According to Goldfarb. No independent evidence is offered aside from the recantation itself so we’re where I thought we’d be two days ago — with a confirmed liar and no way of proving which side he’s lying to.
THE WEEKLY STANDARD has learned from a military source close to the investigation that Pvt. Scott Thomas Beauchamp–author of the much-disputed “Shock Troops” article in the New Republic’s July 23 issue as well as two previous “Baghdad Diarist” columns–signed a sworn statement admitting that all three articles he published in the New Republic were exaggerations and falsehoods–fabrications containing only “a smidgen of truth,” in the words of our source.
Separately, we received this statement from Major Steven F. Lamb, the deputy Public Affairs Officer for Multi National Division-Baghdad:
An investigation has been completed and the allegations made by PVT Beauchamp were found to be false. His platoon and company were interviewed and no one could substantiate the claims.
According to the military source, Beauchamp’s recantation was volunteered on the first day of the military’s investigation. So as Beauchamp was in Iraq signing an affidavit denying the truth of his stories, the New Republic was publishing a statement from him on its website on July 26, in which Beauchamp said, “I’m willing to stand by the entirety of my articles for the New Republic using my real name.”
That’s a nice catch on the dates. Here’s the post at the Plank on July 26 in which TNR outed Beauchamp; they acknowledge in the first paragraph that the military investigation has already begun. Which means, assuming Goldfarb’s source is right, that Beauchamp hung TNR out to dry by letting them publish his denial even though he’d already formally recanted to the military.
The question now is how much tougher TNR wants to make things for him and the guys who corroborated his story. If they challenge the recantation and burn their sources, they’re putting six men in potential criminal jeopardy. That plus the fact that Beauchamp is married to one of their staffers means they probably won’t, that we’re probably in store for a pithy “we stand by our story” with a soft landing provided by the shrieking nutroots and smirking “reasonable conservatives” like Ross Douthat and John Cole.
Update (Bryan): Beauchamp was backing up his wild tales to the TNR as he was confessing that they were false to the Army. How interesting.
I had just about lost interest in the Scott Thomas Beauchamp story, not because it’s not interesting, but because it was following the trajectory that I had come to expect circa July 24. I’d figured out that he was a real soldier in Baghdad, who was using his real experiences to fabricate stories to smear the military (the stratified children’s mass grave was really an amalgamation of a landfill on one part of FOB Falcon and a children’s cemetery that was on another part of FOB Falcon, combined into one location by the fabulist Beauchamp and then sprinkled with the grisly story of the skull crown implausibly worn inside a troop’s combat helmet, etc). I’d also decided that TNR wasn’t going to come clean, and was going to stonewall, obfuscate, misdirect and mislead, so that it could maintain a shred of credibility with its supporters on the left while slinging mud at its justified critics on the right. I figured we’d never get a satisfactory solution out of Franklin Foer, his bosses weren’t going to fire him, and I figured the Army might end up keeping its findings out of the public domain, so we’d never really have a “Wasn’t that swell!” kind of ending. The whole thing would just fizzle into yet one more left vs right fist-shaker.
Of course, after I wrote the bit about the cemetery and landfill getting fused by Beauchamp to form the basis of his skull story, everyone got interested in the NYT/TNR back and forth over whether or not Franklin Foer knew for sure or just kinda knew that Beauchamp was actually a soldier or not. Well played, TNR. Well played, indeed. No one cared that I’d basically figured out the whole story without talking to or emailing anyone in Iraq, or talked to anyone married to anyone at TNR, or anything. But that’s just how it goes sometimes.
Anyway, as it turns out, I got that last part about the unsatisfying ending to this whole thing wrong. We do get a satisfying ending, courtesy the Army as Allah quoted above.
So Beauchamp was lying the whole time, and now that he has two entirely different stories, he was either lying to TNR, which probably paid him $50 per article and which can’t put him in prison for lying to them (because he’s not under oath when he’s spouting off to Franklin Foer), or he lied to the Army, which pays his entire salary and can and will put him in jail for quite a while if he lies to them (he is very much under oath when he’s being investigated by the US Army — for you liberals, that’s what “sworn statement” means).
So guess which one Beauchamp is more likely to have lied to — the people who couldn’t jail him, or the ones who could. And would.
That’s about as definitive a refutation as we’ll get in this saga, but it’s a good one.
And isn’t that swell!
Update (AP): To answer Bryan’s point, if I were in Beauchamp’s predicament I’d be more inclined to tell the Army whatever it wanted to hear to try to make amends for the bad press I’d given it in TNR. He’s in trouble no matter what he does: if he tells them the incidents were true he’s burned for participating in them and then not reporting his misconduct, and if he tells them the incidents were false then he’s burned for besmirching his unit in the American press with stories about what miscreants they are. In that case, the smart thing to do is to throw TNR under the bus and deny the incidents happened. He’s still in trouble with the Army but at least he’s restored their good name somewhat. That’s his best chance for leniency, I’d think.
Meanwhile, one of our commenters makes a good point. The TNR piece on the 26th noted that Beauchamp had had his communications privileges taken away after the Army investigation began. Presumably, then, the timeline went something like this: He sent his statement to TNR on or about the 24th, the investigation was launched on the 25th, and then he formally recanted for whatever reason on the 26th when he no longer had any way to inform TNR of his decision. The question is, knowing that the Army was going to want a word with him when his identity was revealed, why did he issue a statement to TNR under his real name standing by his story if he only planned to recant it when the Army came knocking a few days later? Where’s the logic in that?
Update (Bryan): He formally recanted in a sworn statement because he had nothing. The Army wasn’t going to be satisfied with a lot of smoke and wasn’t going to be distracted by questions over whether or not he exists or who he’s married to like most of us were. Its investigators probably did what I was doing at that time and asked him a simple, direct question: Where’s the mass grave of children? His entire story about that episode hinged on there actually being such a place. If it’s not real, his story is a lie. He couldn’t tell them where it was because it didn’t exist. Then they probably asked him more direct questions that he couldn’t answer, perhaps about his knowledge of guns given what he’d written about Glocks, and they probably tripped him up once or twice, and he figured out that the game was up and it was time to recant. By then he’d already sent off the note to TNR figuring that he was smarter than the investigators he’d face so he’d be fine. Like many petty criminals, he found out that he wasn’t so smart, and he found out the hard way.
There’s no rational logic in much of anything that this guy did. Why did he think he could get away with writing nonsense in a national journal, where there was always a potential that someone could read it and call him out on it? Why did he write about murderous US officers in Iraq when he was still in Germany or wherever. Why did he do any of what he did, including joining the Army on the presumption that he would a) survive the war at all and b) become some famous writer out of it. We’re not dealing with an entirely rational actor here.
When the investigation of his work began, he evidently was playing one side, then the other, and finally got himself squeezed too hard and decided that enough was enough. If you’re looking for a tight, logical answer to each move that he made in this, you’re going to be dissatisfied. The model you’re looking for is more along the lines of a trapped animal than a cold, rational and logical operator.
Update (AP): One of our regular commenters, “armylawyer,” has a post up weighing Beauchamp’s options. Read it all, but here’s the thrust:
Here’s the thing, if he was lying, there’s not much that he can be charged with. At most it would be some variant of an Article 92 violation for publication without permission or something similar (presuming such a prohibition existed within his command). At most, that’ll get him 2 years if it’s a general order, more than likely it’d be violation of an “other lawful order” which is 6 months max confinement.
Now some may argue that he’s lying to investigators but he told TNR the truth. Problem there is that the penalties for a False Official Statement are far harsher (7 yrs and a dishonorable discharge). Lying to investigators is often worse than the misconduct itself. So even if Beauchamp IS lying, he sure can’t ever say so while in uniform, as that subjects him to the more serious Article 107 charge.
I would have guessed that libeling my unit in an internationally read magazine would earn me more trouble than telling the Army a lie it wanted to hear but it sounds like that’s dead wrong. Which way would Beauchamp have guessed, I wonder? He doesn’t strike me as a real stickler for the regs so who knows if his knowledge base is closer to mine or AL’s.
Question: If in fact Beauchamp lied to the Army when he claimed the incidents didn’t happen, why did he do it on the first day of the investigation, when he didn’t yet know if they’d turn up any conflicting testimony from someone else in the unit? Assuming AL’s right and the thing Beauchamp is/should be most worried about is getting caught committing perjury, then he should either tell the truth right away or wait until the end of the investigation to lie, when he might have a better sense of what the investigators know and can conform his own story accordingly. What incentive does he have to lie to them right off the bat?