and the word bunk. But what is the origin of the word bunk, denoting the nonsense that is to be removed? Bunk came from a place where much bunk has originated, the United States Congress. During the 16th Congress (1819–1821) Felix Walker, a representative from western North Carolina whose district included Buncombe County, carried on with a dull speech in the face of protests by his colleagues. Walker later explained he had felt obligated “to make a speech for Buncombe.” Such a masterful symbol for empty talk could not be ignored by the speakers of the language, and Buncombe, spelled Bunkum in its first recorded appearance in 1828 and later shortened to bunk, became synonymous with claptrap. The response to all this bunk seems to have been delayed, for debunk is not recorded until 1923.

I henceforth will use the term "debunkum".

Steve: Regarding the TANG documents, wasn't one of the points that a document referred to some general who had actually retired a year previously? It wasn't entirely about the kerning, as I recall.

Actually, that sounds like one of the glaring problems with the Niger yellowcake memos, only it was a minister of some sort and not a general. Could this be what you're remembering?

D-p-u-g: So again (as now) the only "evidence" that the Kilian memos were forged that anyone seems to have come up with is that they're sure you can't type a document that looks like the Kilian memos.

And as that's an absurd claim to make (yes, you can) - well, yes, we will still have this discussion, I don't doubt, unless someone can actually link to me to some positive evidence that they were forged that is not dependent on the claim that you're sure they don't look like they were typed.

"And as that's an absurd claim to make (yes, you can)"

I assume you can point to such an example?

A few points, in no particular order:

1. If the issue were so trivial and unimportant, why 258-plus comments?

2. When someone labels something a diary, you would expect to read a personal and truthful account of a fella's experiences, especially in a magazine that exclusively publishes non-fiction. The "truthful" part of his diary looks highly suspect, and the military's conclusions bear that out. TNR had should have called it Baghdad Story, or not done it at all.

3. If nobody likes TNR here, why are so many folks defending them by attacking the likes of Bob Owens? TNR was in favor of removing Saddam, true, but Franklin Foer has a different view on the Iraq venture than his predecessors, and he's more in line with the dKos Left.

4. A single Hummer isn't a small convoy of BFVs. Running down dogs in those circumstances just one part of his "diary" that hit folks' plausibility meter.

5. The claimed desecration of the Iraqi gravesite was enough for the military to start an investigation. Anti-American elements could have used such an act for propaganda purposes to incite "insurgents" to attack our troops. Al Qaeda does have media cells, after all. That's a major reason why this issue has importance. I would be pretty offended if a soldier from a foreign country plundered my local cemetery and wore my dead neighbor's partial skull on his head for whatever sick reason. Such an act may offend me enough to want to detonate some IEDs on those foreign troops. If this really happened, then that's a pretty despicable thing those troops did, and there could still be some negative ramifications. If Beauchamp lied about it, then he needlessly put his fellow soldiers' lives in peril by putting out such crap.

Wow. d-p-u posts a comment which clearly explains that the problem with the Kilian documents lies not in the use of Times New Roman, but in the space between individual characters, a feature which is proprietary to each maker of the font and which happens, in this case, to be identical to that used by Microsoft and not identical to that use by IBM in its late-60s/early-70s typewriters. To which Jes replies, in essence, "Uh-uh."

He offers decades of experience in typesetting and typography, and she offers . . . nothing.

And I am supposed to believe who, exactly?

"f the issue were so trivial and unimportant, why 258-plus comments?"

Because the far right thinks it is monumentally important. Nobody (apparently including the Iraqis or any antiwar blog I ever read) paid the slightest bit of attention to Beauchamp's stories until the right made a huge issue out of them, because as horrible war stories go, these were awfully tame. The majority of Iraqis support attacks on US forces--it's doubtful that this is because of Beauchamp.

Now if the Abu Ghraib photos were fake, that would be a huge story.

CB, I think no. 1 is pretty easy. This is a minor incident: (a) pseudonymous nobody writes questionable (and not explosive) story in non-influential magazine. (b) RW comes unglued, works overtime to destroy the story and the guy. As part of building a narrative that the war effort is being materially undermined by a fifth column. YMMV, but the second is more newsworthy to me than the first, because how the RW acts in a country I share with them matters more than whether these trivial incidents happened as written.

Lest there be any mistake, I join Brett and others in rejecting (calmly and quietly, as befitting my level of interest in this small story) that which is fake. I cannot join the RW, however, in rejecting that which is accurate. And it says a lot about the howling denizens of the RW that they'd spend so much effort to harm this guy over this kind of trivia, none of it good.

Charles, re your #5, that is the case whether what Beauchamp wrote is true or not, so I don't see its relevance here. What's more, I doubt very many Iraqis read TNR. And they have plenty of other reasons to want to attack our soldiers anyway.

4. One discussion point about the running down of dogs was whether leadership at any level would ever tolerate such a thing. I think I remember OCS commenting to this effect. G'Kar writes of surprise to find that his (and OCS') understanding of this was mistaken. It doesn't prove anything other than what we all already knew: all generalizations are false (including this one).

I've got no issue with (2), except the implication at the end that at the time it published the story, TNR knew that is wasn't a 'dairy' as CB describes one. Occam on this favors fact-checking to the extent of verifying that the author really is a soldier serving in Iraq, and then taking at face value stuff he says he saw.

If the issue were so trivial and unimportant, why 258-plus comments?

how many of those are addressing Beauchamp's story directly, v. how many are talking about the meta-story ?

Charles: The "truthful" part of his diary looks highly suspect

So did Abdallah Higazy.

The notion that anyone would take the right-wing blogosphere's word for what "looks highly suspect" at this point is... well, consider that I think double-plus-ungood is more likely to post me a link convincing me that the Kilian memos are forged*, than any blogger who swallowed unquestioning the propaganda of the Bush administration is going to be able to convince me that they're skeptical, questioning, suspicious kind of guys with a keen sense for truth.

*And you know, if he can, he can: I don't rule that out.

Because the far right thinks it is monumentally important.

Donald, the far right on this thread numbers about two people. On a good day.

I doubt very many Iraqis read TNR.

I doubt many Egyptians read Danish newspapers, Phil, but the cartoons of the Prophet sparked a delayed-reaction international firestorm. At Michael Yon's site, readers from 100 countries have clicked on his site over a 24-hour period, many of which are Muslim-majority countries. TNR probably does not have that breadth of readership, but at the same time they're not all coastal, latte-drinking, Prius-driving left-wingers. For that reason, I'm glad that Beauchamp's account of the gravesite desecration crime was challenged, investigated, and found to be full of sh*t.

It's true there aren't many far righties on this blog, CB, but there were some vocal ones in this thread, and a lot of vocal lefties responding to them, though more on the meta-issue than the issue (which most of us think unimportant.)

So again (as now) the only "evidence" that the Kilian memos were forged that anyone seems to have come up with is that they're sure you can't type a document that looks like the Kilian memos.

I'll try to explain this in layman terms, although I'm beginning to think it pointless.

Microsoft TrueType fonts contain information about how individual characters fit beside each other. For example, a "w" will tuck slightly under a capital "T", while other characters will not do that.

This information is computer-based. Before computers, this would be done by hand, and the same text set by different individuals would be slightly different.

Typewriters never did this, even ones with proportional spacing.

The spacing of fonts, even of the same type and same face, will be different on a different computer, like the Mac, if they are not using TrueType fonts. This is because TrueType fonts have proprietary spacing information.

The layout of the alleged memos, supposedly typed some twenty years before the development of these fonts, displays identical spacing. That alone would indicate that they are forgeries.

If you type the text of the memos into Microsoft Word using the default fonts, default line spacing, and the default margins, you get a document with identical spacing. That, too, indicates that it was written with Word, as no-one has been able to do the same with any other program, typesetter, or typewriter.

Lastly, the alleged memos contain centered text that is identical in position and spacing as that produced by Microsoft Word. As centering is something that is highly sensitive to inter-character spacing, and as the centering measurements are extremely precise, there is absolutely no chance whatsoever that a typewriter in the 1960s would happen to center text with exactly the same positioning as a modern word processor using a proprietary font with algorithmically determined kerning.

I dunno about the rest of it -- ok, I don't care enough about the rest of it -- but I'll take a stab at your #3 here Charles:

If nobody likes TNR here, why are so many folks defending them by attacking the likes of Bob Owens?

Because he's slime?

CC: One discussion point about the running down of dogs was whether leadership at any level would ever tolerate such a thing. I think I remember OCS commenting to this effect. G'Kar writes of surprise to find that his (and OCS') understanding of this was mistaken.

Oh how I’ve been trying to stay out of this. I still am, but I should clarify this a little.

My argument as to why this was important is that I could not envision officers, NCOs, vehicle commanders etc. allowing/ignoring the kind of behavior described in the various incidents. So if the incidents were true that would represent a breakdown of basic discipline in the unit. That kind of discipline breakdown is what can lead to much worse things occurring. In that light the incidents were well worth investigating.

So yeah, G'Kar’s post surprised and dismayed me, especially as given the source I believe every word without question. The total casualness of the incident with a stranger on board speaks volumes I think. I take it as a sign that the Army is even more broken than I thought.

At Michael Yon's site, readers from 100 countries have clicked on his site over a 24-hour period, many of which are Muslim-majority countries. TNR probably does not have that breadth of readership, but at the same time they're not all coastal, latte-drinking, Prius-driving left-wingers. For that reason, I'm glad that Beauchamp's account of the gravesite desecration crime was challenged, investigated, and found to be full of sh*t.

And what do you suppose folks from Muslim-majority countries think when they click through to Michelle Malkin's blog, or any of the other far-right blogs which contain incendiary statements about Muslims, torture, and the war?

The far right has surrendered far too much ground in the battle for Muslim hearts and minds to think that they can win it back by debunking some random anecdote from a soldier's diary.

Here

is a link to a poll commissioned by the BBC and other news organizations in Iraq last March. (PDF file). Note questions 30 and 33--over half support attacks on US forces and in question 33, 44 percent said there had been unnecessary violence against Iraqi civilians by coalition forces "near here", which was a higher percentage than for any other group.

Which in a nutshell is why I don't think Beauchamp's stories have any propaganda importance. Iraqis don't need to read true or false stories in the American press to know what they think about events in their neighborhood.

gary--thanks for clarification.
so it sounds like we agree that "debunk" should be used only as a success-term.

"1. If the issue were so trivial and unimportant, why 258-plus comments?"

That's idiotic, Charles. I'm participated in hundreds of threads over the years that have gone over 1000 comments, and plenty have been all about utter trivia.

By all means, go to, say, Unfogged, and tell us how "important" all those hundreds-plus comment thread topics are.

"3. If nobody likes TNR here, why are so many folks defending them by attacking the likes of Bob Owens?"

Who the heck is Bob Owens? How does one defend TNR by attacking him? Would that retroactively remove 35 years of writings and editorial decisions? Would it remove Marty Peretz? Retroactively remove Andrew Sullivan, Fred Barnes, Mort Kondracke, Larry Kaplan, Elizabeth McCaughy, The Bell Curve, Charles Murray, support for the contras, support for Iraq, Marty Peretz's calls for bombing Iran, etc., etc., etc., somehow?

"Franklin Foer [...i]s more in line with the dKos Left."

[bursts out laughing]

You have no idea how funny that is, do you?

"Anti-American elements could have used such an act for propaganda purposes to incite 'insurgents' to attack our troops. Al Qaeda does have media cells, after all. That's a major reason why this issue has importance."

I see. So you're saying that absent writings in tiny-circulation American magazines, al Qaeda will lack excuses for attacks. That an absence of such writings will lessen such attacks.

Sure, that's plausible. Who doesn't believe that?

But if only we could test the theory! Say, perhaps we allow such a small magazine to post exactly such inflamnatory things as Charles is concerned about, and see the results, and compare them to our universe, in which such a small magazine didn't post such things: that would be a controlled experiment.

Wait, what's that? We're in that universe, after all? We can actually observe if there were increased attacks by l Qaeda, and if there was an al Qaeda "media cell" incitment of insurgents because of those articles?

This isn't hypothetical?

We can go check now what the actual results were?!

Wow! Charles is really going to make hay with this, using all the actual evidence of deadly attacks that occurred due to TNR!

I just don't know how we'll be able to reply once he points to the actual effects, the attacks on American troops that wouldn't otherwise have happened, and he can point to the fact that he was absolutely right!

We may just have to sit here in despair, knowing that at any moment Charles will be pointing to the evidence of those devastating insurgent attacks provoked by Beauchamp.

Woe.

"For that reason, I'm glad that Beauchamp's account of the gravesite desecration crime was challenged, investigated, and found to be full of sh*t."

Sure, because Iraqis -- and we all know that al Qaeda is what we should be mentioning, because they're the root of all problems in Iraq, and the only people worth mentioning! -- trust American Army investigations, and all that has to be done to reassure angry Iraqis is tell them that an American Army investigation says a story is false.

Your grasp of Iraqi psychology is impressive, Charles: who could possibly doubt that that's how it works?

And, Charles, as others have pointed out, if you're so alarmed at the notion of Teh Terrorists being upset by things Americans write, how do you think they react to rightwing American attacks on Islam, in rightwing American magazines and blogs?

how do you think they react to rightwing American attacks on Islam, in rightwing American magazines and blogs?

Clearly, they are reduced to whimpering, servile toerags by teh awesome force of The Truth.

...how do you think they react to rightwing American attacks on Islam, in rightwing American magazines and blogs?

As long as the right-of-center mags and blogs are clear that they're attacking Islamism and not Islam, I don't have a problem, Gary.

"As long as the right-of-center mags and blogs are clear that they're attacking Islamism and not Islam, I don't have a problem, Gary."

That's fine, Charles, but it would be lovely if you would answer the question, which had nothing to do with your feelings.

Here's the question again: And, Charles, as others have pointed out, if you're so alarmed at the notion of Teh Terrorists being upset by things Americans write, how do you think they react to rightwing American attacks on Islam, in rightwing American magazines and blogs?

Note that at no time does this ask anything about Charles Bird's problems.

But I'll give you a bonus question, for extra credit: do you believe that Teh Terrorists distinguish, when they are maddened by what they read in small-circulation political journals and blogs, between attacks on "Islamism" and "Islam"?

Is it your contention that they have conversations along these lines?

Abdullah: "The latest issue of The American Conservative has an attack on Wahabism, but distinguishes Sufi thought as peaceful Islam! Patrick Buchanan is of the Ummah, praise be to Allah!"

Khalid: "Inshallah! But I have just read a translation of Stanley Kaufmann's latest movie review in The New Republic (Allah preserve Franklin Foer for his work underming the Crusader-Zionists; death to Leon Wieseltier!), and it says that Islam is not a religion of peace! We must go attack an American convoy today, rather than wait until tomorrow, Abdullah!"

"It is the will of Allah, Kahlid! Death to the Americans, and may Allah smite the dog Kaufmann for his blasphemous offense, while preserving Pat Buchanan, who distinguishes Islamism from Islamism!"

KHalid: There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his Prophet."

That's how you think it goes, Charles?

I'm a touch skeptical.

"...who distinguishes Islam from Islamism!," that is.

"gary--thanks for clarification.
so it sounds like we agree that 'debunk' should be used only as a success-term."

Huh. I had a reply to this in an earlier comment, but it seems to have vanished.

Anyway, I'm not 100% sure of that, and would leave an answer to someone with more linguistic expertise than I have, such as the folks at Languagehat or Languagelog.

Something to note about CB's position is that he think Beauchamp's accounts are lies, and he thinks that attacks on Islamism per se are generally accurate and in any case intended to express the truth. It's reasonable to be unhappy about lies that have bad effects and unconcerned about truths that have bad side effects.

"Something to note about CB's position is that he think Beauchamp's accounts are lies, and he thinks that attacks on Islamism per se are generally accurate and in any case intended to express the truth. It's reasonable to be unhappy about lies that have bad effects and unconcerned about truths that have bad side effects."

Charles says: "Anti-American elements could have used" Beauchamp's stories, stuff appearing in a small-circulation American magazine, behind a subscription barrier, "to attack our troops. Al Qaeda does have media cells, after all. That's a major reason why this issue has importance."

He says such upsetting text "may offend [jihadists] enough to want to detonate some IEDs on those [American] troops."

Lastly, Charles says that "[i]f Beauchamp lied about it, then he needlessly put his fellow soldiers' lives in peril by putting out such crap."

Taking the last point first, I'm highly unclear how Teh Jihadists would know whether these obscure pieces in a little American political magazine are true or not, and why they would care one way or another about how well fact-checked they were, even assuming that they spend their time read their subscriptions to to little American political magazines, and getting indignant about them, whereas otherwise they wouldn't be mad at American troops at all for, you know, being in Iraq and shooting at them and their families.

But if the reason this "issue has such importance," as Charles claims, is that it endangers the lives of American troops, than I fail to see why it would be a good idea to endanger those American lives for the sake of Bravely Speaking The Truth.

Would that be an example of supporting the troops? By enraging jihadists, which we're told is so easy to do in writing for obscure American political websites and magazines, and which we're assured will lead to the death of American troops?

I'm really having trouble following the logic here.

Because he's slime?

Because Bob Owens is on this thread, Anarch, you just violated the posting rules. Well done.

Clearly a story in the mighty TNR about an American soldier mistreating a corpse (assuming in hadn't been denied by the US military) is more likely to enrage our Islamist enemies than something minor like, say, a member of Congress and presidential candidate talking about nuking Mecca.

Clearly a story in the mighty TNR about an American soldier mistreating a corpse (assuming in hadn't been denied by the US military) is more likely to enrage our Islamist enemies than something minor like, say, a member of Congress and presidential candidate talking about nuking Mecca.

Or even, say, invading an Arab country based on lies.

Clearly a story in the mighty TNR about an American soldier mistreating a corpse (assuming in hadn't been denied by the US military) is more likely to enrage our Islamist enemies than something minor like, say, a member of Congress and presidential candidate talking about nuking Mecca.

Or suggesting that the bodies of Muslims killed by US forces in Iraq or Afghanistan ought to be buried wrapped in pork, which I seem to remember was a meme going round the right-wing blogosphere as a means of quelling resistance to US occupation in 2004 or 2005.

or posing Iraqi prisoners for happy fun-time torture photos with grinning lunatic soldiers giving the thumbs-up in the foreground.

or turning Iraq into such a hell-hole that millions of its citizens would rather leave their homes and try to make it as a refugee in Syria and Jordan than risk getting killed by any of the parties in Iraq's civil war.

Gary: "Taking the last point first, I'm highly unclear how Teh Jihadists would know whether these obscure pieces in a little American political magazine are true or not"

This isn't at all relevant to CB's argument.


KCinDC: "Clearly a story in the mighty TNR about an American soldier mistreating a corpse (assuming in hadn't been denied by the US military) is more likely to enrage our Islamist enemies than something minor like, say, a member of Congress and presidential candidate talking about nuking Mecca."

Sure, but no doubt CB is happy to oppose talk of nuking Mecca, and he gets to oppose what he thinks are lies that endanger the troops despite the existence of worse instances of endangering the troops for no good reason.


CB: "Because Bob Owens is on this thread, Anarch, you just violated the posting rules. Well done."

Note that he's here under a pseudonym which isn't at all familiar to people who don't read his part of the blogosphere - Anarch was probably unaware of that.

Jes: Or suggesting that the bodies of Muslims killed by US forces in Iraq or Afghanistan ought to be buried wrapped in pork, which I seem to remember was a meme going round the right-wing blogosphere as a means of quelling resistance to US occupation in 2004 or 2005.

Something like that.

"Something like that."

I seem to recall having a heated argument over at tacitus.org about the desecration of the corpses of the four mercenary soldiers - the contrast of attitude in the linked thread is making me ill.

"This isn't at all relevant to CB's argument."

I thought I'd deleted that paragraph, having noticed that. That's why it says "taking the last part first" -- I wrote that first, and deleted it, along with several other paragraphs, after realizing it didn't work, and wrote a different comment, which is the rest of what was posted.

But somehow that I-thought-deleted paragraph wound up accidentally pasted in again later, or something, and I didn't notice it; it shouldn't have been posted. Sorry.

"he's here under a pseudonym"

Who is Bob Owens, and what pseudonym here is he using?

Rilkefan: Sure, but no doubt CB is happy to oppose talk of nuking Mecca, and he gets to oppose what he thinks are lies that endanger the troops despite the existence of worse instances of endangering the troops for no good reason.

As Mattt noted:

Charles Bird, July 2005:

Many commenters reacted strongly to the suggestion that dead suicide terrorists' be laid to rest on a layer of bacon grease. It's a controversial proposal to be sure, and it would most likely be shot down legislatively; however, I think it's worthy of discussion and should at least be put on the table.

Who is Bob Owens, and what pseudonym here is he using?

Bob Owens is Confederate Yankee

Jes, see my 1:20 above. Somebody else can take over the peacekeeping duties for now.

Gary, thanks for the update. Bob Owens is referred to above - apparently that's Confederate Yankee's real name.

Jes, see my 1:20 above.

I wrote my 01:21 comment and posted it before I saw yours.

"Something like that."

Hilzoy summed it up best here.

Hilzoy summed it up best here.

Wait wait wat. You mean to tell me I can't believe everything I read about Islam and terrorists on right-wing blogs?!!?

Dangit dangit dangit.

*takes off garlic clove necklace*

*stops sharpening wooden stakes*

*wonders if cross tattoo on forehead can be removed*

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