Scott Thomas Beauchamp is a U.S. Army private serving in Iraq. He came to THE NEW REPUBLIC's attention through Elspeth Reeve, a TNR reporter-researcher, whom he later married. Over the course of the war, we have tried to provide our readers with a sense of Iraq as it is seen by the troops. Usually, these stories have been written by journalists who have traveled to Iraq and interviewed soldiers there, but last January Beauchamp sent us a first-person vignette that seemed a powerful contribution to the genre. It told the story of a young Iraqi boy who befriended American troops and subsequently had his tongue cut out by insurgents. Conservatives and liberals alike praised this essay.The result? All of the behavior and incidents Beauchamp described were confirmed by other soldiers in Beauchamp's unit. In one of the incidents -- the one where Beauchamp and another soldier mocked a woman with a disfigured face -- the incident was confirmed but it turned out it happened in Kuwait, not Iraq, while Beauchamp's unit was waiting to deploy to Iraq. When told about this discrepancy, Beauchamp immediately acknowledged the mistake. Have you ever remembered an incident accurately, and you know it happened that way, but you just get the time or the place mixed up? Apparently that never happens to right-wingers who are blinded by their ideological hatred for anyone who implies that U.S. troops could ever be anything but blameless, noble heroes:
We granted Beauchamp a pseudonym so that he could write honestly and candidly about his emotions and experiences, even as he continued to serve in the armed forces and participate in combat operations. Over the next six months, he published two other short personal accounts in our pages. Beauchamp's latest, a Diarist headlined "Shock Troops," was about the morally and emotionally distorting effects of war. The piece was a startling confession of shame about some disturbing conduct, both his own and that of his fellow soldiers.
All of Beauchamp's essays were fact-checked before publication. We checked the plausibility of details with experts, contacted a corroborating witness, and pressed the author for further details. But publishing a first-person essay from a war zone requires a measure of faith in the writer. Given what we knew of Beauchamp, personally and professionally, we credited his report. After questions were raised about the veracity of his essay, TNR extensively re-reported Beauchamp's account.
Error? Mistake?Here's Michael Goldfarb at The Weekly Standard:
That's called a lie where I come from, TNR.
So now we have a story which supposedly happened before they got to Iraq and we're again supposed to swallow it after it has been determined that he lied in his original version?
Oh, and let's not forget that this was all supposed to be "about the morally and emotionally distorting effects of war" according to Beauchamp's piece.
In the case of story one, if true, they hadn't even left Kuwait yet and he would appear to be morally and emotionally stunted before he ever showed up in Iraq.
The New Republic has published the results of their investigation into the events described by Private Scott Thomas Beauchamp. The editors say,They go on and on this way -- especially McQ, who repeats and then rejects each one of the three major incidents Beauchamp described. The "arguments" he uses to reject the truth of these stories is childish and so stubbornly absurd that it would be funny if it were not so depressing. Here is his retort to the incident of a soldier in Beauchamp's unit wearing a fragment of a child's skull on his head at a children's cemetery that the unit unearths:we spoke with five other members of Beauchamp's company, and all corroborated Beauchamp's anecdotes, which they witnessed or, in the case of one solider, heard about contemporaneously.Except they didn't.The recollections of these three soldiers differ from Beauchamp's on one significant detail (the only fact in the piece that we have determined to be inaccurate): They say the conversation [mocking a disfigured woman] occurred at Camp Buehring, in Kuwait, prior to the unit's arrival in Iraq. When presented with this important discrepancy, Beauchamp acknowledged his error. We sincerely regret this mistake.So just to be clear, the first line of the original piece stated that Beauchamp "saw her nearly every time I went to dinner in the chow hall at my base in Iraq." That turns out now to be a blatant lie--and one that Beauchamp stuck with after THE WEEKLY STANDARD first asked Foer to reveal the base at which this incident occurred. Further, TNR says in this new statement that "Shock Troops" "was about the morally and emotionally distorting effects of war." But now we find out that Beauchamp hadn't even gotten to Iraq when this incident allegedly took place. He was, in fact, a morally stunted sadist before he ever set foot in Iraq.
Second story:In the second anecdote, soldiers in Beauchamp's unit discovered what they believed were children's bones. Publicly, the military has sought to refute this claim on the grounds that no such discovery was officially reported. But one military official told TNR that bones were commonly found in the area around Beauchamp's combat outpost. (This is consistent with the report of a children's cemetery near Beauchamp's combat outpost reported on The Weekly Standard website.)
More important, two witnesses have corroborated Beauchamp's account. One wrote in an e-mail: "I can wholeheartedly verify the finding of the bones; U.S. troops (in my unit) discovered human remains in the manner described in 'Shock Troopers.' [sic] ... [We] did not report it; there was no need to. The bodies weren't freshly killed and thus the crime hadn't been committed while we were in control of the sector of operations." On the phone, this soldier later told us that he had witnessed another soldier wearing the skull fragment just as Beauchamp recounted: "It fit like a yarmulke," he said. A forensic anthropologist confirmed to us that it is possible for tufts of hair to be attached to a long-buried fragment of a human skull, as described in the piece.
Actually it is not consistent with the report of a children's cemetery near Beauchamp's COP. It is consistent with a report of a children's cemetery found south of Baghdad International Airport when a COP was constructed there. Secondly, until we know who these two witnesses are, given the first story, it remains simply that, a story.
Oh, and who is the "one official" who said bones were commonly found in the area. I assume if that's true he or she will have no problem with TNR releasing their name.
Also, please note, that nothing is said about wearing it under his helmet in this particular statement.
Last but not least, skulls aren't perfectly round and flexible like a yarmulke, are they?
Well, sorry McQ; you are not going to get answers to those thoroughly meaningful and germane questions anytime soon, because Scott Beauchamp is currently a prisoner of conscience, being held incommunicado by the U.S. military and forbidden to talk to anyone other than authorized military personnel -- even his family.