Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Scott Beauchamp and the Reality of War

Franklin Foer, editor of The New Republic, has published a long article deliberating the veracity of the reports published in his magazine last summer by Scott Thomas Beauchamp, an American soldier serving in Iraq. Bottom line: TNR is not certain. Maybe Beauchamp's stories sort of happened, more or less, but not exactly as he told them, and TNR isn't quite sure how to tell because, as Foer's title puts it, there's too much "Fog of War".

Some of the uncertainty stems from the foibles of human memory, and I'm willing to accept that this indeed played a role in the debacle. But a debacle it was, because Beauchamp's stories were published not as rumours from a far away war, but rather as an Iraqi re-run of horror stories told about American troops in Vietnam all those years ago. On that level, Foer's report, since it deals with the minutiae of reporting, obfuscates the greater truth which is that one cannot plausibly pin on America's troops in this war any of the stories of that war. That seems to me a very important statement, one that Foer doesn't make.

It turns out that one actually can peer through the fog of war and discern the outlines of the large picture. In our age of post-modern undermining of truth, that's an important statement.

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