August 08, 2007


In the New York Times this morning:

In an e-mail message, Mr. Foer said, "Thus far, we've been provided no evidence that contradicts our original statement, despite directly asking the military for any such evidence it might have," adding, "We hope the military will share what it has learned so that we can resolve this discrepancy."

And in the Washington Post:

But New Republic Editor Franklin Foer is standing his ground. "We've talked to military personnel directly involved in the events that Scott Thomas Beauchamp described, and they corroborated his account," Foer said. The magazine granted anonymity to the other soldiers it cited.

And also at WaPo:

Foer said the New Republic had asked Maj. Steven Lamb, an Army spokesman, about the allegation that Beauchamp had recanted his articles in a sworn statement, and that Lamb had replied: "I have no knowledge of that." Before going incommunicado, Beauchamp "told us that he signed a statement that did not contradict his writings for the New Republic," Foer said.

"Thus far," he added, "we've been provided no evidence that contradicts our original statement, despite directly asking the military for any such evidence it might have."

In both newspapers, Foer issued the statement that "we've been provided no evidence that contradicts our original statement, despite directly asking the military for any such evidence it might have."

That, gentle readers, is a deception.

TNR senior editor Jason Zengerle has admitted to receiving an email from U.S. Army PAO Renee D. Russo that as far as the "burned woman" claim in "Shock Troops" goes, that:

"a couple of soldiers did say that [they] heard rumors about the incident, but nothing based on fact. More like an urban legand [sic]."

This was published at National Review Online's The Corner in an email from Zengerle to John Podhoretz.

I'd note further that Zengerle claims here that he got this information only after the editors at The New Republic posted their August 2 goal-post moving claim that Beauchamp changed both the date and location of the alleged verbal abuse (From FOB Falcon after Beauchamp had been scarred by the horrors of war, to Camp Beuhring, Kuwait, before he ever entered combat).

No one at TNR seems willing to address the obvious fact that for one to blame his callousness on being psychologically traumatized by the horrors of combat, it is necessary to first be in combat.

By shifting this critical goalpost, Beauchamp is admitting that not only had he not "seen the elephant," he hadn't even been to the zoo.

And probably much to Foer's chagrin, it isn't just the military that is disputing this claim.

Last night I posted an email from a contractor at Camp Arijan, Kuwait, where Beauchamp seems to have been suffering from "pre-traumatic stress disorder."

William "Big Country" Coughlin has been at Camp Arijan since February, and flatly denies that such a woman exists:

I've been in the Middle East since March of 2004. I started contracting with CACI and have worked for KBR as well. I have had one six month break 'in service' from October of 2006 to February of 2007. (I had to let the kids remember who Dad was and who was paying the bills!) I was in Baghdad at Camp Victory for 22 months, and I have been here on Arifjan since February of this year, and NEVER have I seen ANY female contractor with ANY sort of wounds described by PV2 Beauchamp. I work EXTENSIVELY with ALL aspects of personnel here on Arifjan and can say without a doubt that he's full of it. Also, for the record, in my experience, ANY and ALL contractors who are wounded in any way, shape or form are usually evacuated posthaste due to the liability issues involved with the companies that hired them. KBR and CACI both had in place strict rules regarding hostile action and evacuation of ANYONE who might have been wounded or otherwise "injured in line of duty" so as to cover themselves legally in case of potential lawsuits and otherwise.

The idea that a female contractor with a 'half melted face' beggars belief...

Let's look at the facts as we now know them:

  • "Scott Thomas" published three separate stories in The New Republic.
  • "Scott Thomas" made two claims in his second article, "Dead of Night," that were flatly false:
    1. That he saw a spent "square-backed" pistol cartridge. As a firearms "expert" who deals with literally dozens of different kinds of pistol, rifle, and shotgun ammunition on a near-daily basis, I flatly deny that such a thing exists. Please feel free to quote me on that.
    2. Beauchamp claims that the "square-backed" cartridge was proof that the Iraqi Police were involved in the shooting, because "The only shell casings that look like that belong to Glocks. And the only people who use Glocks are the Iraqi police." Someone should tell that to the New York Times, military press releases, video-sharing web sites and other media outlets that would have shown that Glocks are very common in Iraq.
    3. Glocks are quite likely the most ubiquitous handgun in Iraq, carried officially or unofficially by those on all sides, and those on no side at all.
    4. A simple Google search would have disproved both of these claims made in "Dead of Night" within seconds or minutes.
    5. This strongly suggests that The New Republic did not even make a cursory attempt to fact-check "Dead of Night" before publication.
  • Beauchamp's stories has been flatly denied by named U.S. Army PAO's Col. Steven Boylan (PAO to General Petraeus), LTC Andy Sams, Major Steven Lamb, Major Renee D. Russo, and Major Kirk Luedeke.
  • Beauchamp's First Sergeant Hatley also flatly refuted the claims.
  • Contractor William "Big Country" Coughlin has been at Camp Arijan since February, and flatly denies seeing such a woman.
  • TNR senior editor Jason Zengerle admits to have received email from PAO Russo stating that this story was regarded as an urban legend or myth, but refuses to publish this contradictory account.
  • TNR has not named a single witness, of any type. This included not only the soldiers they granted anonymity, but the civilian personnel they said they spoke with at the company who manufactures the Bradley IFV (BAE Systems), who are presumably not subject to a military gag order. TNR would not even disclose the name of the manufacturer, much less who their experts were, or precisely what they said.
  • TNR has failed to cite or name the forensic experts they spoke with, reveal the questions they asked, or reveal their expert's responses.
  • TNR has failed to cite or name the current or former solders they spoke with, what their qualifications were, reveal the questions they asked, or reveal their expert's responses.
  • TNR has failed to cite or name the journalists they spoke with, explain why they are more qualified than TNR's own crack staff, reveal the questions they asked, or their expert's responses.
  • TNR has utterly failed to address the obvious fact errors in "Dark of Night" that seems to prove their lack of fact-checking prior to the publication of that article.
  • TNR has purposefully and willfully deceived their readers when they claimed "all of Beauchamp's essays were fact-checked before publication," as the various Glocks-in-Iraq-related links above abundantly prove beyond any shadow of a doubt.
  • TNR did not present conflicting accounts from Major Luedeke or Major Lamb denying Beauchamp's claims as "urban legends of myths" and as "false".

Someone please explain to me why we should have any faith at all in what Franklin Foer, Jason Zengerle, and the other editors and reporters at The New Republic claim. They've proven they have not fact-checked articles they claim to have fact-checked prior to publication, they have not proved a single named credible source to support their charges, and they refuse to admit that their time-shifting, country-hopping "burned woman" claims have completely undermined the premise of the entire article.

I cannot think of a single reason that we should trust them, when all they seem to be trying to do is muddy the waters just enough that they might possibly escape with their careers intact.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at August 8, 2007 08:52 AM

Due to the wordings of the TNR defense positions it is unclear how many anonymous sources they have. Many claims are one soldier etc. They could be one person with multiple incidents.


How many unique sources do they have and how many confirmed each item they defended.

How many were confirming the "burned woman" story until it got moved to another country.

Posted by: YardBird at August 8, 2007 10:10 AM

When one beats a dead horse one simply looks foolish, and people walk by, shaking their heads.

But, beating a live python to nake it go away is a really bad idea. It just gets more determined, and gathers more facts, more dates, more names, more mistatements of fact, more people willing to be quoted by name, with more witnesses coming out of the jungle to jump on the python's back, as more and, more spectators gather to watch in fascination as the giant snake squeezes, and squeezes, as the helpless prey makes fewer, and fewer, and less, and less intelligable noises.

Posted by: Bill Smith at August 8, 2007 11:14 AM

It's one thing to become "political roadkill", but it's another to be run over by your own vehicle.

Posted by: Neo at August 8, 2007 11:34 AM

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 08/08/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.

Posted by: David M at August 8, 2007 12:06 PM

If you are confused about all the back-and-forth on the Beauchump story, we've created a helpful primer:

Posted by: Exurban Jon at August 8, 2007 01:17 PM

The only reason I can think for TNR to fall for Beauchamp's garbage and be so sloppy with their fact checking is that, well, they wanted to believe it true.

Sad. I used to have a lot of respect for that magazine, even when I disagreed with it. Now it's just another birdcage liner.

Posted by: Anthony Ragan at August 8, 2007 05:22 PM

It does make one wonder if anyone is in charge at TNR. If they had just said, "Oops, our bad," early in this mess, it would have been embarrassing but over without too much damage.

Instead we get this Nixonian stonewalling where not only is Beauchamp caught lying, but Foer and Zengerle as well. It's clear that they are going to fight to the bitter end, as though the burden of proof is on others.

I guess you could say this approach worked for CBS. Mapes was fired and Rather forced to retire early, but no one in CBS ever admitted outright that CBS had publicized a story based on fake documents.

There needs to be consequences for this sort of malfeasance. That's another reason--in addition to the honor of our soldiers fighting of course--that it's important to keep pressing on TNR.

Posted by: huxley at August 8, 2007 08:08 PM

:Shrug: I didn't subscribe to TNR before 'Scott Thomas', and I see no reason to subscribe to it now. Money talks, 'Thomas' walks.

Posted by: Clioman at August 9, 2007 05:46 AM

I'm curious.

Just how was TNR collecting these corroborators?

Please tell me they DIDN'T have Beauchamp working as their OMBUDSMAN on this story to do the after action fact checking....

Posted by: mrclark at August 9, 2007 09:28 AM

Just how was TNR collecting these corroborators?

Presuming they exist at all (which is suspect), they had to have been recommended by STB. Who else would have been in a position to know who could vouch for his bullshit story?

Posted by: Purple Avenger at August 9, 2007 11:03 AM