Saturday, September 12, 2009

Garlasco responds, poorly

Marc Garlasco finally responds to the story about his obsession with collecting Nazi-era German paraphernalia. And, as could be expected, he twists the facts around a bit:
Now I've achieved some blogosphere fame, not for the hours I've spent sifting through the detritus of war, visiting hospitals, interviewing victims and witnesses and soldiers, but for my hobby (unusual and disturbing to some, I realize) of collecting Second World War memorabilia associated with my German grandfather and my American great-uncle. I'm a military geek, with an abiding interest not only in the medals I collect but in the weapons that I study and the shrapnel I analyze. I think this makes me a better investigator and analyst. And to suggest it shows Nazi tendencies is defamatory nonsense, spread maliciously by people with an interest in trying to undermine Human Rights Watch's reporting.
Actually, he had achieved some blogosphere fame previously, for his poor analyses blaming Israel for various things that he didn't have adequate evidence for.

Secondly, his hobby is not "Second World War memorabilia associated with my German grandfather and my American great-uncle." Unless he has another handle he keeps secret, his obsession - it is difficult to call it anything else - has been specifically with German memorabilia, and specifically with WWII-era German memorabilia (although I saw a few awards from the earlier part of the century.) His book was on specifically German medals.

Thirdly, collecting medals has zero in common with military analysis. To imply that somehow his creepy hobby makes him a better analyst is laughable.

Fourthly, there are serious questions as to how good an analyst he is to begin with. I am not one who can judge, but I would love to hear from military people who have read his analyses. Clearly he has screwed up in the past. And as far as I can tell, his Pentagon career had nothing to do with "analyzing shrapnel."
I've never hidden my hobby, because there's nothing shameful in it, however weird it might seem to those who aren't fascinated by military history. Precisely because it's so obvious that the Nazis were evil, I never realized that other people, including friends and colleagues, might wonder why I care about these things.
If this is true, then why did he agonize in one of his forums as to whether he should use his real name on his book? He was concerned because he sometimes gets quoted on the news, and being associated with this enterprise might hurt his career. That indicates an awareness that he knew that his hobby was potentially offensive to some. He knew quite well that people "might wonder." Yet, like all obsessives, he justified it rather than take up collecting stamps or pink flamingos.

The question he has yet to satisfactorily answer is why his obsession was almost exclusive to Nazi-era German memorabilia. He has simply denied that (as has HRW) and there has been little evidence that he spent even 1% of his collecting time on non-Nazi-era German war materials.
I deeply regret causing pain and offense with a handful of juvenile and tasteless postings I made on two websites that study Second World War artifacts (including American, British, German, Japanese and Russian items). Other comments there might seem strange and even distasteful, but they reflect the enthusiasm of the collector, such as gloating about getting my hands on an American pilot's uniform.
Here he is simply lying. The websites were both specifically geared towards German Nazi-era collections, one named GermanCombatAwards.com and the other was Wehrmacht-Awards.com. I didn't see any post about getting his hands on an American pilot's uniform, but I did see the one on his enthusiasm about seeing an SS jacket:
That is so cool! The leather SS jacket makes my blood go cold it is so COOL!

It makes my blood go cold, as well, but for completely different reasons.

Which points up to the major problem with Garlasco's non-apology: it is an excuse, with the trappings of some apologetic words, probably forced by his bosses at HRW who are trying desperately to shut this story down.

And the problem is not specifically Garlasco. It is HRW. Garlasco is always trotted out as their "senior military analyst" but we do not know what his areas of expertise really are, and one gets the impression that he is overreaching in his analyses to get to a conclusion that was already decided before he entered the scene. Now he looks a lot flakier, and so does HRW's credibility; their defense of him indicates that they just don't get it.