April 17, 2009

Hatley Convicted of Murder; Beauchamp Still a Fantasist

Master Sgt. John Hatley has been convicted of four counts of murder and has been sentenced to life in prison:

Master Sgt. John Hatley, 40, also will have his rank reduced to private, forfeit all pay and receive a dishonorable discharge, a jury of eight Army officers and noncommissioned officers decided. He has the possibility of parole after serving 20 years. The sentence came a day after Hatley was found guilty of premeditated murder and conspiracy in the execution-style killings of the detainees. He was found not guilty of premeditated murder in a separate January 2007 incident in which a wounded Iraqi insurgent was shot and killed.

Combat documentarian J.D. Johannes was in "The Arena" the killing ground in Baghdad's West Rashid neighborhood during the time of Hatley's deployment, and provides some perspective of what was occurring there at the time. It in no way justifies Hatley's action—to the contrary, it magnifies just how wrong Hatley's actions were during a critical time—but it does help explain how such crimes can occur.

And while I haven't yet surveyed the liberal blogosphere for reaction, day-late-and-dollar-short liberal bloggers are eventually going to latch on to the fact that Hatley was, at the time, the Sgt over one Scott Thomas Beauchamp, the fantasist that got The New Republic in such trouble for his various fictions including square-backed bullets, Bradley 25-ton IFVs that could turn on a dime to pick off dogs in the vehicle's blind spots, and verbally-abused female military contractors that never existed.

Hatley's case is proof that while no system of justice is perfect, the military system's promise of protecting those who turn in offenders from reprisals works.

Soldiers had to sense of justice to take down a superior (Hatley) and his accomplices for murders. Funny how none of the dozens of witnesses that would have witnessed Beauchamp's minor atrocities ever came forward, even when not doing could have lead to time in Leavenworth.

Far from weakening the Army's case against Beauchamp, that fact that soldiers in his unit are willing to testify against the most horrible of crimes actually bolsters the case that they would have come forward if Beauchamp's poorly-constructed stories were even close to the truth.

Below is a repost of my response to the announcement of Article 32 hearings of Staff Sgt. Jess Cunningham, Sgt. Charles Quigley, Spc. Stephen Ribordy, and Spc. Belmor Ramos, Hatley's fellow murders.

* * *

And? [Originally posted Sept. 19, 2008]

Some of the defenders of Scott Beauchamp's trio of fables in the New Republic simply can't let go of the fact that his stories were poorly written fiction. There's always been an odd attachment by some of them to justify his lies, almost as if his stories of minor atrocities were dismissed, then no atrocity claims would ever be taken seriously again.

Today, several left wing blogs have latched on to a story than has been simmering for months, the trial resulting from the execution of prisoners by members of Beauchamp's battalion between mid-March and mid-April of 2007 near Baghdad. They are trying to use that story to somehow resurrect Beauchamp's credibility.

"See? This guys in Beauchamp's battalion committed atrocities, so his stories must have been real!"

Uh, no.

During the debunking of Spencer Ackerman's cartoonishly bad "Notes on a Scandal" roughly a month ago, I compared the military investigation into Beauchamp's lies to that very same far more serious and still developing homicide investigation to make a point:

Ackerman’s biggest point of contention that Beauchamp's stories may be true are the claims that five soldiers contacted the New Republic to vouch for the accuracy of the claims made in the article — but that none of the soldiers were willing to go on the record in the magazine for fear of retaliation by the Army. Ackerman himself presents no evidence that he spoke to a single one of these soldiers, so we don't know if that claim has any merit, but I did get in touch with an officer yesterday involved in the saga who referred to claims of fears of retaliation as "a bald-faced lie."

The claims made in "Shock Troops" — insulting a burned woman, wearing bones as a hat, running over dogs — are barbaric, but at best are minimal crimes if true. Punishment for even those soldiers involved in acts such as those Beauchamp described would be administrative punishments carried out at the base, while those who would have witnessed such acts would face no penalty for reporting them. Lying on a sworn statement, however, is far more serious, and could potentially result in a court martial and prison time. Does anyone seriously want to argue that 22 men would risk their careers and freedom to lie for Scott Beauchamp, a soldier who had gone AWOL on several occasions and who many of these men did not trust?

In addition, whistleblower laws protect witnesses of crimes, whether minor cases of cruelty as reported by Beauchamp, or murder, and we need look no further than Beauchamp's own brigade for evidence proving this.

An Article 32 hearing for Staff Sgt. Jess Cunningham, Sgt. Charles Quigley, Spc. Stephen Ribordy, and Spc. Belmor Ramos will begin next week to determine whether these four soldiers in Beauchamp's battalion executed Iraqi prisoners.

It was other soldiers in Beauchamp's battalion that stepped forward and reported the far more serious crimes of executing captives. It is highly improbable that soldiers trained to do their duty would report their fellow soldiers for serious crimes, while men in the same battalion, presumably with the same training, would participate in a cover-up of far more minor violations, fearing non-existent reprisals, and risking their careers by participating in a cover-up to do so. The argument made by Beauchamp, swallowed so easily be Ackerman, is absurd.

The one particular detail of the murder investigation that has the left so suddenly feisty is that one of the soldiers facing charges (added as a defendent in the 1 1/2 months that has passed since the story cited was written) is SFC John E. Hatley, a soldier that has been cited for an email he wrote to milblogger SFC Cheryl MacElroy (RET).

Vietnam war historian Keith Nolan wrote this afternoon seeking my reaction to this development as he recalled I mentioned Hatley's email, and this is what I told him:

Mr Nolan,

Yes sir, I did quote from and refer to an email between SFC Cheryl McElroy and a SFC Hatley. I've contacted McElroy to see if she can contact the Sgt she emailed and determine it is the same Hatley. If it is the same Hatley, it would certainly destroys his credibility if he is judged to be guilty of such crimes.

What interests me is that Hatley isn't mentioned among the accused at all in this earlier article. I wonder what changed since late July.

As for how that impacts the overall case against Beauchamp? It doesn't.

It was still against SOP (not to mention suicidal) to change a HMMWV tire while on urban patrol in his area, and doubtful that a run-flat equipped vehicle would stop anyway.

There are still no such thing as a square-backed bullet in modern firearms, and Glocks are still among the most popular handguns in Iraqi culture, despite Beauchamp's claim that only Iraqi Police carry them.

There is still no burned female contractor. She simply never existed. I have an independent civilian contractor at that Kuwaiti base and military officers on the record supporting that.

Bradleys and other tracked vehicles still cannot maneuver as he described, and that comes straight from the company that manufactures them.

As for the most plausible story he told, that of someone abusing human remains, I've got two dozen signed affidavits in my hands (well, photocopied onto a CD) that makes the all sorts of slightly different claims you would expect regarding several bones found at a COP under construction, but not a single one of a guy wearing a rotting skullplate with flesh attached for part of the day and night.

Hatley's account was a supporting anecdote I relayed, but it played no significant role in my investigation or conclusions.

Hatley may very well prove to be guilty of murder and of lying in a email about how all of his soldiers are "consistently honorable."

But Hatley's guilt or innocence in a separate matter is of little more than a footnote in Beauchamp's stories, all three works of fiction that editor Franklin Foer finally decided that even he couldn't support.

Update: It looks like some of the liberal blogs found the story of the murder convictions, and predictably, are using faulty logic to insist that since Hatley lied, Beauchamp must be telling the truth.

A sampling.

Crooks & Liars:

If you cannot place the name, Master Sgt. Hatley was the direct superior of Pvt. Scott Beauchamp and the person most used to discredit (along with the gay porn star) the New Republic diary of the life of a soldier in Iraq and the ways they dealt with the pressures of Operation Clusterf*ck. All of which Hatley said was absolutely not what his ever virtuous soldiers did.

TPM Muckraker:

Some of those conservatives, including the Weekly Standard's Michael Goldfarb, participated in a concerted (and inaccurate) effort to discredit Beauchamp and tar, for lack of patriotism, the notoriously dovish New Republic and, by association, liberals everywhere.

For his reporting, Goldfarb relied on some...let's call them 'questionable' sources and even got an assist, in a bizarre breach of protocol, from Beauchamp's First Sergeant, who took to the blogosphere to make the case against the beleaguered Private. "My soldiers [sic] conduct is consistently honorable."

This soldier has other underlining [sic] issues which I'm sure will come out in the course of the investigation. No one at any of the post we live at or frequent, remotely fit the descriptions of any of the persons depicted in this young man's fairy tale. I can't and won't divulge any information regarding this soldier, but I do sincerely appreciate all the support from the people back home. Again, this young man has a vivid imagination and I promise you that this by no means reflects the truth of what is happening here.

The name of that Non-Commissioned Officer might ring a bell: John Hatley. And he seems to have protested a bit too much. Hatley had, in fact, committed the murders before he took to the Internet to defend himself and his fellow soldiers against charges of recklessness. We excitedly await Goldfarb's statement on the issue.

Andrew Sullivan:

In many ways, you couldn't make this up. But given Michael Goldfarb's enthusiasm for killing innocents, it's not terribly surprising. Goldfarb was part of the wide bloggy attempt to describe TNR's correspondent, Scott Beauchamp, as an America-hating loser and liar for pointing out that some soldiers in Iraq acted dishonorably and immorally. One of his key sources, Beauchamp's own First Sergeant, was critical in rebutting Beauchamp's charges. Goldfarb's source for defending the honor of his men and himself was just convicted "of executing four handcuffed, blindfolded Iraqi men by shooting them in the backs of their heads." Goldfarb's kinda guy. But who looks more credible now? Goldfarb or Beauchamp?

Looks like we have some liberals trying to rewrite history on a grand scale.

Hatley was not a source cultivated by Michael Goldfarb of the Weekly Standard, and his comments were not solicited by Goldfarb either. Then SFC Hatley wrote his comments in an email responding to milblogger SFC Cheryl McElroy, which you can read in the original form at her blog. It's quite obvious after reading that link that both Sullivan and TPMM's Brian Beutler owe Goldfarb at least a correction, thought I doubt they have the integrity to issue an apology for their rather gutless smears.

Like all of Beauchamp's wannabe defenders, these bloggers and others have overinflated Hatley's importance. Hatley's email on SFC McElroy's blog was a character reference we now know to be worthless.

That said, I have, via FOIA, all of the statements taken from soldiers in Beauchamp's unit, asked about the specific allegations Beauchamp alleges. There were more than two dozen. Even though they would have faced felony jail time if they lied under oath, not one soldier would support Beauchamp.

Not. One.

Bu the evidence that damned Beauchamp more than even the military investigation were details I investigated independently of the military.

I hunted down the manufacturer of the Bradley IFV, gave him Beauchamp's story, and he explained why you can't hit dogs as described in Beauchamp's fictions with a 25-ton tank.

I hunted down both civilian and military personnel in other commands that were stationed at both the camps Beauchamp claimed to have insulted the burned woman at, and all confirm that such a distinctive character would have easily stood out, and yet, she never existed.

As something of a firearms expert in my own right, I can state definitively that "square-backed" pistol ammunition Beauchamp wrote of and claimed to have recovered has never existed. Not was he even close to correct in claiming that Glock pistols were carried only by Iraqi police when they are in fact the most widespread pistol among the military, police, and civilians in Iraq.

Hatley is a murderer who directed a conspiracy to cover up his crime. He's also a liar. We all agree on that, and I think we all agree he earned his life sentence (though I would prefer that he didn't have the opportunity for parole after 20 years).

That said, Hatley's role in the Beauchamp case was a minor one (you can read my archives if you doubt that), and watching liberal bloggers trying to inflate his role so that they can tear down the case against Beauchamp (and thereby justify for their loathing for all things military) is a pathetic attempt at self-edification by a group that would still rather spit on the uniform than honor it.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at April 17, 2009 08:58 PM

I was wondering if you were going to address the fact that during Hatley's trial, the other soldiers were describing the same frustrations and similar acts that Beauchamp was describing in his articles. There is also the fact that the person who discredited Beauchamp the most (along side a gay porn star) turned out to be a cold blooded murderer and actually kind of a psycho (unless you think shooting innocent men in the back of the head a sane act). Or that Scott has actually gone up in rank since all of those allegations were made but still never recanted anything he said. I always found that interesting. I'm not sure why the military would promote a man who made up stories and then wouldn't take them back. You'd think they'd probably want to punish him in some way...weird...

Must be those "flaws" in the judicial system.

Posted by: Madi at April 17, 2009 11:18 PM

Utterly amazing.

Posted by: Dan at April 17, 2009 11:20 PM

Madi - It would have useful for you to have read the post before making such an embarrassing comment.

Posted by: daleyrocks at April 18, 2009 03:40 PM

Madi - It would have useful for you to have read the post before making such an embarrassing comment.

Posted by: daleyrocks at April 18, 2009 03:40 PM

The leftosphere is out in full force on our blog for the same reason, raising the level of discourse by dismissing anyone who disagrees with us as "wingnuts".

They're infested the comments of ExJon's post here ( ), and I have a rebuttal here ( ).

Posted by: Exurbankevin at April 18, 2009 06:55 PM

Can we get Franklin Foer on the record? We really need to hear from TNR on this.

That would be funny.

Posted by: Pablo at April 19, 2009 10:17 AM

Confederate Yankee,

I take issue with the latter part of this comment:

"Like all of Beauchamp's wannabe defenders, these bloggers and others have overinflated Hatley's importance. Hatley's email on SFC McElroy's blog was a character reference we now know to be worthless."

The character reference given by 1SG Hatley in the e-mail is in response to Beauchamp's wild-assed stories and broad-brushed condemnation of the fellow Soldiers in his unit. Beauchamp was and is a punk. He finally admitted he lied, but not before he fed the maws of the anti-military/anti-war moonbats. I also had correspondence with Major Kirk Luedeke, the Public Relations Officer,who explained Beauchamp's antics in detail.

Put this in its proper perspective: 1SG Hatley's squad did not go into a village and select unarmed civilians for a summary execution. They chased down four armed terrorists who FIRED at them; capturing them as well as finding their weapons cache. In retrospect, they should have saved themselves the trouble and killed them on the spot.

SFC Cheryl McElroy

Posted by: sfcmac at April 20, 2009 11:14 AM