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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Scott Thomas and TNR Update

[Updates below]

Oh what a tangled web we weave when we practice to deceive.

This mangled story TNR reported on from Scott Thomas, just got messier.

Lets try to do a quick recap, quick is hard because the story gets so damn tangled, but I am going to try anyway.

We wrote about this here and here, if you want to catch up instead of just getting a recap.

(Continued below the advertisement)

(Continued from above)

Here we go. TNR published a story from a soldier, a soldier that previously has admitted to wishing to be an author, the three major incidents this soldier described are:

Incident #1.

We were already halfway through our meals when she arrived. After a minute or two of eating in silence, one of my friends stabbed his spoon violently into his pile of mashed potatoes and left it there.

“Man, I can’t eat like this,” he said.

“Like what?” I said. “Chow hall food getting to you?”

“No—with that fucking freak behind us!” he exclaimed, loud enough for not only her to hear us, but everyone at the surrounding tables. I looked over at the woman, and she was intently staring into each forkful of food before it entered her half-melted mouth.

“Are you kidding? I think she’s fucking hot!” I blurted out.

“What?” said my friend, half-smiling.

“Yeah man,” I continued. “I love chicks that have been intimate—with IEDs. It really turns me on—melted skin, missing limbs, plastic noses . . . .”

“You’re crazy, man!” my friend said, doubling over with laughter. I took it as my cue to continue.

“In fact, I was thinking of getting some girls together and doing a photo shoot. Maybe for a calendar? ‘IED Babes.’ We could have them pose in thongs and bikinis on top of the hoods of their blown-up vehicles.”

My friend was practically falling out of his chair laughing. The disfigured woman slammed her cup down and ran out of the chow hall, her half-finished tray of food nearly falling to the ground.

Incident #2.

About six months into our deployment, we were assigned a new area to patrol, southwest of Baghdad. We spent a few weeks constructing a combat outpost, and, in the process, we did a lot of digging. At first, we found only household objects like silverware and cups. Then we dug deeper and found children’s clothes: sandals, sweatpants, sweaters. Like a strange archeological dig of the recent past, the deeper we went, the more personal the objects we discovered. And, eventually, we reached the bones. All children’s bones: tiny cracked tibias and shoulder blades. We found pieces of hands and fingers. We found skull fragments. No one cared to speculate what, exactly, had happened here, but it was clearly a Saddam-era dumping ground of some sort.

One private, infamous as a joker and troublemaker, found the top part of a human skull, which was almost perfectly preserved. It even had chunks of hair, which were stiff and matted down with dirt. He squealed as he placed it on his head like a crown. It was a perfect fit. As he marched around with the skull on his head, people dropped shovels and sandbags, folding in half with laughter. No one thought to tell him to stop. No one was disgusted. Me included.

The private wore the skull for the rest of the day and night. Even on a mission, he put his helmet over the skull. He observed that he was grateful his hair had just been cut—since it would make it easier to pick out the pieces of rotting flesh that were digging into his head.

Incident #3.

I know another private who really only enjoyed driving Bradley Fighting Vehicles because it gave him the opportunity to run things over. He took out curbs, concrete barriers, corners of buildings, stands in the market, and his favorite target: dogs. Occasionally, the brave ones would chase the Bradleys, barking at them like they bark at trash trucks in America—providing him with the perfect opportunity to suddenly swerve and catch a leg or a tail in the vehicle’s tracks. He kept a tally of his kills in a little green notebook that sat on the dashboard of the driver’s hatch. One particular day, he killed three dogs. He slowed the Bradley down to lure the first kill in, and, as the diesel engine grew quieter, the dog walked close enough for him to jerk the machine hard to the right and snag its leg under the tracks. The leg caught, and he dragged the dog for a little while, until it disengaged and lay twitching in the road. A roar of laughter broke out over the radio. Another notch for the book. The second kill was a straight shot: A dog that was lying in the street and bathing in the sun didn’t have enough time to get up and run away from the speeding Bradley. Its front half was completely severed from its rear, which was twitching wildly, and its head was still raised and smiling at the sun as if nothing had happened at all.

After TNR published this, milibloggers from all over questioned the credibility, which led to an investigation, not only from TNR, but also the military is investigating it.

Also, soldiers that were at those places started investigating on their own and had disproved a few very important aspects of this Scott Thomas aka Scott Thomas Beauchamp.

First, the mass grave described by Scott Thomas, was a cemetery, which could have been a mistake or simply an over active imagination of his desire to be an author.

More importantly is what the TNR had to say today, after their investigation.

Specifically incident #1 from above:

The recollections of these three soldiers differ from Beauchamp's on one significant detail (the only fact in the piece that we have determined to be inaccurate): They say the conversation occurred at Camp Buehring, in Kuwait, prior to the unit's arrival in Iraq. When presented with this important discrepancy, Beauchamp acknowledged his error. We sincerely regret this mistake.

Now, as I said in one of the earlier posts, linked above, if one thing is proven as a lie, it brings up the credibility of everything that person says.

They are calling this an "error" and say they regret that "mistake", but a whole different country, months before he ever arrived in Iraq, is not exactly a little tiny error when the whole point of the original essay was to show the "cruelty" of the soldiers involved because of the war.

As the Weekly Standard points out and they have been investigating this since day one:

So just to be clear, the first line of the original piece stated that Beauchamp "saw her nearly every time I went to dinner in the chow hall at my base in Iraq." That turns out now to be a blatant lie--and one that Beauchamp stuck with after THE WEEKLY STANDARD first asked Foer to reveal the base at which this incident occurred. Further, TNR says in this new statement that "Shock Troops" "was about the morally and emotionally distorting effects of war." But now we find out that Beauchamp hadn't even gotten to Iraq when this incident allegedly took place. He was, in fact, a morally stunted sadist before he ever set foot in Iraq.

After recounting this tale, Beauchamp asks a rhetorical question:

Am I a monster? I have never thought of myself as a cruel person....I was relieved to still
be shocked by my own cruelty—to still be able to recognize that the things we soldiers found funny were not, in fact, funny.

Relieved that he was still shocked at his own cruelty? After his tour in Germany and the long flight to Kuwait? This whole essay was meant to demonstrate the damage war does to our own troops--but if this incident occurred at all, it only proves that Beauchamp was a vile creep to begin with.

The New Republic editors claim to have "granted Beauchamp a pseudonym so that he could write honestly and candidly about his emotions and experiences" in Iraq. The pseudonym seems to have had the opposite effect, enabling him to write dishonestly and less than candidly about the monstrous behavior displayed before he ever saw a shot fired in anger.

Ace of Spades makes some very good points about incident #2 from above:

Their next case of "confirmation" is curious. First I'll give you their "confirmation." Read carefully.

In the second anecdote, soldiers in Beauchamp's unit discovered what they believed were children's bones. Publicly, the military has sought to refute this claim on the grounds that no such discovery was officially reported.

Funny, I thought it had be reported far and wide, citing military sources, that a children's cemetery had been dug up.

But one military official told TNR that bones were commonly found in the area around Beauchamp's combat outpost. (This is consistent with the report of a children's cemetery near Beauchamp's combat outpost reported on The Weekly Standard website.)

Er, no it's not. This deception disguises a key dispute between WS and TNR: WS confirmed "children's cemetery." Scott Beauchamp claimed mass grave -- not in those words, but in words strongly suggesting a mass grave.

TNR claims vindication in that bones were found -- that was known from day one or, I guess, day two, when army sources confirmed (and did not seek to "refute" Beauchamp's story by claiming no bones had been "officially discovered") a children's cemetery had been routinely dug up to be relocated due to an engineering project. They prove here what is not disputed. Except that Beauchamp didn't just call it "bones," did he?

Here's what he claimed:

No one cared to speculate what, exactly, had happened here, but it was clearly a Saddam-era dumping ground of some sort.

From the get-go, this has been challenged because the wording is clearly intended to suggest "mass grave," and mass graves usually are dug after mass-executions. But no mass grave was found, and TNR's "confirmation" does not claim it was. Now they only claim "bones" were found -- which does then little good, as the Army has long confirmed "bones" were found. What they disputed was a "mass grave," or as Beauchamp calls it, "clearly a Saddam-era dumping ground of some sort" where "no one cared to speculate what, exactly, had happened."

There is no "confirmation" for anything other than children being buried in a graveyard where little "speculation" as to "what, exactly, had happened" was necessary, no more than one needs to speculate "what, exactly, had happened" in your local graveyard. What, exactly, had happened? People had died and then had been buried, as is usually the case with dead people.

Read the rest over at Ace of Spades, he has MUCH more to say about incident #2.

Well, TNR is batting a thousand here huh?

It would be helpful if TNR could name their "confirming sources" but they do not and all in all, to get the actual truth we are going to have to wait until the Military finishes its investigation.

Right now what we can conclude is a bored soldier, that admitted on his blog that he wished to be a writer, took a grain of truth and spun a whole elaborate story out of it and TNR decided to publish it as if it weren't a work of fiction.

One again I will say, serious question need serious answers. When will we get them?

[Update] 8/3/07- Via Confederate Yankee, we have a response from Major Renee D. Russo, Third Army USARCENT PAO in Kuwait:

This morning, I contact Major Renee D. Russo, Third Army USARCENT PAO in Kuwait, to ask her if she knew of "a female civilian contractor at Camp Buehring with severe facial burns, and if so, when" she was there.

Here is her emailed response, in full.

Mr. Owens,

We have received other media queries on the alleged incident, but have
not been able to find anyone to back it up. There is not a police
report or complaint filed on this incident during that timeframe. Right now it is considered to be a Urban Legend or Myth.

I am still researching the incident and will have to get back with you
later with any new developments.

As it stands now, the U.S. Army in Kuwait, like the U.S. Army in Iraq, is casting strong doubts on the veracity of Beauchamp's claims, stating that to the best they can determine at this time, the female contractor Beauchamp claims to have abused is either part of an "urban legend or myth."

[Update #2] The official investigation has been concluded and Beauchamp's allegations have been deemed "refuted by members of his platoon and proven to be false". (Via Matt Sanchez)

More reactions on this can be found here, here, here.

Others discussing this:
The Corner, Weekly Standard, protein wisdom, Hot Air, Op For,, QandO, Say Anything, PrairiePundit, Dean Barnett of Town Hall , National Review, and