He’s Private Scott Thomas Beauchamp, a member of Alpha Company, 1/18 Infantry, Second Brigade Combat Team, First Infantry Division. He’s also calling most of his critics chickenhawks, even though most of his critics a) served in the military and/or b) have been to Iraq or c) both. The pre-amble to Pvt Thomas’ letter is one more exercise in silliness from TNR:
Although the article was rigorously edited and fact-checked before it was published, we have decided to go back and, to the extent possible, re-report every detail. This process takes considerable time, as the primary subjects are on another continent, with intermittent access to phones and email. Thus far we’ve found nothing to disprove the facts in the article; we will release the full results of our search when it is completed.
It’s actually not that complicated, guys. Was there or was there not a mass grave that contained the bones of children underneath everyday, mundane household items? If there was, Pvt Thomas’ writings could be true, but if there wasn’t — and we know that there wasn’t — then they can’t be true. Are the Iraqi police the only ones who use Glocks in Iraq? If they are, his writings could be true. If they’re not — in a country awash in weapons, they’re not — his writings contain fabulism.
That’s the bottom line. There’s no need to blame the lack of a good fact check a week after the saga erupted on the difficulty of tracking down witnesses to all the events Thomas claims to have witnessed. All one needs to do is check the basic checkable facts he reports. That wasn’t done before publication, and hasn’t been done yet.
I’ll probably have more to say on this later, once I’ve sifted through Pvt Thomas’ account more thoroughly.
Update (AP): In hindsight, that he’d call his critics chickenhawks was as easy to predict as the way the left will spin this story now that he’s come forward. I’ll be interested to see what Yon, Greyhawk, Blackfive, their military readers and the vast majority of Beauchamp’s other challengers have to say about their alleged inexperience in Iraq given that their main knock on him all along has been “I’ve been there and it wouldn’t have happened that way.” The definition of “chickenhawk” is a wondrous protean creature, able to evolve at any moment to suit the left’s tastes, so who knows? Maybe Greyhawk’s a chickenhawk now too. Our nutroots non-veterans of the latest hunter-killer campaign outside Kabul led by Lt. Col. Frank “Cobra” Foer will inform us in short order.
Still, this is my favorite part:
My pieces were always intended to provide my discreet view of the war; they were never intended as a reflection of the entire U.S. Military. I wanted Americans to have one soldier’s view of events in Iraq.
Yeah, please don’t read anything into the fact that TNR plucked this guy, whose style per one expert is carefully calculated to affect sociopathy and whom Grey(chicken)hawk calls a “scumbag” for having participated in and not reported the events he describes, from a field of 160,000 to be their point man for “slice of life” pieces from Iraq. It’s just one man’s view. They might as well have filed it under “Quirk.”
Which raises an interesting question, incidentally: how exactly did Thomas/Beauchamp land his gig at TNR? I’ve gotten a few tips about that but nothing so solid that it’s worth running yet. Let’s see if it pops up somewhere today.
Update (AP): Here’s his old blog. Per Bad Candy, of particular interest is the entry from May 8, 2006. He’s not in Iraq at this point (i.e., as of May 8, 2006), I don’t think: his sidebar bio says he’s training in Germany and he cops to being in Amsterdam three weeks later, but I guess it’s possible (is it?) that he was in Iraq and then went to Europe in the intervening time. Either way, the May 8 item can only be one of two things: an exercise in creative fiction that looks exactly like the sort of thing he wrote for TNR or a bit of reportage of an actual incident — in which a U.S. commander ordered the murder of children. Which is it?
Update (AP): It’s neither big news nor especially relevant to the issue that this guy is a liberal who didn’t think much of the war even before he got there, but per our commenters you’ll find supporting evidence here, here, and here.
Update (AP): John Noonan e-mails to confirm that Beauchamp’s unit is in Iraq now. I think he was confused by what I said about him being in Germany “at this point” vis-a-vis the May 8, 2006 blog post. By “at this point” I meant at the time the post was written. I added a parenthetical to clarify that. Noonan’s also thinking the same thing I am re: the Times article this morning about Hollywood’s anti-war turn: same basic narrative as Scott Thomas, same disingenuous denial that they’re trying to do anything more than tell “discreet” — or, rather, discrete — stories.
I know that NOT participating in a war (and such a misguided one at that) should be considered better than wanting to be in one just to write a book…but you know, maybe id rather be a good man than a good artist…be both?
How remarkably lucky for Scott that he encountered precisely the sorts of incidents during his tour that would make good librul readin’ when people like Yon, Greyhawk, and Blackfive have had to do without. I guess the Muse had special plans for him.
As I said every unit has a Private Beauchamp who is more or less universally disliked as a whiny loser. No one understands them and they are always getting screwed over. They always have aspirations to grandness coupled with an absolute uselessness and laziness that ensures they will never achieve it.
The incidents described by Private dung beetle did not happen in the way he described them, but some event containing morsels of truth did and then our fabulist enbellished it to match the narrative of the voices in his head. They tell him the war is evil and consequently he and the folks around him are compromised and now agents of evil. He was just doing his part to ensure that people get the truth as it should be, damn the facts.
Update (Bryan): Not to break my arm patting myself on the back or anything, but after making the mental connection between the landfill, the children’s cemetary and Beauchamp’s stratified “mass grave” the other day, here’s what I said.
I now think that what the TNR has on its hands is not a fraudulent soldier, but a Walter Mitty. He’s there, he’s bored, and he’s using his real experiences as a basis to make stuff up.
Several people have sent in this post, from Beauchamp’s blog, that serves as confirmation:
This weekend was horrible. I worked all weekend, 12 hour shifts. Today was spent mainly in the motor pool attempting to stop and oil leak in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Now anyone who knows me should be laughing right now at the mental image of ME working on a military armored vehicle worth hundreds of thousands of dollars when I can barely change the tire of an Escort. But…it did give me time to daydream about poetry…good things happening in that department. Its also been nice to finally talk to people on the phone. If you havent gotten a call from me yet, dont worry, its on the way.
He’s there, he’s bored, and he’s an aspiring poet. As Uncle J says above, most units have a guy like Beauchamp, and they’re always low-functioning high-maintenance types that drag on the unit. In email, a civilian counter-insurgency advisory currently awaiting deployment with an Army unit observes:
You’ll understand what I mean when I write that Thomas is the nightmare of every platoon sergeant. He’s a wise a** who thinks he knows it all, is actually incompetent at most military tasks and is too much of a wise a** to admit that he’s clueless. He must live with his platoon sergeant’s boot permanently up his backside.
The Thomas affair actually raises a somewhat larger issue: Thomas is an infantryman. Our infantry (as well as other combat-arms soldiers) in Iraq also function as evidence collectors. They search locations (houses, caches, etc.) for evidence of insurgent activity and then document the results of their search for inclusion in prosecution packages to be submitted to the Iraqi Courts. If Thomas felt free to invent evidence of a U.S. atrocity and submit his invention to a major U.S. publication how then can he be trusted to document evidence of insurgent crimes for possible prosecution?
He’s useless in this important function and should be confined to the FOB and assigned to police cigarette butts for the duration of his deployment.
I couldn’t have said it better myself. I guess that makes me and my emailer chickenhawks, eh Scott?
More (Bryan): Just to clarify, the Scott Thomas post I quoted above was written while he was in Germany. Still, it gives us much information about him and what kind of individual he is. He’s a bored grumbler who hates the Army and has aspirations to be a writer (check out the post of his quoted by Bad Candy down in comments, beginning “Wednesday, April 26, 2006” for evidence on that.) Bad Candy has also found more fabulism, in the post beginning “Monday, May 08, 2006” in which he says the chaplain of his unit (or one that’s on the streets with him witnessing atrocities, anyway) will be “Handing out bibles in the marketplace tomorrow.” I believe that Thomas was still in Germany as of that date, yet he’s describing scenes of kids who are undergoing various horrible things as a result of water rationing, which doesn’t sound like Germany. And, US troops don’t hand out Bibles in the Iraqi marketplaces. I know from having personally sent soccer balls over there that our troops don’t even want to have any kind of church logos or anything else like that on anything that they do hand out over there. Cultural sensitivities and all that, ya know.
Update (AP): Per Bryan’s last update, my sense is that the stuff on the blog was all written while he was in Germany, that it’s all fiction, and that he’d make no bones about that fact. Just an author honing his style, practicing a little creative writing. The significance of it is that the fiction looks and sounds an awful lot like the alleged nonfiction he ended up writing for TNR. It seems an astonishing coincidence that an aspiring Hunter S. Thompson of the Iraq theater would end up in country and find precisely the sorts of incidents he’d fantasized about months earlier unfolding before his very eyes. His answer to that, I’m sure, would be to say “those types of incidents really aren’t that unique,” which contradicts an awful lot of milblogger opinion on this subject and puts the lie to his “one man’s view” nonsense. It’s one man’s view of what he wants you to believe is par for the course theater-wide.
a grandma memeory of cracked heavy crystal balls and smoke serpitine around stacks of tarot cards. the smell of the antiseptic physical therapy room filled with limbless veterans, some missing half a face, and one wearing a god bless america t-shirt…of course this was all before the war, but the war is closer here and an everlengthening shadow over my half closed eyes…but this is all in our time, here and coming back to america…
The “God Bless America” shirt is a nice hacky touch, but note the boldface. “[N]early half her face was severely scarred. Or, rather, it had more or less melted, along with all the hair on that side of her head,” he wrote in his latest dispatch for TNR about the mysterious woman in the “chow hall.” He saw half-faces in his fever dreams before the war and sure enough, by god, he saw ’em again for real when he was there. Maybe he’s just clairvoyant?
More (Bryan): Again, not to pat myself on the back, but I’ve been expecting the likes of Scott Thomas Beauchamp to emerge from the fetid swamps of the left for about three years now.
I can imagine the scenario a year or more from now. A young Lieutenant, perhaps an Army tank officer or a Marine platoon leader and an Iraq war veteran, testifies before the Senate, or these days, makes his stand on 60 Minutes or with Barbara Walters. With the serious tones of a young idealist chastened by war, he will deliver a stone-faced diatribe against President Bush, against Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, against Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and anyone else who led us into or supported the war that ended Saddam Hussein’s brutal reign. The decorated veteran will lie through his teeth about America’s actions and interests, about the Iraqi people’s opinion of us and our intentions–just like Kerry did in 1971 about Vietnam–and will lead some kind of Iraq veterans’ effort to cut and run from Iraq–just like Kerry advocated abandoning South Vietnam in 1971. Kerry’s advocacy succeeded a few years later, and the Communists overran our former allies.
Read the rest, as they say. There have been several Lurch mini-me’s over the intervening years. And read this old post of mine too if you have a few minutes. Miscreants like Scott Thomas are very very useful to the America-hating left and to the country’s enemies, and they realize their usefulness and they capitalize on their usefulness. It doesn’t matter to them that they end up causing us to lose wars. That’s a feature of their work, not a bug.
Update (Bryan): This update is directed at Franklin Foer, who is no doubt trying to corroborate Thomas’ tales. Ahem.
Update (AP): Air Force special ops vet turned chickenhawk Jeff Emanuel offers his services to TNR:
Beauchamp’s identity has been confirmed; at least that part of his series of claims was true. However, many, many questions surrounding his stories themselves remain. If TNR is as serious about verifying his claims (this time) as they say, then I would like to offer my services to the publication. I will be at FOB Falcon this September, working with the 4th IBCT, under whom Beauchamp’s unit falls. While I am there, I’d be more than happy to do whatever investigative work is necessary to either corroborate or debunk the stories and provided to you by Scott Thomas Beauchamp. Given the Stephen Glass episode of years past – and the speed with which questions were raised about this episode – I would say that your credibility could definitely use the boost of an outside source working to verify this for you.
Update (AP): We’ve been getting tips similar to the ones Ace has about Beauchamp being intimately connected to someone on the TNR staff. He claims to have a source within TNR itself (although not anymore, perhaps — more on that in a bit) who thought Beauchamp was either married to someone who works there or was recommended by someone married to someone who works there. There are a lot of “Scott Beauchamps” in the world, no doubt, but if this is a coincidence, it’s a fabulous one. Here’s Elspeth Reeve’s page at the TNR site. There’s some ambiguity about whether they’re married yet or just planning: the Wedding Channel thing says October but a tipster pointed me to the comments on this MySpace page. Check the May 19 entry for Ian Cognito (Beauchamp’s alias) and you’ll see he says he was married the week before. Whether they’re married or engaged isn’t really important but there you go, for the record.
It’s all so Plame-ish. As Gracie wrote to me, of all the embeds and milbloggers and real journalists they could have picked for the job, they instead chose to go with a very partisan, very inexperienced blogger just out of “laziness.” Just because they knew him. Just because it was easy.
I actually think part of the reason was that they knew Beauchamp’s politics — he having put them on display on his goofy blog — and so, just like with Valerie Plame, they knew the report was going to come back the way they wanted it when they sent him. But Gracie says it’s just Occam’s razor: Laziness.
Yeah, I have a hard time buying the convenience angle. They knew what they were getting and they got it. Surely they didn’t agree to publish him sight unseen just because he was Elspeth Reeve’s squeeze. Someone, probably her, showed them his blog or a writing sample and they dug his Apocalypse Now “I can’t believe I’m still in Saigon” vaudeville. So now the dilemma for TNR: If they find out that Beauchamp’s been exaggerating or outright fabricating in his Iraq stories and they come down hard, they probably lose Reeve too. Then again, they’ve already allegedly lost one employee over this — follow the link to Ace’s site and see what became of his TNR source, “gracie” — and if it turns out Beauchamp’s a liar then Foer will probably be hitting the bricks too, so what’s one more staff vacancy?
Given the number of milbloggers invested in this story and the number of guys with direct links to FOB Falcon — JD Johannes most notably and, per one of the updates above, Jeff Emanuel — the scrutiny of TNR’s findings after they publish the results of their investigation will be intense. They’d better do more than just check with Beauchamp’s buddies, who’ll naturally want to protect a pal, especially one who just got married and whose wife’s job may be on the line.
Update (AP): Actually, there’s another possibility here — that Beauchamp became acquainted with Reeve through his work for TNR. That would ruin the “Plame” scenario and throw open the question again of how TNR found him, but the stuff about possibly going easy on him so as not to alienate his wife would of course still apply.
Update (AP): Per tipster Mark Seavey, it looks like Beauchamp certainly knew Reeve before TNR. Not only did they go to school together, but he’s quoted here in a
1994 2004 article she wrote about an abortion rally he attended. Still doesn’t prove the Plame scenario, though: it could be that they knew each other, lost touch, and then were recently reacquainted through his work for TNR.
Update (AP): Yet another article of Reeve’s quoting Beauchamp, and yet another article with resonance. Contain your surprise.
“Glenn is completely submerged in politics on campus. It is honestly impossible to think about politics at MU without thinking of Glenn,” says Scott Beauchamp, editor-in-chief of Prospectus, a liberal campus news magazine. Beauchamp and Rehn met one year ago while campaigning for Howard Dean.
Update (AP): See-Dub puts it well here. The news about Beauchamp and Reeve isn’t big and it doesn’t necessarily imply anything untoward, but it does raise a question of motive. Was TNR really just lazy, as Ace’s source said, and decided to give a guy who was practically in house a shot at writing for the New Republic? If so, it may actually make Foer look less bad — reckless, perhaps, in trusting a guy he wasn’t sure about but bighearted in giving a staffer’s husband a shot at a prime publishing gig.
Update (AP): Yeah, pretty much:
This story is being overplayed on the right because, let’s face it, it’s slightly juicy. It’s got the thrill of a secret revealed to it. Undoubtedly more is being read into it than should be. No doubt I’m getting more traffic today than Blackfive, Greyhawk, etc., who really ought to be getting more traffic, because their reportage is more important.
So I concede that: This is a minor story which is, wrongly, playing huge just because it has a little bit of skullduggery and sex appeal to it.
Partly it’s a product of a slow news cycle, partly it’s a bloggers-versus-MSM thing, partly of course it’s wanting to vindicate the military from a suspected smear, and partly it’s sincere interest in the question of whether TNR has been fooled again and how its editorial process could have let that happen. It’s not a huge deal but even a small deal is a deal. And if what Ace says about “gracie” being fired is true, then evidently it’s a deal to TNR too.
Update (MM): Disagree. Strongly. Since when is thoroughly covering a story “overplaying” it? Because John Podhoretz says so? I’m getting plenty of e-mail from troops and veterans who don’t think the story is being “overplayed.” No, it’s not Watergate or Rathergate. So? Do we ignore every story that isn’t?