- Scott Thomas Beauchamp controversy
The Scott Thomas Beauchamp controversy concerns the publication of a series of diaries by Scott Thomas Beauchamp (b. 1983
St. Louis, Missouri) – a private in the United States Army, serving in the Iraq War, and a member of Alpha Company, 1-18 Infantry, Second Brigade Combat Team, First Infantry Division.cite web |url=http://www.tnr.com/blog/the_plank?pid=128957 |title=A Statement From Scott Thomas Beauchamp |accessdate=2007-08-08 |date= 2007-07-26|work=The Plank |publisher= The New Republic] cite news |first=Patricia |last=Cohen |title=Shedding Pen Name, Private Says He’s ‘Baghdad Diarist’ |url=http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/28/books/28diar.html |work= The New York Times|date= 2007-07-28|accessdate=2007-08-08]
In 2007, using the
pen name"Scott Thomas", Beauchamp filed three entries in the " The New Republic" about serving at Forward operating baseFalcon, Baghdad. These entries concerned alleged misconduct by soldiers, including Beauchamp, during the US post invasion Iraq involvement.
Several conservative publications and bloggers questioned Beauchamp's statements. "The New Republic" investigated the statements, first standing by the content of Beauchamp's articles for several months, then concluding that they could no longer stand by this material. A U.S. Army investigation had previously concluded the statements in the material were false. As of August 2008 Beauchamp was still in the military and still maintained that he "didn't make anything up." [http://radaronline.com/from-the-magazine/2008/08/scott_beauchamp_the_new_republic_scandal_03.php]
In a diary entry in "The New Republic", Beauchamp claims he ridiculed a woman in Iraq whose face had been severely burned: "I love chicks that have been intimate with IEDs" (
improvised explosive devices), Beauchamp quotes himself as saying, loudly, to his friends in the chow hall. "It really turns me on -- melted skin, missing limbs, plastic noses," he recounted. "My friend was practically falling out of his chair laughing...The disfigured woman slammed her cup down and ran out of the chow hall."
Next, he described finding the remains of children in a mass grave uncovered while his unit constructed a combat outpost: "One private...found the top part of a human skull... As he marched around with the skull on his head, people dropped shovels and sandbags, folding in half with laughter ... No one was disgusted. Me included."
Finally, Beauchamp described another soldier "who only really enjoyed driving
Bradley Fighting Vehicles because it gave him the opportunity to run things over. He took out curbs, concrete barriers, corners of buildings, stands in the market, and his favorite target: dogs." Beauchamp described how the soldier killed three dogs in one day: "He slowed the Bradley down to lure the first kill in, and, as the diesel engine grew quieter, the dog walked close enough for him to jerk the machine hard to the right and snag its leg under the tracks."cite news |first=Scott |last=Thomas |authorlink=Scott Thomas Beauchamp |title=Shock Troops |url=http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=20070723&s=diarist072307 |work= The New Republic|page=56 |date= 2007-07-23|accessdate=2007-08-08]
After the publication of "Shock Troops", "
The Weekly Standard" and " National Review" questioned the veracity of Beauchamp's statements.cite web |url=http://hotair.com/archives/2007/07/28/the-beauchamp-story-why-we-care/ |title=The Beauchamp story: Why we care |accessdate=2007-08-08 |last=Preston |first=Bryan |date= 2007-07-28|work= Hot Air] cite web |url=http://www.weeklystandard.com/weblogs/TWSFP/2007/07/reporting_from_fob_falcon.asp |title=Reporting From FOB Falcon |accessdate=2007-08-08 |last=Goldfarb |first=Michael |authorlink=Michael Goldfarb |date= 2007-07-31|work=Worldwide Standard |publisher= The Weekly Standard] For example, "The Weekly Standard" reported that one of the anonymous military experts consulted by "TNR" refuted Beauchamp's allegations regarding Bradley Fighting Vehicles. [ [http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/013/967doure.asp "Weekly Standard", August 9, 2007] ] As the controversy continued, " The Washington Post" reported that Beauchamp did not provide documentation for his three published columns.
In a follow-up posting on "The New Republic", Beauchamp objected to charges of falsification: "It's been maddening...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."
"New Republic" editor
Franklin Foerdisclosed that Beauchamp is married to Elspeth Reeve, a former "New Republic" reporter and fact checker, and that his relationship with Reeve was "part of the reason why we found him to be a credible writer."cite news |first=Howard |last=Kurtz |authorlink=Howard Kurtz |title=Army Private Discloses He Is New Republic's Baghdad Diarist |url=http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/27/AR2007072700037.html |format= |work=The Washington Post |page=C07 |date= 2007-07-27|accessdate=2007-08-08] Accused of insufficient fact-checking, the magazine had, according to Foer, planned to "re-report every detail", but the magazine later stated that their investigation was "short circuited" after the Army severed Beauchamp's communications with anyone overseas.cite web |url=http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=w070730&s=editorial080207 |title=A Statement on Scott Thomas Beauchamp |accessdate=2007-08-08 |date= 2007-08-02|work=The New Republic Online |publisher= The New Republic]
"New Republic" investigation
In an August 2 statement, after an internal investigation, editors for "The New Republic" defended Beauchamp's statements,cite news |first=Howard |last=Kurtz |authorlink=Howard Kurtz |title=Editors Confirm Soldier's Claims |url=http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/02/AR2007080202348.html |format= |work=The Washington Post |page=C02 |date=
2007-08-03|accessdate=2007-08-08] with one exception - that the conversation about the disfigured woman had occurred at Camp Buehringin Kuwait, not Iraq, an error for which The New Republic apologized to its readers. According to the statement, five anonymous members of Beauchamp's company had also confirmed the other aspects of Beauchamp's entry.
The statement continued to say that the Army's investigation had impeded their own investigation, because communication with Beauchamp had been cut off, and "his fellow soldiers no longer feel comfortable communicating with reporters...If further substantive information comes to light, TNR will, of course, share it with you.""The New Republic's" Jason Zengerle was told by the Army there was no evidence of a horribly burned woman at a Kuwait base camp after the magazine published its Editor's Note on the matter. [ [http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=NmU3MmQxYWYxNjlmZGNjYTZkMzVjN2Y0ZWU4ZDVkZWM= John Podhoretz, The Corner, "National Review", August 6, 2007] ] Peter Scoblic, executive editor of TNR, has stated to Beauchamp directly that "I understand why there are questions being raised about the piece". [ [http://www2.nationalreview.com/dest/2007/10/24/1.pdf "Transcript of Conversation, Scott Thomas Beauchamp and The New Republic"] , "U.S. Army", July 17, 2007. Posted at the website of "National Review", October 24, 2007.]
August 9 2007, A spokesman for the 4th Brigade, 1st Infantry Division clarified the results of the Army investigation in an e-mail interview with the Associated Press:
July 31 2007memorandum from Major John D. Cross, the Investigating Officer, entitled "Legal Review of AR 15-6 Investigation Regarding Allegations of Soldier Misconduct Published in "The New Republic" found [http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e2/Legal_Review_of_AR_15-6_Investigation_Regarding_Allegations_of_Soldier_Misconduct_Published_in_The_New_Republic.pdf] :
*That the incident of blatant disrespect for a disfigured woman in the FOB Falcon DFAC is a tale completely fabricated by Private Beauchamp. (The New Republic issued a correction saying the story took place in Kuwait, not Iraq.)
*That the desecration of human remains and the discover of a "Saddam-era dumping ground" is false.
*That the deliberate targeting of wild dogs is completely unfounded.
*That Private Beauchamp desired to use his experiences to enhance his writing and provide legitimacy to his work possibly becoming the next Hemmingway [sic] .
*That Private Beauchamp is not a credible source for making the allegation he wrote about in "Shock Troops." He admitted that he was not an eyewitness to the targeting of dogs and only saw animal bones during the construction of Combat Outpost Ellis. Combined with the piece of fiction that he wrote on
8 May 2006on his blog, I find that Private Beauchamp takes small bits of truth and twists and exaggerates them into fictional account that he puts forth as the whole truth for public consumption.
In a " mission.
August 6 2007, the "Weekly Standard"'s blog reported that Scott Thomas Beauchamp recanted under oath to Army investigators.cite web |url=http://www.weeklystandard.com/weblogs/TWSFP/2007/08/beauchamp_recants.asp |title=Beauchamp Recants |accessdate = 2007-08-08 |last=Goldfarb |first=Michael |authorlink=Michael Goldfarb |date= 2007-08-06|work=Worldwide Standard |publisher= The Weekly Standard] [cite web
url = http://hotair.com/archives/2007/08/03/sanchez-army-concludes-beauchamp-investigation/
title = Sanchez: Army concludes Beauchamp investigation
publisher = Hot Air
accessdate = 2007-09-18] [
Franklin Foer. " [http://www.tnr.com/politics/story.html?id=51f6dc92-7f1d-4d5b-aebe-94668b7bfb32&p=1 Fog of War] ". " The New Republic". December, 2007.]
August 7, "The New Republic" reported:
cquote|"We've talked to military personnel directly involved in the events that Scott Thomas Beauchamp described, and they corroborated his account as detailed in our statement. When we called Army spokesman Major Steven F. Lamb and asked about an anonymously sourced allegation that Beauchamp had recanted his articles in a sworn statement, he told us, 'I have no knowledge of that.' He added, 'If someone is speaking anonymously [to The Weekly Standard] , they are on their own.' When we pressed Lamb for details on the Army investigation, he told us, 'We don't go into the details of how we conduct our investigations.'" Michael Goldfarb and the "Weekly Standard" stood by the story.cite web |url=http://www.weeklystandard.com/weblogs/TWSFP/2007/08/beauchamp_recants_update.asp |title=Beauchamp Recants: Update |accessdate = 2007-08-08 |last=Goldfarb |first=Michael |authorlink=Michael Goldfarb |date=
2007-08-07|work=Worldwide Standard |publisher= The Weekly Standard; [http://www.weeklystandard.com/weblogs/TWSFP/2007/08/the_media_turns_on_tnr.asp "Weekly Standard", August 8 2007]
October 24 2007, the Drudge Reportwebsite published the transcript of a phone call that occurred on September 72007 between Beauchamp and senior TNR staff, including Franklin Foer. In this conversation, Beauchamp refused to affirm the accuracy of his reports, despite pressure from Foer to do so. Foer confirmed the accuracy of the transcript, but asserted that Beauchamp did not recant his story and claimed that independent, anonymous sources have backed up Beauchamps's charges and therefore TNR will not retract the stories.cite news|author=Howard Kurtz|title=Baghdad Diarist Was On Guard When Questioned by Editors|publisher= Washington Post|date=2007-10-25|accessdate = 2007-10-25|url=http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/24/AR2007102402687.html] Kathryn Jean Lopez, "National Review Online" 's editor also questioned the accuracy of Drudge's characterization of "The New Republic" interview as a recantation. [ [http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=YzBkNjFmY2Y0MDdhMzAwOGFiNzk4Y2Y5NGU5ZjIzMDA= The Corner on National Review Online ] ]
Hours later, the documents were no longer available at the Drudge Report. [ [http://www.observer.com/2007/drudge-calls-out-tnr-beauchamp-takes-it-back-hours-later October 24 New York Observer] ; only the archive of the original newsflash remained [http://www.drudgereportarchives.com/data/2007/10/24/20071024_171240_flash8.htm here] .] The
National ReviewOnline posted the documents on its website. [ [http://www2.nationalreview.com/dest/2007/10/24/1.pdf New Republic Transcript Part 1] ; [http://www2.nationalreview.com/dest/2007/10/24/2.pdf New Republic Transcript Part 2] ; [http://www2.nationalreview.com/dest/2007/10/24/3.pdf Army investigation] ] These documents, and other details of the Army investigation, in spite of being confirmed by "The National Review" as real, were not officially released. "We are not going into the details of the investigation," Maj. Steven F. Lamb, deputy public affairs officer in Baghdad, wrote in an e-mail message. "The allegations are false, [Beauchamp's] platoon and company were interviewed, and no one could substantiate the claims he made." [ [http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/08/washington/08diarist.html?ei=5124&en=33f5f5d8678c992a&ex=1344225600&adxnnl=1&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink&adxnnlx=1186581767-NqjRAZ3XpB7hxmlnQ2MYGg Army Says Soldier’s Articles for Magazine Were False] , "New York Times", August 8 2007] [cite news |first=Bob |last=Owens |authorlink=Bob Owens |title=The New Republic's Willful Cover-Up |url=http://www.pajamasmedia.com/2007/10/the_new_republics_willful_cove.php |work= |publisher=Pajamas Media |date= 2007-10-25|accessdate = 2007-10-26]
"The New Republic" "cannot stand by these stories"
A December 2007 article by
Franklin Foerlengthily addresses the issues of the controversy, concluding:
cquote|"In retrospect, we never should have put Beauchamp in this situation. He was a young soldier in a war zone, an untried writer without journalistic training. We published his accounts of sensitive events while granting him the shield of anonymity–which, in the wrong hands, can become license to exaggerate, if not fabricate.
"When I last spoke with Beauchamp in early November, he continued to stand by his stories. Unfortunately, the standards of this magazine require more than that. And, in light of the evidence available to us, after months of intensive re-reporting, we cannot be confident that the events in his pieces occurred in exactly the manner that he described them. Without that essential confidence, we cannot stand by these stories. [
Franklin Foer. " [http://www.tnr.com/politics/story.html?id=51f6dc92-7f1d-4d5b-aebe-94668b7bfb32&p=1 Fog of War] ". " The New Republic". December, 2007.]
Disclosure of statements made in the Army's investigation
Statements given to Army investigators by Beauchamp and soldiers in his unit were released under a
Freedom of Information Actdisclosure in January 2008. Only Beauchamp's statements support the accounts he wrote for "The New Republic". As reported in "Radar Online"cquote|The statements of Beauchamp's comrades tend to support the Army's conclusion: While many reported finding animal bones in the course of building a combat outpost, and two claimed that a child's skullcap was found, no one corroborated his account of a soldier wearing it around beneath his helmet. "We observed a human skull and a femur," wrote one captain. " [They] were buried north of the Eastern building. I do not recall who buried it, but remember being told it was done." A private told investigators: "I saw a group of soldiers find a human cranium and were trying to figure out what it was. I told them it was human, I took it, and I buried it! [T] hey were looking at it for a minute or two. After I buried it, we continued to work."
Of course, it's entirely possible that the soldiers making the statements lied to protect themselves from disciplinary action for bad behavior: If what Beauchamp wrote were true, they'd be in a position either backing him up and ratting themselves out, or saying what the Army wanted them to say and making a liar of Beauchamp.
But the statements make clear that at least some of Beauchamp's fellow soldiers didn't trust him even before the New Republic incident came to light. "He is not a reliable soldier," wrote one soldier whose rank was redacted by Army censors. "He has personally lied to me twice in both incidents one when he was
AWOL. And the other while he was malingering." [John Cook. " [http://www.radaronline.com/exclusives/2008/01/scott-beauchamp-new-republic-documents-foia.php The New Republic's Soldier's Tale] ". "Radar Online". January, 2008.]
* cite web |url = http://www.showmenews.com/2007/Jul/20070727News001.asp |title = Letters from Iraq land MU alum in a jam |publisher =
Columbia Daily Tribune|date = 27 July 2007
* cite web |url = http://www.columbiatribune.com/2007/Aug/20070807News003.asp |title = Army disputes MU alum’s war claims |publisher =
Columbia Daily Tribune|date = 7 August 2007
* cite web |url = http://www.showmenews.com/2007/Aug/20070811News005.asp |title = Magazine, military clash over MU alum’s reports |publisher =
Columbia Daily Tribune|date = 11 August 2007
* [http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e5/Beauchamp_Transcript.pdf Transcript of Beauchamp, Foer, and Peter Scoblic (PDF)]
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