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August 09, 2007

Even A TNR Expert Now Signs A Retraction

Well, not so much a retraction because he says he didn't really say what TNR claims he did -- fully "confirming" a Bradley could do what Scott Beauchamp says it did.

Confederate Yankee actually tracked down TNR's expert on this and asked him what the Bradley could do -- and, even more importantly, what exactly TNR asked him before reporting he'd fully corroborated the account.

[T]he TNR researcher did not provide the text of "Shock Troops" for Mr. Coffery [the Bradley expert] to review, and only asked the vaguest possible questions. It seems rather obvious that this was not an attempt to actually verify Beauchamp's claims, but was instead designed to help The New Republic manufacturer a whitewash of an investigation.

I'll just pick out bits here and there to encourage the click-through, but it's all pretty damning. Not conclusively so, but not good for Franklin Foer.

Confederate Yankee is specifically interested in TNR's corroborating witness (supposedly) from Beauchamp's unit claiming that the vehicle could be turned hard while still moving forward at a significant speed. I didn't even think about this, but yeah, isn't it true that tracked vehicles stand more or less still as they make hard turns, one track driving the vehicle in a circle while the other doesn't move (or turns the opposite way, to make an even tighter turn)?

Here's TNR and their corroborating Corporal Quotey McQuoterton:

"How you do this (I've seen it done more than once) is, when you approach the dog in question, suddenly lurch the Bradley on the opposite side of the road the dog is on. The rear-end of the vehicle will then swing TOWARD the animal, scaring it into running out into the road. If it works, the dog is running into the center of the road as the driver swings his yoke back around the other way, and the dog becomes a chalk outline." TNR contacted the manufacturer of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle System, where a spokesman confirmed that the vehicle is as maneuverable as Beauchamp described.

Well, is that true? Here's the actual spokesman:

I can't pretend to know what may or may not have happened in Iraq but the impression the writer leaves is that a "driver" can go on joy rides with a 35 ton vehicle at will. The vehicle has a crew and a commander of the vehicle who is in charge. In order for the scenario described to have taken place, there would have to have been collaboration by the entire crew.

...

Anyone familiar with tracked vehicles knows that turning sharply requires the road wheels on the side of the turn to either stop or reverse as the road wheels on the opposite side accelerates. What may not be obvious is that the track once on the ground, doesn't move. The road wheels roll across it but the track itself is stationary until it is pushed forward by the road wheels.

How the Bradley can "lurch" to the side and yet maintain enough forward speed to catch a dog in its tracks isn't really clear.

But what's more damning is this: There was absolutely no reason I can see for TNR not to have offered the name of its expert here.


Coffery seems to have no reservations about Confederate Yankee using his name; are we to believe he for some reason wouldn't permit TNR to use his name but allows a blogger to do so?

So why was this expert's name withheld from the public? He's not serving in Iraq. He's not forbidden by military codes to make unauthorized statements while in the field. He has no superior officers to chew him out.

What reason, then? When a claiming corroboration on a dubious and widely challenged story, why not offer up all the names possible so that skeptics can contact one's experts themselves and talk to them?

I think the reason is pretty obvious. TNR asked very vague questions they were reasonably confident they'd get an affirmative response to, and thus could characterize those responses as "confirmation." Go ask a vehicle manufactuer's spokesman very general questions about his product's maneuverability and durability, and what the hell do you think he's going to say? Of course he's going to call his vehicle highly maneuverable and highly durable; not to disrespect Mr. Coffery, but corporate spokesman are kind of paid to laud their products, aren't they?

Did TNR merely ask "Could a Bradley survive driving through a wall?" or the like? Of course Coffery would say yes -- the Bradley is designed to be hit by smaller tank shells and survive, after all. This isn't the relevant question. The question isn't whether the Bradley could survive this. The question TNR should have asked -- but seems to have deliberately avoided -- is "Is the Bradley so durable that it can routinely crash through walls for no other reason than the driver's enjoyment, without suffering any damage whatsoever to its combat ability?" Because that -- and not the mere fact that it could survive such a collision -- is what's necessary if we are to believe that a vehicle commander typically allows his driver to smash the vehicle through buildings just for shits n' giggles.

TNR definitely did not want anyone following their work and asking more specific questions that might start providing negative responses. And they definitely didn't want their critics to know exactly how calculatedly vague their questions, and their "confirmation," had actually been. They weren't looking for the truth; they were just looking for something they could claim as "confirmation," no matter how disingenuously.

This is getting worse. TNR began this scandal accused of sloppiness, credulity, negligence, bias, and general shoddy journalistic practice.

They are now guilty of deliberately misleading their readers, verging on outright lying.

And in the latter respect, we're not just talking about a rogue "diarist" and and credulous editor. Now we're talking about the entire magazine, from editor in chief down to its research staffers and everyone in-between, conspiring to deceive its readership and hide relevant information from the general public.

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posted by Ace at 01:20 PM

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