Michael Yon: The rehabilitation of Scott Beauchamp; Update: VDH wonders, why won't TNR cut bait?

A noble sentiment but one that amounts to little more than “he’s not all bad.”

I was at a reconciliation meeting between Sunni and Shia in the West Rashid district of Baghdad on 24 October, and it happened by complete coincidence that I was with Beauchamp’s battalion. In fact, I was with his old company commander for much of the day, although I had no idea for most of it that I was with Beauchamp’s old company commander.

At the reconciliation meeting, Beauchamp’s battalion commander, LTC George Glaze, politely introduced himself and asked who I wrote for. When I replied that I just have a little blog, the word caught his ears and he mentioned Beauchamp, who I acknowledged having heard something about. LTC Glaze seemed protective of Beauchamp, despite how the young soldier had maligned his fellow soldiers. In fact, the commander said Beauchamp, having learned his lesson, was given the chance to leave or stay…

Beauchamp is young; under pressure he made a dumb mistake. In fact, he has not always been an ideal soldier. But to his credit, the young soldier decided to stay, and he is serving tonight in a dangerous part of Baghdad. He might well be seriously injured or killed here, and he knows it. He could have quit, but he did not. He faced his peers. I can only imagine the cold shoulders, and worse, he must have gotten. He could have left the unit, but LTC Glaze told me that Beauchamp wanted to stay and make it right. Whatever price he has to pay, he is paying it…

The commander said I was welcome to talk with Beauchamp, but clearly he did not want anyone else coming at his soldier. LTC Glaze told me that at least one blog had even called for Beauchamp to be killed, which seems rather extreme even on a very bad day. LTC Glaze wants to keep Beauchamp, and hopes folks will let it rest. I’m with LTC Glaze on this: it’s time to let Beauchamp get back to the war. The young soldier learned his lessons. He paid enough to earn his second chance that he must know he will never get a third.

Good for Beauchamp for not walking away. But the only people preventing him from getting back to the war are TNR and, possibly, Beauchamp himself. This goes back to my post yesterday and the two possibilities identified by Ace: either Beauchamp hasn’t released his sworn statements, in which case he’s left TNR in a type of limbo, or else he has released them and TNR’s sitting on them in hopes everyone will forget about this and it’ll go away. Yon’s appeal reads like a plea to bloggers but I’m not sure which bloggers he means. Bob Owens? Michael Goldfarb? TNR can put the whole thing to bed by simply walking away from the story, which it should have done after that first phone call with Beauchamp, or Beauchamp can force them to put it to bed by telling them flat out that he’s no longer standing by the story and they should therefore commence eating shinola. Instead he no-commented them to death and promised to get them those statements, and after six weeks — nothing. Radio silence from all parties.

To be clear, Yon isn’t making excuses for TNR. They’re the guilty parties in his retelling of the story, and no one would disagree, but even so this evil editor/good-but-wayward soldier dynamic he’s trying to create here doesn’t sit right with me. Beauchamp deserves credit for fulfilling his obligation to the military, but what about his obligation to Foer and Scoblic (and to his wife, most of all) not to hang them out to dry with half-baked calumnies against his unit? He made a mistake, says Yon, which is true — but so did Foer. TNR’s lied, true — but not as much as Beauchamp, apparently. They gave Beauchamp a huge break by not only publishing a young writer but putting their trust in him, post-Glass, seemingly sight unseen, and he dumped all over it. Their fact-checking failures and especially their stonewalling after this came out are their fault entirely but let’s not minimize the extent to which they were wronged just because Beauchamp’s still willing to man his post.

And now that that’s been said, go read what the Commissar has to say about the left’s highly nuanced take on this rather unfortunate news they wished didn’t exist. Beauchamp’s a distraction from the “real issues,” it seems, except that they don’t seem too keen these days to talk about those “real issues,” either.

Update: Victor Davis Hanson asks the ultimate exit question in this fiasco. Four reasons I can think of:

1. They know something we don’t that’s going to prove Beauchamp’s stories were true. Unlikely.

2. After “Shattered Glass,” they can’t afford to retract until every last possible face-saving measure is exhausted. That’s why they’re clinging to the hope of those documents.

3. Residual personal loyalty to Beauchamp’s wife, who’s been publicly humiliated by this. Foer actually mentioned her several times during the phone call with Beauchamp.

4. Pride. There’s a certain sense here on TNR’s part, I think, that serious intellectuals like themselves shouldn’t be laid low by the hoi polloi of the right-wing blogosphere. It’s one thing for Forbes to out them, but Confederate Yankee and the Weekly Standard? Why, that would be simply insufferable. Ironically, the best example of this attitude comes from a conservative blogger, Ross Douthat, who sneered his way through a BloggingheadsTV segment with TNR’s Jonathan Chait by deriding “The Michelle Malkin Slash Ace of Spades Front” — even while himself espousing all the basic points about Beauchamp that the Michelle Malkin Slash Ace of Spades Front had already uncovered. It was his way of signaling to Chait that he was an opponent but not an enemy and that they were of the same intellectual stock, unlike the mad blog rabble that’d been hounding ol’ Frank. Whatever they might say publicly, I assure you that having to retract at the behest of the righty blogosphere will for TNR be like chewing, well, glass.

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