Special Report

New Recklessness at the New Republic

So did young Pvt. Beauchamp lie to the Army, or to his editors? Someone is not being told the truth.

By 8.8.07

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Our story so far:

On July 13, the New Republic printed an article called "Shock Troops" under the pseudonym "Scott Thomas." The article's startling claims about the behavior of U.S. soldiers led many to raise questions about both "Shock Troops" and the two previous pieces run under the Thomas byline.

On July 26, TNR announced that it would investigate the story, and meanwhile revealed that the author was Scott Thomas Beauchamp, and that he wished to stand by his work under his own name. Some investigation into Beauchamp's background revealed what a very strange guy he is.

Last Thursday, August 2, TNR announced the results of its investigation. It had determined that one (rather important) detail was incorrect, but decided that the rest of the story was still plausible. Many found TNR's statement unconvincing, but clearly they thought that it was the end of the matter.

On Friday, TNR editor Franklin Foer appeared on Left, Right and Center, a weekly radio show on KCRW in Los Angeles. He accused TNR's critics of smearing the magazine, saying that they "move from one reckless allegation to another reckless allegation" and should "for once apologize when they get something wrong."

Even as Foer was speaking, though, it was being reported that the Army's investigation had concluded that all of Beauchamp's claims were false.

On Saturday, this was officially confirmed by Col. Steven Boylan, the Public Affairs Officer for Gen. David Petraeus. "An investigation of the allegations were conducted by the command and found to be false. In fact, members of Thomas' platoon and company were all interviewed and no one could substantiate his claims," Col. Boylan told blogger Bob Owens.

TNR, according to its statement, "spoke with five other members of Beauchamp's company, and all corroborated Beauchamp's anecdotes, which they witnessed or, in the case of one solider, heard about contemporaneously." Clearly, Beauchamp and these five soldiers lied to someone.

On Monday night, Michael Goldfarb reported at the Weekly Standard that, according to a military source familiar with the Army's investigation, Beauchamp has "signed a sworn statement admitting that all three articles he published in the New Republic were exaggerations and falsehoods."

Thus far, TNR's only response to this has been to quote Maj. Steven F. Lamb, deputy PAO for Multi National Division-Baghdad, to the effect that he doesn't know whether Beauchamp signed a sworn statement. Maj. Lamb has been quoted on this matter by several news outlets, including the Weekly Standard, USA Today (on a house blog), and the Columbia Tribune (which has covered this story because Beauchamp went to college in Columbia, Missouri). Each of these outlets has quoted Lamb saying that Beauchamp's allegations are "false"; Lamb reiterated that Beauchamp's platoon and company were interviewed, and that no one could substantiate his claims, to both the Standard and the Tribune. Yet TNR has yet to mention (except obliquely, through a link to the Weekly Standard) the results of the Army's investigation.

It is conceivable, of course, that Beauchamp and five other soldiers in his company lied to Army investigators but told TNR the truth. Perhaps six people successfully kept their stories straight while lying to investigators talking to them in person (though it seems a bit more likely that they successfully misled journalists on another continent by email). Lying to Army investigators is much more perilous than lying to journalists, though, and if TNR's editors continue to stand by Beauchamp's work, they're implicitly making some pretty serious accusations against their sources. If we credit Goldfarb's reporting -- and I'm inclined to do so -- they are actually accusing a contributor of perjuring himself.

Some might call that a reckless allegation.

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About the Author

John Tabin is a frequent contributor to The American Spectator online.