Editors Confirm Soldier's Claims
Friday, August 3, 2007
The New Republic said yesterday that it has corroborated each of the allegations in an essay written by an American soldier in Iraq by checking with other members of the man's unit.
With the exception of one "significant discrepancy," for which the magazine expressed regret, the New Republic is standing behind the account of Scott Thomas Beauchamp, an Army private whose reports of petty cruelty were aggressively challenged by conservative bloggers.
The editors said they placed "great weight" on their findings, but that the Army's own investigation was "short-circuiting our efforts" because Beauchamp's computer and cellphone have been confiscated. Beauchamp, who is married to a New Republic reporter, can no longer speak to his family, and "his fellow soldiers no longer feel comfortable communicating with reporters," the magazine said.
One reported incident that produced widespread skepticism was that soldiers in a Baghdad dining hall had mocked a woman disfigured by a bomb. The editors said that three soldiers recalled that they "repeatedly saw the same facially disfigured woman," and that one of them, cited in the column, said: "We were really poking fun at her."
The mistake, acknowledged by Beauchamp, was that the conversation occurred in Kuwait, before the unit's arrival in Iraq.
The editors said two witnesses corroborated Beauchamp's account that soldiers had found and played with the skulls of Iraqi children. No such discovery was officially reported, but the Weekly Standard said a children's cemetery was located near Beauchamp's base.
One of the soldiers told the magazine in an e-mail that he could "wholeheartedly verify" the finding of the bones, and added by phone that he had seen another soldier wearing the skull on his head, as Beauchamp had reported.
Beauchamp also wrote that a soldier had used a Bradley Fighting Vehicle to run over stray dogs. A member of the unit told the magazine in an e-mail that he had witnessed the incident described by Beauchamp and described how it is done. A spokesman for the vehicle's manufacturer confirmed to the New Republic that it can be maneuvered in the way Beauchamp depicted.
Asked whether the military had hampered his inquiry, Editor Franklin Foer said: "We feel like our re-reporting has corroborated the story. But we, as a magazine, would always like to know more -- to ask everyone, every question a third and fourth time so as to pick up on any possible nuance -- and that's become impossible when the author and the subjects of the article are out of contact."
Weekly Standard blogger Michael Goldfarb seized on the mistake about the location of the disfigured woman as a "blatant lie," writing: "If this incident occurred at all, it only proves that Beauchamp was a vile creep to begin with."