This post is in response to this recent post by Sheryl O. Sheryl is passing along this story by Amanda Kloer at change.org, which makes serious allegations against DynCorp, an American company that trains policemen in Afghanistan.
Let me begin by saying that I understand Sheryl's fury and disgust with what is portrayed in this article. These allegations describe behavior that should result in criminal prosecution as well as decertification as a contractor and fines against the company -- IF the allegations are true.
Are they true? Sheryl is apparently convinced by them, but I am not convinced. Why not?
First, there is a contrary account of what happened, which can be found in this story at the Talking Points Memo blog. (As soon as I saw Sheryl's post, I googled to see what other details were available, and this came to my attention.)
So, we have a classic he-says / she-says situation here -- two accounts of the same incident, without any evidence on either side.
Oh, I forgot. Supposedly there IS some evidence, a cable released as part of the recent wikileaks documents. But the cable does not include the allegations made in the change.org article; in fact, the cable reports that "Amb. Mussomeli responded that going to the journalist would give her the sense that there is a more terrible story to report." It's kind of hard to understand how the story can be more terrible than what was reported by Ms. Kloer, wouldn't you say? But if something closer to DynCorp's story happened, that remark makes sense.
Since I do not know Ms. Kloer, I cannot judge her credibility directly. However, there are several things that make me doubt her version.
First, her case is made up of generalities rather than specifics. In fact, she strings together suppositions with innuendo. "Apparently" this is what happened. "So far, no one is being held accountable." She puts up a picture of an unidentified boy, apparently on the theory that a picture is worth a thousand overheated adjectives. Other than the cable, she offers no indication that she has a source for her allegations. Since her most serious allegations are not IN the cable, she either has a source she is not revealing, or she is just guessing.
Second, there are a number of stories on the web telling the same story as Ms. Kloer. I looked at all the ones I could find, and they look like copies of the same breathless suppositions. I'm always suspicious of this kind of "spread by copying". It doesn't add to the credibility of a story, any more than a stack of xerox copies does. For whatever it's worth, the more reputable sources are a lot more careful about their wording (for instance, in Slate.)
Finally, I have checked actual, realiable journalistic sources and there is no coverage. Not at CNN.com. Not at NPR.org. Not at MSNBC.com. (I included MSNBC because there was an allegation in the original comment stream that the Washington Post is too conservative to be credible.)
Now, if you want to spin conspiracy theories, go ahead. You can believe that someone "got to" the mainstream media.
Or, you can believe that the organizations whose websites I checked actually try to get their facts straight before reporting things.
I'm not saying that the company's account of what happened is absolutely true. I would, in fact, like this issue to be investigated seriously, both by the legitimate press and perhaps by Congress as well. But in the meantime, it's irresponsible to pass along one version of the story as established fact.
Consider for one moment: if these allegations had been made against someone on YOUR side of the political divide, would you consider the sources on the web reliable? Does anyone remember Shirley Sherrod?
What if such allegations were made about you, or someone close to you? Would you be willing to settle for the fabric of innuendos that Ms. Kloer has created? Or would you want a thorough and impartial investigation?
There can be only one standard for truth, and for seeking truth.