Haven’t even had time to read it yet. Just tossing it up so that you guys have a place to comment while you read it yourselves. At a glance, though, the key document appears to be a transcript of a September 7 interview between TNR and Beauchamp. TNR conspicuously never reported the details of that conversation; the only reason we even know it happened is because Kirk Luedeke, the PAO at Beauchamp’s base, mentioned it to Bob Owens.
Stand by for boatloads of updates, no doubt. Your opening exit question: How’d Drudge get the documents?
Update: Obviously the documents come from the military. Did they go straight from the base to Drudge, I wonder? Or was there a blogger middleman?
Update: All right, I’m through the first part of the transcript. It reads, I kid you not, like a scene from “Shattered Glass.” All that’s missing is, “Are you mad at me, Frank?” It should be noted that Beauchamp’s squad leader and a specialist are in the room with him at the time, so while he insists that he’s free to speak his mind, there’s obviously some question about how true that is. As for the substance, it’s seven pages of Beauchamp hanging TNR completely out to dry. Sample:
The subject of a full retraction is broached — and our hero seemingly couldn’t care less:
And finally, the inevitable heart-ache:
Now here’s where it gets interesting: Foer passes along a message from Beauchamp’s wife essentially begging him not to recant. TNR’s executive editor had warned Beauchamp earlier in the conversation that he’d likely never work as a writer again if a retraction is issued, so severe would the damage to his credibility be. As such, you can read his wife’s appeal as either a plea to her husband to preserve his career options or a plea not to let TNR lose face — or a plea for Beauchamp to stand by his story because it’s true and she knows it:
Whether it’s ethical for Foer to be leaning on Beauchamp with appeals from his own wife during what’s ostensibly a fact-finding conversation I’ll leave for you to judge.
Early on, Foer mentions that they can’t pass “final judgment” without having this conversation with Beauchamp. A month later, still not a peep. When is that final judgment coming, pray tell?
Stand by for transcript part 2.
Update: All right, done with part 2. More high drama as Foer and executive editor Peter Scoblic realize how much crap Beauchamp’s willing to see them — and his wife — eat to conclude this on his end. “[I]f it hurts you or hurts my wife, which I know it will, then I’m really sorry.”
The document ends with a copy of the “Memorandum of Understanding” from his Colonel accusing him of having violated regulations by publishing details about his unit’s deployment dates on his blog. Bloggers following this story had speculated in the past about whether he’d be administratively reprimanded for that. They have their answer.
The transcript also recounts Beauchamp authorizing his lawyer to obtain copies of his statements to the Army and to release them to TNR. Ace e-mails to speculate that the leak to Drudge may have come at the end, either from within TNR itself or from within the lawyer’s office. I find it hard to believe Foer would let general staff have access to these documents, especially given the internal leak that helped drive this story at the beginning. (See the updates about “gracie” here.) I think it’s an Army leak.
Stand by for the third document.
Update: Document 3 is the findings of the Army investigation. No drama here, just the meat. I’ll spare you their finding that no one saw a disfigured woman at FOB Falcon; TNR’s already admitted that, claiming that the incident happened in Kuwait instead. Read this closely, as one line will live in your memory forever:
A little more:
The report goes on to recommend a “mental health consultation.” The irony of all this is that it won’t change anyone’s mind. The left will dismiss the statements as coerced, even the circumstantial evidence re: the dog-killing. And then, in a year or two, when Beauchamp’s out of the service he’ll write a new piece for TNR or Vanity Fair or whoever claiming that it’s all true and he was “silenced” and you’ll just have to take his golden word for it, and then they’ll turn him into a free speech martyr. Whatevs.
Now the wait begins for TNR’s response.
Update: Hmmm. The Drudge link still exists but the links to the documents don’t, and he’s removed the item from the front page. The Army documents look too real to have been forged but did he get snookered on the transcript?
Update: A cryptic post from K-Lo at the Corner: “We’re hearing from The New Republic that the Drudge story isn’t the damning evidence it suggests to be … stay tuned.” They flipped the script!
Update (Bryan): I just rang up TNR’s offices and asked for Franklin Foer. He’s in a meeting at the moment. I wonder what it might be about.
Update (Bryan): From my admittedly limited experience with military justice (traffic tickets really don’t count for much), I don’t buy the coercion possibility as being very high. In the grand scheme, STB rates pretty low as a military criminal, and the incidents of which he wrote don’t, for the most part, amount to crimes. They amount mostly to misconduct that reflects poorly on the character of his mates (or himself, since what he wrote isn’t true). The military’s tendency in this war (think LtCol Allen West, and Illario Pantano, and Haditha) has been to prosecute first and ask questions later. Based on that and the fact that at the end of the day no officer in his or her right mind is going to risk burning a career over getting false confessions out of the likes of STB, I just don’t see coercion being much of a possibility. The more likely possibility, and the one that I believe is true, is that faced with the possibility of being caught lying under oath to the Army, he fessed up.
But never mind that. The fact is, according to the conversation transcript, he doesn’t stand by the stories anymore. Based on that and that alone, TNR has to retract them. How can they stand by stories that their own author doesn’t?
Update: K-Lo has updated to say she’s spoken to Jonathan Chait and he doesn’t dispute the legitimacy of the documents, merely Drudge’s characterization of them as a confession. Fair enough; it’s true that Beauchamp doesn’t admit to anything. It’s one, long 16-page “no comment” with Frank Foer and Peter Scoblic and, by extension, Beauchamp’s own wife begging him not to recant. Draw your own conclusions.
Jeff Emanuel has more circumstantial evidence proving the transcript is genuine.