Let's begin with a hat tip to Michael Goldfarb of the WorldwideStandard.com. When The New Republic printed the latest dispatch from its infamous "Baghdad diarist" last month, Goldfarb smelled a rat. The diarist's claims about shocking conduct among GIs in Iraq--mocking a woman disfigured by an IED; running over dogs with Bradley fighting vehicles, wearing the skull of a dead child beneath a helmet--struck Mr. Goldfarb as highly improbable, if not completely false.
But Goldfarb did more than write the obligatory protest column. He mobilized a battalion of expert fact-checkers (the military blogger community), engaged Army public affairs officers and even challenged The New Republic to verify their writer's claims. Initially, the magazine and its editor, Franklin Foer, stood behind the diarist, who revealed himself as Private Scott Thomas Beauchamp. On July 26th, Private Beauchamp announced that he was willing to "stand by the entirety of my articles for TNR under my real name."
But now, as Paul Harvey would say, we know the rest of the story. About the time that Beauchamp was defending his claims in the pages of the magazine, he was also being interviewed by Army investigators. And under their questioning, he provided a much different version of the events printed in TNR. A military source close to the investigation told Michael Goldfarb that Beauchamp has signed a sworn statement, admitting that all three articles he published in the New Republic were exaggerations and falsehoods--fabrications containing only "a smidgen of truth." So far, there's been no comment from the magazine, which has a history of reporters who invent their own "reality" (Helllooo, Stephen Glass).
Additionally, Mr. Goldfarb received a statement from an Army public affairs officer, Major Steve Lamb, confirming the results of the investigation:
"An investigation has been completed and the allegations made by PVT Beauchamp were found to be false. His platoon and company were interviewed and no one could substantiate the claims."
In other words, Scott Thomas Beauchamp has been fully exposed as a liar and a fraud, an embarrassment to his unit, his chain-of-command and the United States Army. What happens next? A senior Army PAO in Iraq told Confederate Yankee over the weekend that Beauchamp could be subject to administrative punishment--possibly a Letter of Reprimand. Since administrative actions are not releasable to the public, we may never know what punishment (if any) Beauchamp receives for his escapades.
An equally salient question is how much longer Beauchamp remains in Iraq--or the Army, for that matter. There are indications that Private Beauchamp has run afoul of the military justice system in the past. In a blog entry from last September, Beauchamp identified himself as a Private First Class, but he's currently listed as a Private, suggesting that he lost a stripe somewhere along the way. With his current problems--and the prospect of more non-judicial punishment, Beauchamp appears headed for an administrative discharge, if his commanders are so inclined (and there's no reason to believe they aren't).
We're also guessing that Private Beauchamp is on his way out of the war zone, if he hasn't departed already. Having slandered his fellow soldiers, there's no way a company or battalion commander can afford to keep Beauchamp on their roster. Put another way: if you're on patrol in Baghdad, can you trust someone like Beauchamp to watch your back, or do his assigned job in a competent, professional manner?
In the heat of battle, soldiers aren't fighting for lofty ideals or over-arching strategy; they're fighting for the guy next to him, the members of their squad and their platoon. It's a relationship built on trust, with the knowledge that your buddies will make the same sacrifice that you'd make for them. With his lies and distortions in The New Republic, Private Beauchamp destroyed the trust of his fellow soldiers, rending him ineffective for almost any military endeavor this side of KP.
We predict that Private Beauchamp will be on a plane for Germany very soon, and spend the last months of his Army career on "weeds and seeds" detail. That will give him plenty of time to further embellish his war experiences, but we doubt that TNR will be willing to print them. In the interim, we owe a debt of thanks to Michael Goldfarb and other members of the "truth squad" that exposed Beauchamp and the willing dupes at The New Republic.
Sadly, we haven't heard the last of Private Beauchamp. Once out of uniform, he will probably change his story again, claiming that his affidavit was "coerced," or he signed the document to protect other soldiers. And that will probably be sufficient to land him a book contract, with a movie deal to follow. In another era, Beauchamp would be ridiculed and reviled; in today's MSM culture, the Private still has an opportunity to profit from his lies and distortions. At worst, he'll probably be a featured speaker at the 2008 YearlyKos Konvention.
More on Beauchamp's possible fate from an Army Lawyer (H/T Baldilocks). The JAG also suggests that the Private is headed for some sort of administrative separation.