August 17, 2007

The New Republic: Duck and Cover, Still

Tomorrow marks precisely one month since Michael Goldfarb published Fact or Fiction? at The Weekly Standard, calling into doubt the veracity of claims made by a soldier later revealed as Scott Thomas Beauchamp.

Since that time, key "facts" in two of three Beauchamp-authored stories have been discredited.

  • Glock pistols do not fire a unique "square-backed" 9-millimeter pistol cartridge.
  • Glocks, far from only being used by the Iraqi Police as the author claimed as he libeled the Iraqi Police for murder, are instead one of the more common handguns in Iraq.
  • Thee was never a "burned woman" in the dining facility at Camp Falcon as the author alleged. Nor was there a burned woman at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, a fact attested to by both named military personnel and named civilian contractors.
  • There is no evidence there was ever a garbage-stratified grave as the author alleged (though there was a cemetery that was relocated), and no support than anyone could or would wear a section of rotting human skull under the close-fitting helmets currently used by the U.S. Army.
  • There is no evidence of a dog-murdering Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle driver, and literally dozens of Bradley crewmen, commanders, drivers, infantrymen, and even the spokesman for the company that builds the Bradley all consistently stating it is all but impossible for a Bradley to be used as the author described.

In addition to the factual problems published in the articles, there have been significant issues revealed about the editorial management of The New Republic, the magazine that published the claims of Scott Thomas Beauchamp, issues that should call into question their ethics and credibility.

  • TNR editor Franklin Foer claimed on July 20 that, "I've spoken extensively with the author of the piece and have communicated with other soldiers who witnessed the events described in the diarist. Thus far, these conversations have done nothing to undermine--and much to corroborate--the author's descriptions. I will let you know more after we complete our investigation." Foer has never provided any corroborating details to support these claims, despite his promise.
  • The editors claimed that "the article [Shock Troops] was rigorously edited and fact-checked before it was published." The fact of the matter is that TNR subsequently had to change the "burned woman" assault story from happening at FOB Falcon and as the result of the psychological trauma experienced by the author as the result of combat, to another location in another country before Beauchamp ever went to war, precisely because they did not rigorously edit or fact check the article before publication. This is a not only evidence of a lie by the editors when they said they "rigorously edited and fact-checked" the article before publication, it fatally undermines the entire premise of the article.
  • TNR has not released, and appears to have purposefully hidden, unfavorable testimony of those it interviewed in the course of their investigation. We know that TNR editor Jason Zengerle admitted to John Podhoretz of The Corner that a Kuwait-based PAO regarded the "burned woman" story as a myth or urban legend, yet TNR editors have never revealed these findings as part of their investigation. So much for the promise to "release the full results of our search when it is completed." We have no way of knowing if they have hidden other unfavorable information.
  • TNR's editors have led a purposefully vague investigation that does not disclose the names, qualifications, or expertise of anyone they claimed to have interviewed during the course of their investigation, hindering anyone who would like to follow behind them and verify the veracity of their claimed research. They have not disclosed the questions they asked their experts, and have thus far refused to provide their answers directly.
  • One of the experts has been located and re-interviewed, and discloses the fact that he was never specifically interviewed about the claims made by Beauchamp at all. Further, once provided with Beauchamp's direct claims, he cited the physical properties and characteristics that would make Beauchamp's claims highly unlikely if not impossible. TNR staffers are well aware of his new, more fully-informed response, and have yet to respond.

In short, TNR's editors, led by Franklin Foer, have misled their readers, hidden testimony, and perhaps even rigged an investigation in order to claim some sort of vindication for their editorial and ethical failings.

A month into this story, it seems apparent that the Editors at TNR and their owners at CanWest MediaWorks have no intention at all of dealing honestly with the continuing editorial and ethical failures of this magazine.

Few people read The New Republic before they self-immolated their credibility. If there is any consolation to their deplorable behavior, it is the knowledge that their audience will grow smaller still as a result.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at August 17, 2007 10:53 AM

This whole thing turns on people not understanding military culture. That is evident in these threads, it is evident in TNR's defense, it is evident in the original publication of these tales.

See here Peter Beinart, baffled and flailing, not understanding the why of the upset Beauchump's stories created:

The Peter and Jonah show.

I saw a similar thing recently on the right. When Jon Stoltz shouted down that soldier at YearlyKos, at some point in his tirade he says something about 'not in my Army'. Somewhere on the right I saw it bandied about a bit that this was an example of how Stoltz was "narcissistic". Its not.

The whole "not in my Army" and "not in my Marine Corps" thing is drilled into recruits at boot. It is pounded into folks that their behavior is representative of the corps as a whole and the "not in my..." schtick is a tool used for that purpose. I must have heard "not in MY Marine Corps" a thousand times or more in my 6 years of service.

Stoltz using this language actually proved his service to me. I do not agree with his politics, but I am perfectly clear he 'got it' about military service.

What Beauchump does in his pieces is present the military *as a group* as running amok. What he says is that his unit has experienced what is called a Total Breakdown in Military Discipline.

That is possible, although very rare. It happened at Abu Ghraib. It occurs in that rare instance when a combination of factors come together - 1) little or no leadership at the command level, 2) poor leadership at the NCO level, 3) isolation and opportunity to misbehave, and 4) tendency to act out (lack of moral fiber).

That is not the norm. Abu Ghraib was stunning to me. Appalling. I was shocked into silence over it. Where was the NCOIC? Who the hell was the unit commander? Did the CG never come by? Were there no inspections? How the hell could something like that happen?

Individuals acting out is not that rare. Unusual, but not rare. The military ferrets them out with a vengence. Breakdowns in discipline are death to military operations and are simply not tolerated. Ever.

What Beauchump would have you believe is a story that is little different in quality than the Abu Ghraib story, albeit different in scope. He tells a story of military units acting out while others stand by and laugh. Of course, conveniently in Beauchump's fantasy he is the only one with a conscience, though driven to the brink by Bush' war of lies.

That story is bullshit. The reason it is important to people like me is it smears me directly. Beinhart (and others of his ilk) doesn't understand why people like me would be pissed about this, therefore we must be ideological crazies.

However one does not need to be an ideologue to be upset by TNR's publication of this nonsense and subsequent stubborn refusal to see it for what it is - one simply needs to have honorably served.

Posted by: DaveW at August 17, 2007 12:27 PM

Bob - Now *that* is an evisceration. (What you've done.) The thing you linked at Shield of Achilles the other day was more like just a "declaration of victory".

Posted by: tjmmz at August 17, 2007 01:07 PM

I wouldn't be so sure that circulation will go down. There are a whole lot of far left wing fanatical moonbats out there. I wouldn't be surprised to see them sell even more magazines.

Posted by: Capitalist Infidel at August 17, 2007 02:48 PM


Having once been a TNR subscriber, my guess is that CI is correct.

Those of the center-left, Reagan Democrats, 9-11 Republicans, etc. have forsaken TNR because of its vitriol and invective aimed at all things W.

No, I don't think their readership will suffer, nor will their reputation, what's left of it anyway.

(Hyper-)Partisanship being what it is these days TNR's move will likely be farther to the left and its readership will grow.

Just sayin'.

Posted by: MTT at August 17, 2007 04:04 PM

Thanks, Dave W. My military service (USCG) concluded over 40 years ago and every time I hear someone smear the military I still have a real problem keeping my cool.

Posted by: Glenn at August 18, 2007 12:04 AM

To MTT's and CI's points about TNR's future, the magazine's circulation had already dived by around 40% (from ca. 100k to ca. 60k) in the last several years prior to Foer's editorship, and there's been no sign of improvement. There was always an inherent contradiction between TNR's intellectual aspirations and an appeal to the nutroots - who generally prefer their polemics crude, unhinged, and free. Making the magazine into a more pretentious, yet even less credible version of THE NATION is not a very good strategy for turning things around, in my opinion.

Posted by: CK MacLeod at August 18, 2007 12:27 PM

Hmmm... where's the usual lefty suspects trying to spin this one?

Posted by: C-C-G at August 18, 2007 01:42 PM

Could be the posting problems that made comments inaccessible for much of yesterday. Or could be that they've run out of pointless slurs and transparent attempts to change the subject. Or could that they're still waiting for the other big shoe to drop on this one. Or could be that the damage has been done, the lies and bad faith have been exposed, and TNR is content to limp into the publishing sunset under a cloud of dishonor and ridicule, its editors and writers subjected to condescension and scorn. Or could be a combination of all of the above.

It will take some new twist in the story, I suspect - a firing, a resignation, a statement from STB, a revelation from behind the TNR scenes, a new attack in the MSM - to get people excited about this one again.

Posted by: CK MacLeod at August 18, 2007 02:50 PM

As talked about in other places today the lawyers now have their fingers in the pie.

It's simply a lockdown and a blackout. Each time they opened their mouth they dug themselves in deeper.

Now it will be just stonewall and look for a quiet retreat.

Posted by: YardBird at August 20, 2007 10:47 PM