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December 1, 2007

The Baghdad Fictionalist, Updated

In a 10 page mea culpa The New Republic finally cuts Scott Beauchamp loose;

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.

How could this happen?
"...we were reluctant to call Army public affairs to review his claims."

Oh. I guess it happened the way it usually happens.

Lots of link rich goodness at Michelle Malkin's- "In an act of grace, the magazine has thanked its critics and apologized to the military. .... No, just kidding about the thanking and apologizing part."

Previous - TNR's Canadian connection.

Update: TNR vs NRO - a contrast.

Posted by Kate at December 1, 2007 5:27 PM
Comments

Another great Canadian media company keeping on top of things.

"upchuck time"!

Posted by: reutersrutter at December 1, 2007 5:56 PM

Good article. Hardly a mea culpa. More like an autopsy report.

"Because we promised to protect his identity, we were reluctant to call Army public affairs to review his claims."

Oh the power of the selective quote. Yours is sounds like they could just be lazy. The actual quote gives a pretty reasonable explanation.

And let's not forget that part of the reason they've been unable to verify his stories is because the army came down so hard on his unit. How stupid is TNR that they didn't see that coming? I mean they asked this guy to step forward because they thought it would help? Did they think the army was going to help them verify his claims?

Crazy.

Posted by: Arthur A at December 1, 2007 9:12 PM

"Fog of War?" Try "Geyser of Shit;" fourteen bloody pages worth. Lay off the diuretics, Franklin.

Posted by: GDW at December 1, 2007 9:37 PM

You have to love that Beauchamp's twentysomething wife was vetting his twentysomething garbage. A little adult supervision might have saved TNR from the mess they are in.

TNR had the prevailing lefty metanarrative to uphold, the military evil, Iraq war bad, Bush bad, yadda, yadda, and they found a willing opportunist to craft the needed manuscript. It's very simple, Lefties, the MSM, lie a lot.

Arthur, it turns out that the army was very helpful to TNR. Actually, they turned out to be quite protective of him in spite of his being a weasel. His unit was on active duty on Iraq, they weren't hit with anymore hardship than any other active duty unit there.

Posted by: penny at December 1, 2007 10:44 PM

Penny wrote: "it turns out that the army was very helpful to TNR"

I'm not sure what you mean, unless you're basing that on some source other than the TNR article we just read?

I don't deny they were protective of him. Even if he'd fragged his superiors they'd still make sure he got sent back stateside safely.

I don't know if his story is true. I don't really care. It certainly could be true. But even if it is, it's not exactly My Lai is it? Frankly, if I were in charge of the army and the worst that happened while we were over there is that we ran over dogs and make fun of the disabled, I'd ask for a frickin medal and post the youtube video myself.

Posted by: Arthur A at December 2, 2007 12:20 AM

"we cannot be confident that the events in his pieces occurred in exactly the manner that he described them"

"Exactly" is the weasel-word. The standard for accuracy in an article like this would not be that something occurred exactly as described, but substantially as described. Have they been able to confirm even this? If not, the statement should simply have been "we cannot be confident that the described events occurred".

Posted by: Richard Ball at December 2, 2007 8:34 AM

It wasn't really a mea culpa, it was more like a mini-mea culpa.

Posted by: Richard Ball at December 2, 2007 8:40 AM

Since when does a supposedly factual account have to be true anyway? Haven't left-wing writers received non-fiction Pulitzer Prizes for stuff that ended up being made-up?

Doesn't truthiness count for anything any more?

Posted by: Richard Ball at December 2, 2007 8:51 AM

Richard- In a word, NO.

Posted by: rattfuc at December 2, 2007 9:05 AM

"But even if it is, it's not exactly My Lai is it?"

Good point. It reminded me of teaching high school.

Posted by: dean spencer - fox at December 2, 2007 10:11 AM

Arthur - When you said "the army came down so hard on his unit" I thought you were implying that as punitive, sorry.

What galls me with smarmy little lefties like Foer is that in their vilification of all things military never do these people ever examine that the military has provided for generations of young men a juncture in life to organize themselves into better people. The protective and paternalistic forces of the military once Beauchamp decided to remain in his unit came into play and they provided for him, a screwed up kid, a place to reach his goals without harassment.

Posted by: penny at December 2, 2007 11:04 AM

Kate: "In a 10 page mea culpa..."

Actually, it was a 14 page statement, not 10. Anyone who read the entire thing would have known that. Which raises the question: did Kate actually read the TNR "mea culpa"? Or did she just go off of Michelle Malkin's (and other friendly bloggers') selective quotations?

Also, Arthur makes a fair point: why truncate the quotation about TNR's reluctance to call Army public affairs? Why not provide the entire context--"Beauchamp's anonymity complicated this process. Because we promised to protect his identity, we were reluctant to call Army public affairs to review his claims"--and let the (valid) rationale stand on its own?

Kate's just as guilty as anyone else of manipulating "facts" for her own purposes. Which of course would be fine--that's sort of the whole point of blogging--except that she spends half her time castigating others for doing the exact same thing.

Posted by: MM at December 2, 2007 11:05 AM

Sorry to go OT (No open thread in sight) Canadian Islamic Congress sues to silence Mark Steyn: www.macleans.ca/article.jsp?content=20071130_111821_7448

Posted by: Doug at December 2, 2007 11:20 AM

Sure thing MM. Why don't you just come out and say you think the US Army's a bunch of baby eating demons and nothing can convince you otherwise?

Save us all a lot of time dancing around with actual evidence and stuff, eh?

The New Republic is just trying to put the best possible face on the fact that even though they really, really wanted Scott Beauchamp's story to be true, it ain't. They look like the bunch of truth averse, hate America dorks that they are, and they hate it. Bummer.

Posted by: The Phantom at December 2, 2007 11:21 AM

penny: "I thought you were implying that as punitive, sorry...The protective and paternalistic forces of the military once Beauchamp decided to remain in his unit came into play and they provided for him, a screwed up kid, a place to reach his goals without harassment."

"Reach his goals without harassment" -- that's a rather cheerful view of the Army's handling of the situation. Sounds more like they made it clear to the rest of Beauchamp's unit that failure to toe the official Army line would be frowned upon:

What we had to do, then, was write and sign a sworn statement ... saying that we'd never seen or committed the act of randomly causing destruction with our Brads, and that we'd found no "mass grave" site at [combat outpost] Ellis...[I]t bottomed out to us saying that we'd found "unidentified remains." [Captain] cheerfully edged us into calling them "animal" remains "so that there's no implication of them possibly being human." I changed mine to what he wanted. SCOTT changed his to "remains that people had said were animals."

Sounds to me like the threat of punitive action was clear and present. What do you think, penny? That the Army captain's push to get these guys to write a particular kind of statement was just a friendly suggestion? No implied consequences for non-cooperation? All carrots and no sticks?

Posted by: MM at December 2, 2007 11:24 AM

The Phantom: "Why don't you just come out and say you think the US Army's a bunch of baby eating demons and nothing can convince you otherwise?"

Ah yes, The Phantom, for whom the entire world is black or white. Utter a single word that's critical about any of your sacred cows, and I'm instantly a hater, plain and simple.

Never mind that in the 11:05 comment to which you were responding, I never even uttered a critical word against the Army (they was directed at Katie) -- it's all one big bipartisan world for you, isn't it? Everything right-wing versus everything left-wing. Toe the line, echo the rhetoric, or shut the hell up.

Posted by: MM at December 2, 2007 11:34 AM

Hey, MM, Google is your friend. Here's a starting point: According to the military source, Beauchamp's recantation was volunteered on the first day of the military's investigation. So as Beauchamp was in Iraq signing an affidavit denying the truth of his stories, the New Republic was publishing a statement from him on its website on July 26, in which Beauchamp said, "I'm willing to stand by the entirety of my articles for the New Republic using my real name." It rather shreds Foer's bogus contention of protecting Beauchamp's anonymity, ya think?

Sounds to me like the threat of punitive action was clear and present.

What's punitive about being required to sign an affidavit in a formal investigation? You either stand by your statements or you don't make them. There is nothing punitive about legal affidavits or depositions in the private or military sector.

It was Kate's inaccurate page number that set you off, so as a fact nazi how about setting out in simple verifiable factual sentences the facts that vindicate TNR's months long stonewalling using of course as your starting point that Beauchamp recanted his story long ago in July.

Posted by: penny at December 2, 2007 1:06 PM

penny: "Here's a starting point: According to the military source..."

Hmm, an official military statement as relayed by the Weekly Standard. Considering that some of the issues raised in this post are (1) how trustworthy official military statements actually are, (2) to what extent the Army investigators obstructed access to information, and (3) whether any informal or implicit coercion occurred during sworn statement-taking, I should think that blindly trusting the official military line isn't such a great idea.

As for your unquestioned faith in the credibility of the Weekly Standard, look at the very first paragraph of the WS link you provided. Their claim that an anonymous "military source close to the investigation" told them that Beauchamp had "signed a sworn statement admitting that all three articles he published in the New Republic were exaggerations and falsehoods" was itself later proven as false. So perhaps their words should also be taken with a grain of salt, no?

"It rather shreds Foer's bogus contention of protecting Beauchamp's anonymity, ya think?"

Actually, Foer's claim of protecting Beauchamp's anonymity was valid since, at the time that the accusations of embellishment and fictionalization first arose, and prior to the start of the military investigation, Beauchamp's real identity was indeed unknown. Check your timelines.

"What's punitive about being required to sign an affidavit in a formal investigation? You either stand by your statements or you don't make them."

Did you not notice the parts of the unit member's email where he stated that he "had" to write the statement in accordance to what his captain "wanted"? If it helps, it's the parts I highlighted in bold.

"You either stand by your statements or you don't make them. There is nothing punitive about legal affidavits or depositions in the private or military sector."

Aww, bless. How naive are you? What, do you really think that the military has a spotless reputation for providing open and safe spaces for free dialogue between military personnel and their superiors? That there's no culture of secrecy or obedience to authority at all? You're right, penny, the military is far too respectful of differences of opinion within its own ranks to ever make implicit threats of punitive consequences as a way of coercing subordinates to fall in line. Gosh, what was I thinking!?

Posted by: MM at December 2, 2007 2:46 PM

And for the record, I think the Baghdad Diarist stories were embellished, that TNR should've done a far better job fact-checking, and that they should never have granted Beauchamp anonymous status. And more general, I really couldn't care less about the fallout for either TNR or Beauchamp in all of this.

My issue is with the malicious glee with which bloggers are pursuing this story, yet who don't ever seem to bother checking if their own houses are in order. Criticizing others for fudging facts, failing to follow-up, taking things out of context for the sake of partisanship, etc. is all well and fine; criticizing them while also engaging those same faults yourself, however, is not.

Posted by: MM at December 2, 2007 2:55 PM

MM -- Actually, it was a 14 page statement, not 10.

Let's see now ...1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,14 --- no that's not right, let me try again
1,2,3,4,5,16 !! no that's not right either, let me try again

1,2,3,4,5,6,7,22 !! no that's not right either

you win MM !!

Posted by: Orlin at December 2, 2007 3:50 PM

"Fog of War?" Try "Geyser of Shit;" fourteen bloody pages worth. Lay off the diuretics, Franklin.
Posted by: GDW at December 1, 2007 9:37 PM

"Geyser of Shit"... ha ha (a keeper)

Posted by: eastern paul at December 3, 2007 1:43 AM

Golly gee MM, was I wrong? You -don't- hate the US military and think they're a bunch of baby killers who lie about killin' babies?

Scott Beauchamp is a fibber. Liar liar pants on fire. He admitted it, and despite an investigation there is no external evidence to back him up. A -carefully watched by an MSM eager to catch the Army in a coverup- kind of investigation too.

How naive are you, ducky?

Posted by: The Phantom at December 4, 2007 3:53 PM
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