Methinks the lady doth protest too much

The Confederate Yankee rightly points out that all dishonest war reporting, whether it paints Iraq as a grim hellhole populated by evil US soldiers, or a glorious victory for American-style peace and democracy, is a very bad thing and must be nipped in the bud:

If we’re to make any sort of sense of the Iraq War at all, we need to know that those who are providing us information on the conflict are being as honest in their reporting as inherent human biases allow. As it has often been said, we can allow people to have their own opinions, bu not their own facts. On that point, I think we can all agree.

Because of this shared desire for facts, those dissemblers who falsify accounts and events in that conflict should be brought to light and discredited so that the can no longer easily spread lies.

CY would therefore like to know more facts about something Scott Horton, a Harper’s writer, describes in a Harper’s blog post. Horton is concerned about the anti-Beauchamp phenomenon, since he claims to have witnessed a neocon writer whitewash completely a particularly bad day on Haifa Street in Baghdad:

I have no idea whether Beauchamp’s story was accurate. But at this point I have seen enough of the Neocon corner’s war fables to immediately discount anything that emerges from it. One example: back last spring, when I was living in Baghdad, on Haifa Street, I sat in the evening reading a report by one of the core Neocon pack. He was reporting from Baghdad, and recounted a day he had spent out on a patrol with U.S. troops on Haifa Street. He described a peaceful, pleasant, upscale community. Children were out playing on the street. Men and women were out going about their daily business. Well, in fact I had been forced to spend the day “in the submarine,” as they say, missing appointments I had in town. Why? This bucolic, marvelous Haifa Street that he described had erupted in gun battles the entire day. In the view of my security guards, with which I readily concurred, it was too unsafe. And yes, I could hear the gunfire and watch some of the exchanges from my position. No American patrol had passed by and there were certainly no children playing in the street. This was the point when I realized that many of these accounts were pure fabrications.

Horton, having described a journalist committing a blatant, propagandistic lie, is surprisingly coy about the journalist’s identity. CY has therefore taken the first step to finding it out — he’s written Horton. If this journalist is indeed spewing untruths, we need to know:

Horton establishes last spring as the rough time frame and Haifa Street as the location in Baghdad where this story of press duplicity allegedly took place. I’ve taking the liberty of contacting Mr. Horton via his Harper’s email address, and I’m asking him to provide as much detail as possible about the fraudulent reporting of which he was a near-eyewitness. The more detail he can provide, the more concrete of a case we can make.

We need good reporting to understand the wars to which we’re committing our nation’s soldiers, and we need to discard those journalists that either can’t tell truth from fiction, or prefer not to make the distinction.

I’ll keep you posted as to what CY finds or, of course, you can simply make his excellent site part of your regular reading.

So far, all I’ve done is recount someone else’s news — that is, that CY found a blog saying pro-War journalists are lying too and that he is following up on that. Here’s where I take off on my own, which is to focus on something I found very interesting about Horton’s post. You see, Horton doesn’t just claim that neocon journalists are “thugs” who lie. Instead, he’s very, very, very angry about the Beauchamp story, and especially about The Weekly Standard‘s role in that story:

What’s interesting about this whole affair is not the Beauchamp story, but the response to it from William Kristol, the Weekly Standard, and their quite amazing ability to exercise total command and control over the public affairs operations at the Pentagon throughout the process. Pentagon public affairs operated as an extension of Kristol’s publication, giving it exclusive access to special reports and data (most of which, incidentally, proved an exercise in fiction writing). Beauchamp himself was detained and placed under pressure to recant. Had all of these facts been reported to me as something done by Glavlit and the Red Army in Brezhnev era Russia, I wouldn’t have been surprised. But this was the United States.

From that tirade, Horton repeats approvingly parts of Jonathan (“I hate Bush”) Chait’s attack on William Kristol for exposing Beauchamp.

There are a few striking things about Horton’s red hot attack on the conservative media and on the US military. The most obvious thing is how he glosses over the core fact, which is that Beauchamp lied. Beauchamp, perhaps with help from his wife (shades of Wilson/Plame here), got himself a huge forum in a nationally respected magazine to tell lies about the American troops. There was no witch hunt here, which implies that the person being hunted is innocent. Instead, what happened was that the new media instantly exposed a con man, a scam artist, someone who in the old days would probably have been derided and shunned for what he did.

Horton also goes on the liberal trope of “we’re living in a police state” as if Beauchamp was an ordinary citizen being hunted down by the Bush government and its military industrial complex. In fact, Beauchamp wrote the lies he wrote while actively serving in the military. Given that one of its own grossly slandered others of its own, I think that the military might actually have a legitimate interest in conducting an investigation into Beauchamp’s charges. And, since Beauchamp made those charges public to the world, the military had not only an interest in rebutting, but a right to rebut, them nationally as well.

And please note how carefully Horton writes that Beauchamp “was detained and placed under pressure to recant.” First of all, recanting makes it sound as if Beauchamp had taken an ideological position and, having been accused of heresy, was forced to retreat from a moral truth. (Think Galileo here.) In fact, Beauchamp was confronted with the ever increasing pile of objective facts showing that what he wrote was false, and was asked to admit that he’d lied. Kind of different.

Also, to coyly say he was placed “under pressure” and then instantly to analogize that to the Soviet Union is an outrageous act of writerly sleight of hand. In the Soviet Union, pressure involved interesting things like torture, imprisonment in Gulags, starvation, threats to ones family, and execution. Beauchamp has not alleged, and no one else anywhere has claimed, that anything more happened to Beauchamp than that his employer (that would be the US military) questioned him, and, yes, probably hounded him, to admit that he’d grossly slandered the organization.

Horton’s rage, in other words, is manufactured. What he can’t admit apparently, even to himself, is that someone told a lie that he hoped was the truth, and that this lie was then exposed. All he can do, therefore, is create a swirling sea of anger about everything but the initial lie, in the hopes of obscuring the truth at the core of it all — Beauchamp fabricated just about everything. Horton’s other tactic, that which started this post, is the tried and true playground strategy of claiming “but so and so lied too” (or “hit too,” or “kicked too,” or whatever else you or your playground buddy stand accused of having done.) Horton may well be right about the latter point but, given his intellectual approach to the first lie, I have my doubts.

UPDATECY notes that, while Horton is busy blogging, he doesn’t seem to have gotten around to giving detailed answers — heck, any answers — to questions about his assertion that a neocon journalist lied just as badly as Beauchamp did.

10 Responses

  1. The truly striking thing about the antiwar commentators and pundits is that they can’t produce even one verified case of an American-committed atrocity, or American troops’ cruelty toward unfortunates of any description, or onsite pro-war reporting being false-to-fact, or anything else that supports their contentions. Yet they’re so sure of their evaluation of the pacification campaign, made in the complete absence of hard evidence of any sort, that they “immediately discount” any and all reportage from the “Neocon corner.”

    And they say leftists have no faith!

  2. 2007.08.26 Politics and National Defense Roundup

    Burning Another BeauchampConfederate Yankee If we’re to make any sort of sense of the Iraq War at all, we need to know that those who are providing us information on the conflict are being as honest in their reporting as inherent human biases allow. A…

  3. […] Room, lawyer “Bookworm” digs further into Horton’s article, and discovers “a swirling sea of anger” where honesty is perhaps not his […]

  4. Pentagon public affairs operated as an extension of Kristol’s publication, giving it exclusive access to special reports and data (most of which, incidentally, proved an exercise in fiction writing).

    –Jealousy over prefered access?

  5. […] [Discuss this article with Bookworm over at Bookworm Room…] Share Article Sphere: Related Content | Trackback URL […]

  6. Book, once again you have scooped the rest of the blogosphere with this story. Excellent work.

  7. Horton’s rage, in other words, is manufactured.

    Horton’s rage would have been stuck in GitMo in a more just world, Book.

  8. Detained and placed under pressure? Sounds like a regular day in the service to me. Our communist friend obviously understands nothing about the military. People aren’t allowed to come and go as they please and they’re under no obligation to provide you with a phone so you can contact your handlers. Thanks for covering this.

  9. Horton is in all liklihood making this up. Had he in fact been “hunkered down” on Haifa Street at the same time that this mystery member of the “Neocon Pack” reported that all was sunniness and light, he would have jumped all over it. These people give each other awards for exposing such lies.

    As to whether this is wilfull misrepresentation, or wishfull thinking, on Horton’s part, I incline towards the latter. The whole post reads like a post-hoc justification: so what that Beauchamp lied –the Neocons lied first!

    Scratch a mature, nuanced, liberal sophisticate, find a whiny little child looking for somebody to blame.

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