Update: Attention TNR - see the bottom of this post for an offer you can't refuse!
Courtesy of Michael Goldfarb at the Worldwide Standard, we have another statement from MAJ Kirk Luedeke, the Public Affairs Officer for the 4th IBCT at FOB Falcon near Baghdad (a location where I was on my last embed, and where I will be again on this embed). The text of his email is below the fold; as always, he is direct, to the point, and very, very believable.
As I said when addressing this yesterday, American soldiers are human. They make mistakes, they do things wrong, and, as is true with the rest of the population, there will always be some very bad apples within the group. However, if there's a population who more deserves (a) the benefit of the doubt, and (b) freedom from allegation and made-up atrocities in the absence of absolute proof and necessity, then I can't think of it.
Further, FOB Falcon, where this is alleged to have taken place, is constantly populated with journalists; the 4th IBCT is as great a destination for reporters as MNF-I offers. Embeds like myself and my good friends Michael Yon, JD Johannes, and David Beriain, among many, many others, have passed through there, and none of us have ever seen the soldiers there act even remotely in such a way - and you can rest assured that we would be the first to report it if we did.
Read on . . .
MAJ Luedeke's email is as follows:
I've been watching the events on the New Republic's "Scott Thomas" piece with interest.
As the 4th IBCT Public Affairs Officer- I can tell you unequivocally: there was NO mass grave discovered in this area of operations in conjunction with the building of a coalition outpost anytime in the past 12 months. None. Zero. Zip. And Frank Foer's assertions to the contrary, there is no way that his mystery soldier "Scott Thomas" can prove it. Foer can produce all of the alleged "eyewitnesses" he wants- unless these individuals are willing to back up their claims with real evidence, it's just so much garbage on a computer screen. Some people seem to forget that the burden of proof should be on the New Republic to back up his unsubstantiated claims and not the other way around.
If the story *is* true, then "Scott" and whomever else is purporting to back up his assertions should come forward, identify themselves and submit their report through official channels. We are not in the business of suppressing his right to free speech...on the contrary- he's free to submit whatever he wants, so long as it doesn't put others at risk for operational security (OPSEC). Of course- by putting his name on such outlandish claims, he then has to account for what is clearly a series of false statements. So- obviously- it is left to reasonable people to decide who is telling the truth here.
I invite Mr. Foer and the New Republic to actually give us something to go on. Proof. Any kind will do- and something more than one anonymous soldier's claims and a nebulous "we've heard from others who can corroborate it," kinds of responses he provided Howard Kurtz. It's kind of hard to take these allegations seriously, when you're hiding behind the cloak of anonymity. Just about every Soldier these days has his or her own digital camera or video camera. Talk to anyone here- every unit down to squad level in our brigade is *required* to have a camera on every mission. It's all part of being prepared for such a discovery. Surely- there would be photos of the skulls and mass grave if it truly existed, would there not? The reason there isn't any photos, is because simply- the story isn't true.
There may be small grains of truth to what Scott Thomas has written. But, I can tell you that at least one event he's described as "fact" could not have occurred. To claim that an entire chain of command was complicit in keeping quiet such a grisly and important discovery of such magnitude stretches the realm of believability and is a grave insult to the professionalism and dedication of so many fine Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines serving here.
I know that if my organization claimed to have unearthed a sizeable cache of hundreds of explosives, rockets, nitric acid and other key components to make roadside bombs, otherwise known here in these parts as a "good news story," media outlets would rightfully demand some kind of proof to subtantiate our claims. That's why we take pictures of such things and provide them along with our press releases. The inability of the New Republic and Scott Thomas to provide any kind of photographic evidence whatsoever, and the fact that "Scott" isn't willing to come forward and identify himself, pretty much says it all, doesn't it?
If he is in fact speaking the truth- he should have no problem putting his real name next to it. It's called integrity, and it's one of the seven Army Values. That neither he nor the New Republic want to do that, and then hide behind the need to protect him from "retribution" (when I would add that he *is* in fact breaking a DoD directive with his actions) merely underscores the dubious nature of this whole story.
I invite Scott Thomas to come by the Dragon PAO shop at FOB Falcon- Bldg 301, Rm 119, and I'd be happy to share the DoD media policy with him. While he's here, I'd love to discuss with him the mass graves, Bradley IFV dog hunting and IED burn victim he's so intent on stating is fact. If he can provide the evidence, I will gladly retract every word I've posted on the subject. If he's not willing to do that, then it kind of makes you wonder about his credibility, and that of the New Republic's doesn't it?
Major Kirk Luedeke
Public Affairs Officer
4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division DRAGONS FOB Falcon
(Emphasis added) Like I said, the soldiers are human. They will make mistakes, and those mistakes - especially when malicious - are fair game for journalists to, for lack of a better word, exploit. So why the rush to hang them with suspect info from a pseudonymous, uncorroborated source? It just smacks - very loudly - of a very, very strong desire to portray them as being horrible, horrible people, regardless of the facts (not to mention a desperate lack of patience; could somebody be worried that (a) they won't get the scoop if they take time to verify, or (b) a real atrocity just might not come along if the effort is made to check the facts on every report?)
Either way, that is, in a word, Pathetic.
Look, here's an offer for The New Republic: I'll be back at FOB Falcon in about six weeks. I'd be more than happy to do whatever investigative work is necessary to either corroborate or debunk the story (or stories) provided to you by "Scott Thomas." Just let me know via the contact tool on this site.