Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Bellesiles Again

Disgraced Professor Michael Bellesiles wrote an article for The Chronicle of Higher Education that is everything that the hard left that dominates the profession wants: long on pathos; long on implicit criticism of the United States.  But guess what?  Bellesiles' credibility has been somewhat tarnished, and a lot of people are looking carefully at his claims--and they are expressing great criticism.  Like Dutton Peabody, at Big Journalism:
A friend who used to be in the Army is also a mite suspicious about the account of Javier’s service. The Hartford Courant keeps careful track of Connecticut casualties: three Connecticut men died from battle during the autumn semester when Bellesiles was teaching the course: one was a sergeant, which Javier, a recent enlistee, was not; one was a captain, which Javier was even less. The third was not Army, but a Marine, and, like the other two men, died (from an IED, not a sniper round like Javier) in Afghanistan, not Iraq. He did, though, have an infant son back in Connecticut named Javier.

Just for the sake of argument, and positing that “this past semester” is the recently ended spring semester, there has been only one fatality so far this year, reported on April 4th as recently killed. Lance Corporal Tyler Griffin was a Marine, not Army. And killed by an IED, not a shot to the head. And in Afghanistan, not Iraq. Nor was he an immigrant, as Javier is described. (“We discussed [his] reasons for enlisting, which mostly focused on a sense of gratitude to a country that had given their family refuge.”) And there is no sign of a brother in the Courant obituary.
Professor Lindgren over at Volokh Conspiracy, whose questions about Bellesiles' research made it acceptable for historians to look at my evidence of Bellesiles' fraud, also points to some problems:

In my review of several sites, but chiefly ICasualties, I find no Connecticut military killed in Iraq in 2009 or 2010 (and only one in 2008, a Marine who died from a non-hostile cause). If one expands the search to all US military deaths in Iraq from all US states and territories from the beginning of the Fall 2009 semester through the end of classes in the May 2010 semester, I could find no deaths from any state that fit Bellesiles’s account (Iraq War, recent Army enlistee, hostile fire from a rifle or similar weapon, lingering death). Nor did my quick review of all US military deaths in Afghanistan (if one changed the theater from Iraq to Afghanistan) during the last two CCSU semesters turn up any likely prospects (though I would need a closer review to be certain).

Thus it appears that Bellesiles’s account is false in at least some trivial respect–probably in the term he taught the course and in the circumstances of “Javier’s” service or death.

Further, without personal knowledge of Army procedures, I found it strange that a critically injured US soldier would not be brought to Germany for treatment over a period of several weeks. Further, while not suspicious in itself, at this stage of the Iraqi War almost all US deaths occur on the same day as the attack or on the following day. Indeed, this detail alone can be used to exclude most deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last year.

If I had to guess, I would suspect that the story Bellesiles told in the Chronicle is mostly true; after all, it would be too easy for the Chronicle or Bellesiles’s department chair to check the facts with “Ernesto” and with Joe, Bellesiles’s teaching assistant. Yet some things reported by Bellesiles in the Chronicle appear to be false: the term he says he taught Military History is inconsistent with CCSU’s website, and the facts of “Javier’s” Army service and death in Iraq do not match any deaths reported by the Department of Defense for soldiers from any US state or territory.
I confess that I am quite mystified. If Bellesiles has "improved" the story to tug the heartstrings, it might explain the discrepancies.  But you would think after effectively losing a tenured position for academic fraud--and knowing that a lot of people are going to be checking his subsequent claims because of it--that he would not do anything even slightly questionable.

I don't know for sure that Bellesiles's heart-rending tale is false.  There are just lots of little problems that are beginning to show up that don't make sense, unless either Bellesiles was told a pack of lies by "Javier," or Bellesiles decided to improve the story for that highly gullible audience of leftist faculty that dominate the top tier universities in this country.

One of the reasons that a lot of people who commit murder get caught is that they tell others that they did it.  It may be expressed as boasting--but considering the consequences, it is more plausible that what drives these admissions is guilt.  That's probably why some serial killers who are smart enough to not make mistakes, start to make really obvious ones that get them caught.  I sometimes wonder if Bellesiles may be suffering from some similar self-sabotaging motivation: what can I do to destroy myself?

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