‘War stories’, Beauchamp, and The New Republic (cont.)

There’s an old Army saying which goes like this:  The difference between a fairy tale and a war story:  A fairy tale begins “Once upon a time”, a war story starts out “No shit, there I was…..”

Having said that, The New Republic, PVT Scott Thomas Beauchamp’s “diary” publisher, continues to mitigate his fairy tales:

A Statement on Scott Thomas Beauchamp
by the Editors
Only at TNR Online
Post date 08.02.07

Scott Thomas Beauchamp is a U.S. Army private serving in Iraq. He came to The New Republic’s attention through Elspeth Reeve, a TNR reporter-researcher, whom he later married. Over the course of the war, we have tried to provide our readers with a sense of Iraq as it is seen by the troops.

…We granted Beauchamp a pseudonym so that he could write honestly and candidly about his emotions and experiences, even as he continued to serve in the armed forces and participate in combat operations.

…Beauchamp’s latest, a Diarist headlined “Shock Troops” was about the morally and emotionally distorting effects of war. The piece was a startling confession of shame about some disturbing conduct, both his own and that of his fellow soldiers.

All of Beauchamp’s essays were fact-checked before publication. We checked the plausibility of details with experts, contacted a corroborating witness, and pressed the author for further details. But publishing a first-person essay from a war zone requires a measure of faith in the writer. Given what we knew of Beauchamp, personally and professionally, we credited his report. After questions were raised about the veracity of his essay, extensively re-reported Beauchamp’s account.

In this process, TNR contacted dozens of people. Editors and staffers spoke numerous times with Beauchamp. We also spoke with current and former soldiers, forensic experts, and other journalists who have covered the war extensively. And we sought assistance from Army Public Affairs officers. Most important, we spoke with five other members of Beauchamp’s company, and all corroborated Beauchamp’s anecdotes, which they witnessed or, in the case of one solider, heard about contemporaneously. (All of the soldiers we interviewed who had first-hand knowledge of the episodes requested anonymity.)

On the phantom mystery disfigured woman:

…Beauchamp recounted how he and a fellow soldier mocked a disfigured woman seated near them in a dining hall. Three soldiers with whom TNR has spoken have said they repeatedly saw the same facially disfigured woman. One was the soldier specifically mentioned in the Diarist. He told us: “We were really poking fun at her; it was just me and Scott, the day that I made that comment. We were pretty loud. She was sitting at the table behind me. We were at the end of the table. I believe that there were a few people a few feet to the right.”

The recollections of these three soldiers differ from Beauchamp’s on one significant detail (the only fact in the piece that we have determined to be inaccurate): They say the conversation occurred at Camp Buehring, in Kuwait, prior to the unit’s arrival in Iraq. When presented with this important discrepancy, Beauchamp acknowledged his error. We sincerely regret this mistake.

On the “skullcap” incident:

….More important, two witnesses have corroborated Beauchamp’s account. One wrote in an e-mail: “I can wholeheartedly verify the finding of the bones; U.S. troops (in my unit) discovered human remains in the manner described in ‘Shock Troopers.’ [sic] … [We] did not report it; there was no need to. The bodies weren’t freshly killed and thus the crime hadn’t been committed while we were in control of the sector of operations.” On the phone, this soldier later told us that he had witnessed another soldier wearing the skull fragment just as Beauchamp recounted: “It fit like a yarmulke,” he said. A forensic anthropologist confirmed to us that it is possible for tufts of hair to be attached to a long-buried fragment of a human skull, as described in the piece.

On the Bradley-dog demolition derby:

The last section of the Diarist described soldiers using Bradley Fighting Vehicles to kill dogs. On this topic, one soldier who witnessed the incident described by Beauchamp, wrote in an e-mail: “How you do this (I’ve seen it done more than once) is, when you approach the dog in question, suddenly lurch the Bradley on the opposite side of the road the dog is on. The rear-end of the vehicle will then swing TOWARD the animal, scaring it into running out into the road. If it works, the dog is running into the center of the road as the driver swings his yoke back around the other way, and the dog becomes a chalk outline.”
TNR contacted the manufacturer of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle System, where a spokesman confirmed that the vehicle is as maneuverable as Beauchamp described. Instructors who train soldiers to drive Bradleys told us the same thing. And a veteran war correspondent described the tendency of stray Iraqi dogs to flock toward noisy military convoys.

And a wrap-up alibi:

Although we place great weight on the corroborations we have received, we wished to know more. But, late last week, the Army began its own investigation, short-circuiting our efforts. Beauchamp had his cell-phone and computer taken away and is currently unable to speak to even his family. 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.

http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=w070730&s=editorial080207

“Oops, our bad”… When they “fact-checked” these wild-assed stories beforehand, how did their “rigorous editing and fact-checking” miss the fact this took place in Kuwait almost a year before his unit’s deployment?
No one as of this date, has ever seen a badly disfigured woman at the Camp Beuhring Mess Hall except for Beauchamp and his imaginary friend…in Kuwait. Apparently, TNR realized this little anecdote is a lie right off the bat:

What we do know, according to the responses we’ve gotten so far, is that the badly burned woman described by Thomas does not seem to have served at FOB Falcon in the last 14 months. One active duty soldier who asks that his name be withheld writes in:

I was based at Falcon last year for six months with the 101st Airborne. I never saw a woman who fits Thomas’s description. That’s not conclusive since I haven’t been there for almost eight months. But I can say this. The dining facility at Falcon is not large (maybe 200 yards by 50 yards) and the tables are very close together. I cannot remember eating a meal without having an officer or a senior NCO in earshot — none of whom would tolerate such cruelty for a moment. Moreover, Falcon isn’t that large and the faces become familiar quickly. One gets used to and comes to know everyone pretty easily.

“When presented with this important discrepancy, Beauchamp acknowledged his error.”

No shit.

And the advice from a forensic anthropologist who ‘confirmed…that it is possible for tufts of hair to be attached to a long-buried fragment of a human skull, as described in the piece’, is a sick, desperate attempt to assign ‘scientific’ affirmation of Beauchamp’s warped imagination. I love how TNR relies on Beauchamp’s claim of a mass grave, rather than a cemetery, which was widely reported and verified. If this unnamed Soldier paraded around the base with a piece of skull on his head, doncha think more than the small number of personnel on the digging detail would have known? Word travels fast on a military post. So far, only one of Beauchamp’s (anonymous ) buddies has ‘stepped forward’ to back this up. Remember, this all happened in Kuwait, not Iraq. Beauchamp is one hell of a fabulist.

What’s next in his repertoire of dispatches? Making lamp shades out of human skin?
As for the Bradley driver using dogs for speed bumps, a good friend and former Soldier, SFC Jonn Ilya US ARMY (RET), has this to say:

“Any Bradley driver who can see up over the right side and drive that 26-ton monster with enough precision to catch a dog unawares – well, the Army better not ever let him out. 1600 horses are not quiet, and 26 tons are not maneuverable.”

Stuart Koehl, an expert on military hardware at John’s Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies:

But even assuming that this guy was the world’s greatest track driver, I still think the story as presented is pure BS. According to the story, the dog is on the right side of the vehicle, because the driver turns right to run it down.

I am looking now at a 1/32nd scale model of a Bradley, and I can say with some assurance that the driver’s hatch is on the left side of the vehicle. Immediately to the driver’s right is the engine compartment, the cooling grill of which rises above the level of the driver’s hatch, making it impossible to see anything on the right side of the vehicle. Even if the driver was head-out, he still couldn’t see anything to his right below the level of the top deck (all armored vehicles have significant blind spots close in, which is why they need dismounts to protect them from RPG guys in foxholes). So, if, as the blog says, the driver “twitched” the Bradley to the right, he must have used extrasensory perception in order to catch the dog. Because there’s no way he knew the dog was even there.

Link: http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/013/891gxtcb.asp

Foer’s tapdancing throughout the protracted “statement” made Fred Astaire look like an amateur. It’s the typical (we know we fucked up) but we ‘stand by our story’. If he “knew” as much about Beauchamp as he claims, he wouldn’t have touched the “accounts” with a 10 foot cattle prod.  Just reading Beauchamp’s ‘literary’ efforts and TNR’s CYA maneuvers strains the outer limits of credibility.

The TNR has been played by a disgruntled Private, and they don’t have the decency to be embarrassed. Beauchamp, on the other hand, will likely get the boot out of the Army he deserves, and will no doubt find solace in future editorials where he (and they) can blame his entire saga on “retribution”, not unprofessional conduct and UCMJ violations.

Note to TNR: When you finally get your stories straight, let us know.

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