Thursday, July 26, 2007

Scott Thomas' disgrace

Semi-pseudonymous contributor to The New Republic "Scott Thomas" has come out of his bunker. TNR ran three contributions from this person, who claimed he was a soldier in Iraq. After his tales of mocking a severely wounded Iraqi woman at a meal and his comrades the skulls of Iraqi children that were found in a roadside grave upon their heads and posing for pictures, the military itself called "bullsh!t" on the stories. Indeed, military investigation and independent fact-checking indicated that these depraved acts and comments were fiction.

Then, while identifying himself as the author of the pieces for the magazines, Private Scott Thomas Beauchamp wrote this to TNR:

I am Private Scott Thomas Beauchamp, a member of Alpha Company, 1/18 Infantry, Second Brigade Combat Team, First Infantry Division.

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.

It's been maddening, to say the least, to see the plausibility of events that I witnessed questioned by people who have never served in Iraq. I was initially reluctant to take the time out of my already insane schedule fighting an actual war in order to play some role in an ideological battle that I never wanted to join. That being said, my character, my experiences, and those of my comrades in arms have been called into question, and I believe that it is important to stand by my writing under my real name.

Hmm. There's a decent amount of weaseling in this. Some quick conclusions: (1) Beauchamp's intent to provide his "view of the war" does not mean he now verifies that what he wrote is a factual account of the events he described; (2) his character is called into question by his own actions -- if he actually ridiculed an Iraqi woman disfigured by ordnance injuries, he's a disgusting human being and unworthy of the (all-too-low) pay that America gives him; (3) I don't pity the whuppings or isolation he will suffer from his company.

Hugh Hewitt's reaction is worthy of a reprint:

. . . the real story here isn’t “Thomas” or “Beauchamp” or even the accuracy of his “reporting”, but rather The New Republic’s crass effort to besmirch the war effort with the former “Thomas Diarists”. It’s interesting that Beauchamp writes, “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.” While it’s hard to take this claim at face value, in TNR’s hands they served exactly that purpose.

TNR isn’t the New Yorker; it doesn’t publish articles solely for their artistic merit. Rather, as we learned yesterday, TNR under Franklin Foer’s command aims to “explicate ideas.” The idea in need of explication regarding the "Thomas Diarists" was just how sociopathic and depraved our military has become. TNR made no effort to put Beauchamp’s writings into context of the 160,000 men and women who, unlike Private Beauchamp, are serving honorably and nobly in Iraq. What’s more, Franklin Foer’s subsequent comments that Beauchamp’s tales represented “mild practical jokes” implied that the diaries were really just the tip of iceberg regarding American malfeasance in Iraq.

* * *
[Y]ou can’t “support the troops” while publishing agitprop that suggests the troops are a bunch of sociopaths. The Nation went after the troops a couple of weeks ago; the “Thomas Diarists” were The New Republic’s tepid entry into the field. As regards the accuracy of Beauchamp’s charges, I’m sure we’ll be hearing from his superiors before the sun sets in Iraq. Not everyone runs an investigation at the same leisurely pace as Franklin Foer.

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