Washington Post’s attempt at “factchecking” Fred Thompson falls short

Way short.

Back on September 7th, Fred Thompson made the following claim about our military:

“If you look back over our history, it will not take you long to realize that our people have shed more blood for other people’s liberty than any other combination of nations in the history of the world.”

For this claim, he was awarded “Four Pinocchios” by Michael Dobbs at the Washington Post’s “FactChecker” blog. Why? Read on:

The number of overall U.S. military casualties, while high, is still relatively low in comparison to those of its World War I and World War II allies. In World War II alone, the Soviet Union suffered at least 8 million casualties, or more than 10 times the number of U.S. casualties for all wars combined. According to Winston Churchill, the Red Army “tore the guts out of the Nazi war machine.” It can be argued that Soviet troops were primarily fighting to free their homeland from Nazi occupation. After fighting its way to Berlin, the Soviet Union imposed its own dictatorship over Eastern Europe. Even so, Soviet sacrifices contributed greatly to the liberation of Western Europe from Nazi domination. Soviet forces died for their own country and their own tyrannical government, but they also spilled blood on behalf of their Western allies.

Even if the Soviet Union is not included in the calculation, U.S. military casualties in all wars combined remain lower than those of the British Commonwealth (“a combination of nations,” in Thompson’s phrase) in World War I and World War II. According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the British Commonwealth lost 1.7 million troops in the two world wars.

Captain Ed delivers the smackdown here:

The Post awards Thompson “four Pinocchios” for his statement. I’d award the Post about ten dunce caps for borderline illiteracy.

Thompson specifically mentions that we shed our blood for “other people’s liberty”, not our own. That excludes any nation that fought to defend its own territory. The Soviet Union had allied itself with Nazi Germany — right up to the moment of Hitler’s invasion of June 1941. The Soviets did not fight the Germans to liberate anyone except themselves. True, they bled massively in their defeat of the Nazis, but they didn’t do it out of love of liberty or selfless devotion to France or Britain. Their effort certainly helped the West in achieving victory on Hitler’s Western front, but that wasn’t why Joseph Stalin insisted on crushing the Nazis. Had Hitler not launched Operation Barbarossa, Stalin wouldn’t have lifted a finger for anyone’s liberty, let alone those of his own people — which he proved in the post-war Iron Curtain he imposed on Europe.

Anyone who can’t figure this much out has no business writing for a professional newspaper. It’s a ludicrous, almost ghoulish argument in the face of what followed World War II in Europe. It’s worthy of Walter Duranty, the disgraced Soviet apologist of the 1930s New York Times.

The rest of the piece is almost as bad. The unidentified writer uses the conquests of the Alexandrian Greeks (actually Macedonians, to be accurate) as a counter-example to Fred’s claim, as well as Napoleon. The Post seems to have some trouble distinguishing imperial acquisition from liberty, a lost distinction that explains quite a bit of what appears on the pages of its newspaper.


Thompson knows of what he speaks. The Washington Post should be embarrassed by their historical and rhetorical illiteracy, and should offer an apology for calling Thompson a liar.

Make sure to read the whole thing.

Here’s another inaccuracy in Dobbs’ piece (emphasis added):

Motives for going to war are always difficult to disentangle. Did the United States invade Iraq because of the threat of perceived weapons of mass destruction (the original reason cited by President Bush), to protect its oil interests in the Middle East (as suggested by former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan in his recently published autobiography), or as part of a larger democracy-building effort? Or all of the above?

That claim has already been debunked, as I posted about yesterday.

Jules Crittenden had this to say about the WaPo piece:

All history is muddy, as the Washington Post itself seems to suggest as it delves ridiculously into the contests of empires in the time of Alexander and Napoleon. You can argue about the motives and effects of what the United States has done in any particular war or campaign. People do, and the Washington Post dabbles here. But this kind of snarking by the anonymous Claim/Fact lickspittles of the Washington Post says more about their distorted view of history and current events than it does about Thompson. And it disparages the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of American soldiers in the course of the last century.

Which, I suspect, was exactly Dobbs’ intent.

The WaPo has followed in the footsteps of a recent Mother Jones piece, which also claimed that Thompson got the facts wrong. McQ at QandO addressed some of the claims made in that piece here.

Write the Washington Post and let them know what you think: ombudsman@washpost.com

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