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August 10, 2007

TNR Offers New Defenses

Whatev's, guys.

For several weeks now, questions have been raised about Scott Beauchamp's Baghdad Diarist "Shock Troops." While many of these questions have been formulated by people with ideological agendas, we recognize that there are legitimate concerns about journalistic accuracy. We at The New Republic take these concerns extremely seriously. This is why we have sought to re-report the story, in the process speaking with five soldiers in Beauchamp's company who substantiate the events described in Beauchamp's essay.

No, you spoke to one soldier who substantiated his claims. Stop lying.

Let's quote Franklin Foer from July 27th or so -- the day after the July 26th clamp-down which he says prevented further interviews with members of Beauchamp's company. What did he say then?

At least one soldier in the unit had already confirmed the events described, Mr. Foer said, but the magazine plans, to the extent possible, to re-report every detail, a task made more difficult now that Private Beauchamp cannot easily communicate with anyone overseas.

As I asked at the time: What the hell does it mean that "at least one" soldier had confirmed? What's this "at least" business? Did the other soldiers confirm or not? Is he not sure if the soldiers confirmed? When did very small whole numbers -- one, two, three, etc. -- become too difficult to accurately tally?

This statement makes sense only in this manner: ONE soldier confirmed, or claimed to confirm, the important bits of Beauchamp's story. Other soldiers confirmed less important matters, like that there did exist a Melted Woman at all (though at the wrong base and in the wrong country) or that the country of Iraq is not, in fact, populated entirely by Immortals from Highlander and so there are indeed bones to be found of the dead.

How "at least one soldier" confirming his tales before the clamp-down became "five soldiers" confirming his tales a week later -- with little or no additional "re-reporting" possible -- is easily explained by journalistic sleight-of-hand and editorial prestidigitation. The minor confirmation of bones existing in Iraq is counted as a significant corroboration to Beauchamp's story of a Children's Skull Yarmulke wearing soldier entertaining his entire platoon by prancing around like a macabre Clown-God of Massacred Children; two more soldiers saying they'd seen a disfigured woman in Kuwait is taken as confirmation that Beauchamp ridiculed this woman in a "crowded chow hall" (note they've not bothered to repeat, or re-assert, that bit) without a single US soldier telling these assholes to shut the hell up or face 1) a disciplinary hearing or 2) a full-on code-red beat-down outside the mess.

Back to the current apologia:

Indeed, we continue to investigate the anecdotes recounted in the Baghdad Diarist. Unfortunately, our efforts have been severely hampered by the U.S. Army. Although the Army says it has investigated Beauchamp's article and has found it to be false, it has refused our--and others'--requests to share any information or evidence from its investigation. What's more, the Army has rejected our requests to speak to Beauchamp himself, on the grounds that it wants "to protect his privacy."

At the same time the military has stonewalled our efforts to get to the truth, it has leaked damaging information about Beauchamp to conservative bloggers. Earlier this week, The Weekly Standard's Michael Goldfarb published a report, based on a single anonymous "military source close to the investigation," entitled "Beauchamp Recants," claiming that Beauchamp "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."

Here's what we know: On July 26, Beauchamp told us that he signed several statements under what he described as pressure from the Army. He told us that these statements did not contradict his articles.

TNR knew this on July 26th and refused to report it?

Moreover, on the same day he signed these statements for the Army, he gave us a statement standing behind his articles, which we published at tnr.com. Goldfarb has written, "It's pretty clear the New Republic is standing by a story that even the author does not stand by." In fact, it is our understanding that Beauchamp continues to stand by his stories and insists that he has not recanted them. The Army, meanwhile, has refused our requests to see copies of the statements it obtained from Beauchamp--or even to publicly acknowledge that they exist.

Yes, well TNR, Beauchamp has communicated with you by your own admission since then; if he actually is standing by his stories, why not get him to re-state each claim and verify that each is true?

You keep reporting he vaguely "stands behind his stories," and yet, even though he has the opportunity to re-affirm each charge, he doesn't.

Because he can't. They were false and he confessed this to the army.

TNR does have a gripe here -- if the army is going to call them and Beauchamp liars, they really need to back this up by releasing the signed documents and being more detailed about its own investigation -- but the fact of the matter is Beauchamp is in communication with TNR (most likely through his wife, of course) and so has ample opportunity to specifically re-affirm his claims.

But he's not. And he won't.

Scott Beauchamp is currently a 24-year-old soldier in Iraq who, for the past 15 days, has been prevented by the military from communicating with the outside world, aside from three brief and closely monitored phone calls to family members.

If his statements are true, and he stands behind them, and he has not claimed differently to army investigators, why should he care that he's being closely monitored? He's willing to have his claims aired to the world (well, a few thousand subscribers) on TNR but suddenly he's all afraid to talk when phone conversations are being "closely monitored"?

Incidentally, TNR has some nerve complaining about "pressuring" someone and hampering an investigation. TNR has sought to prevent "Gracie" from speaking further by having its lawyers send him a "cease and desist" letter making all sorts of ludicrous claims of Dire Legal Consequences To Come if he dares to, you know, state what he knows to be true.

Perhaps TNR would be so kind as to retract those cease and desist letters to Gracie, so that others are not "hampered" in their own investigations into the truth of the matter by "pressure" tactics? Or is only the Army forbidden to "closely monitor" people's communications, whereas TNR's legal goon squad patrols the internets to make sure a source isn't squealing on them?

Free Gracie, TNR. Free Gracie.

If you want to the truth to come out, you can start by allowing a source with relevant information to speak out, rather than "pressuring" him to remain silent.

Thanks to Jack for the tip.

PS: How we doin' confirming that wonderful, heart-tugging Iraqi boy who learned pidgin English to speak to American soldiers and then had his tongue cut out by terrorists (proving that we can't even protect our cutest allies)?

Seems like he'd be easy enough to track down, huh? Pretty big story right there. You got a kid missing a tongue right around FOB Falcon. Anyone able to snap a picture of this?

And how we doin' on "Little Venice," where sewers flow freely into the streets, and apparently cause vehicles with ride-flat tires to need immediate changing even while partially submerged in liquified human waste?

And what about CSI: Baghdad, where the the Telling Clew (if I may resort to 19th century detective-fic speak) of the "square-backed 9mm casings" helped solve the Case of the Mysterious Massacre?

How's we doin' on the fact-checkin' front there, boys?


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posted by Ace at 02:56 PM

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