Scott Thomas Steps Forward
We now have a name for The New Republic's infamous "Baghdad Diarist,"
Barely a week after publication of his latest essay, which detailed atrocious behavior among U.S. troops in Baghdad, the diarist identified himself as "Private Scott Thomas Beauchamp, a member of Alpha Company, 1/18 Infantry, Second Brigade Combat Team, First Infantry Division." Private Beauchamp revealed his name and unit in an e-mail to the magazine, which was published on its website.
During his tour in Iraq, Beauchamp has written three essays for TNR (under the pseudonym "Scott Thomas"), providing what he calls as "my discreet view of the war." Private Beauchamp apparently decided to come clean after his latest dispatch, entitled "Shock Troops" stunned and angered readers with its account of American soldiers behaving badly. In one vignette, Beauchamp described soldiers making fun of a female contractor whose face had been disfigured in an IED blast. The incident reportedly took place in the dining hall at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Falcon, in southern Baghdad.
Beauchamp's essay also detailed other examples of unprofessional conduct. He described the driver of a Bradley fighting vehicle driving over concrete barriers and deliberately running down Iraqi dogs. The Private also reported that a member of his unit unearthed a skull from a mass grave, and wore it under his helmet.
Those items have been widely challenged by Michael Goldfarb of The Weekly Standard, members of the conservative blogosphere, and Army spokesmen. Simply stated, the claims of Beauchamp/Thomas just don't add up. As others have noted, the driver of a Bradley sits on the left side of the vehicle; even with his head outside the hatch, his view of movement on the right side of the "track"--say a dog in the road--is severely constrained. Several milbloggers have noted the near impossibility of a Bradley driver being able to spot--and swerve--the armored vehicle to run down a dog. Additionally, deliberately driving a Bradley over a concrete barrier typically damages the vehicle, which means paperwork, investigations and (likely) punishment for the offending driver.
Similar doubts exist about that woman in the mess hall at FOB Falcon. Army personnel who have served at that post over the last six months cannot remember seeing a woman with gruesome facial wounds in the dining facilities. In fact, the number of female contractors in Iraq remains rather small, and no one can remember seeing the woman described by Beauchamp at any U.S. base in the Baghdad area.
Finally, the "mass grave" that provided the "skull cap" worn by one of Beauchamp's buddies was actually a former children's cemetery. A contractor who worked at Falcon told Goldfarb about the cemetery, and reports that all remains unearthed during a construction project were handled responsibly. Beyond that, there's the issue of how the soldier actually got the skull under his Army-issue helmet.
Making matters worse (at least, for Private Beauchamp), Bob Owens at Confederate Yankee has been fact-checking the author's earlier essays, and finds equally dubious claims in those submissions. In one piece, the writer expresses concerns about having to change a tire in streets flowing with raw sewage. Never mind that the Army's primary wheeled vehicles in Iraq, the HUMVEE and Stryker assault vehicles, are equipped with "run flat" tires, allowing the crews to drive for miles--to the nearest FOB--before dismounting and replacing the tire. Owens also discovered a major error in Beauchamp's description of the guns and ammunition used by Iraqi police and insurgents.
So far, neither Private Beauchamp--nor the editors at TNR--are offering additional details to corroborate his claims. And, as Scott Johnson at Powerline observes, the latest editorial note from the magazine does not include their earlier statement about communicating with soldiers who have done much to corroborate the events recounted by Beauchamp." Indeed, the magazine's interim conclusion on the veracity of his claims--"Thus far we've found nothing to disprove the facts in the article"--sounds suspiciously like Mary Mapes' defense of that bogus 60 Minutes II piece on President Bush's Air National Guard service. Not exactly a ringing endorsement.
As for Thomas/Beauchamp, he's attacking his detractors:
It's been maddening, to say the least, to see the plausibility of events that I witnessed questioned by people who have never served in Iraq.
That's a canard, and Beauchamp knows it. The most stinging criticism of his work has come from Iraq veterans, or from bloggers with extensive military experience. Collectively, they've put Private Beauchamp in the difficult position of having to explain scandalous events that (so far) don't hold up to serious scrutiny.
ADDENDUM: Michelle Malkin & Co. have been doing some digging on Private Beauchamp. One intriguging tidbit comes from another solider, who looked up Beauchamp in a secure, Army database. As he told Ms. Malkin:
I’m active Army & an Iraq vet.
I just pulled up “Scott Thomas Beauchamp” on the secure “Army Knowledge Online” website. It lists his current rank as “PV2″. (That data is kept accurate via pay records on that website.)
In his Sep 06 blog post he listed his rank as “Private First Class”. That indicates that without a doubt he was busted at least one rank as part of Article 15 proceedings under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and he likely has a strong ax to grind with his chain of command.
If Beauchamp did lose a stripe for some offense (as part of an Article 15 proceeding), that certainly casts his "attitude" and "writings" in a completely different light.