Is Bellesiles At It Again?


Fraudulent gun scholar Michael Bellesiles is taking some flak over an article he wrote about teaching military history to a student whose brother was killed in Iraq. The moderate version from Jim Lindgren:

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.

Lindgren notes that it would be unlikely for Bellesiles to make up such a story. Of course, we said that about his gun scholarship, so you can't really rule out the possibility that he is some sort of bizarrely compulsive liar whose urge is so strong that he indulges it even when there is virtual certainty of being caught.

Nonetheless, I'm skeptical that the story is false. Let me suggest some more likely possibilities:

  1. The article was submitted a while ago, but only published now, screwing up the apparent timeline.
  2. Bellesiles is messing up key details. Anyone who has heard an event narrated by two different members of the family will understand how this could be.
  3. Bellesiles was taken in by a student who gave himself an awesome excuse for not coming to class or writing any papers.

Obviously, Michael Bellesiles has not exactly earned the public's trust in his utterances. But it just seems too bizarre to think that he might have made up such an easily checkable story.

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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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