Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Michael Yon on Scott Thomas Beauchamp

For most of us who have covered this affair, we gave Scott Beauchamp the scorn he rightly deserved. Yesterday the transcripts that Drudge put up painted The New Republic in the worst possible light given that both Foer and Scoblic were trying to get Beauchamp to not admit to lying or exaggerating. Today, Michael Yon's newest dispatch from Iraq defends Scott Thomas Beauchamp. Not for what he did when he maligned his fellow soldier, but for the guts it took for him to admit it, and then when given a choice to go home or stay in Iraq, he chose the latter. It's called making amends:

The soldier’s name was Beauchamp. He’d tried to hide his identity, but poor Beauchamp had no idea that the blog world would get on his trail and tree him like a coon. Beauchamp crawled up to the top of that tree, looked down into the snarling spotlight, and suddenly knew he was caught. His simple mask was no more effective than a coon’s, and that in itself might provide a little insight into how deeply Beauchamp had thought this all through. In any case, he was up in that tree, surrounded by hounds who’d done this plenty of times, yet always found this part exciting. The hunters would have written the last sentence if the choice was up to them.

Some wanted Beauchamp to go to prison; some were baying for blood. The fellas in his unit were unhappy, as were his commanders, since he’d made some of them look like immature dimwits while others he’d cast as deliberately cruel in the worst of ways. Nobody likes to risk life and limb in the hope they are doing the right thing only to be spat upon and accused of criminal acts.

It took a while for the truth to eek out; there was almost none of it in what was published. As the real story unfolded, The New Republic looked increasingly culpable and ridiculous trying to hide behind a fact-checking process that was clearly stuck on the difference between fact and fabrication. In the lingering spotlight, no one seemed to appreciate the soft shoe.

It was not a story I followed closely because then—as now—I was focused on the war. But what struck me as most important was not that Beauchamp wrote some bad combat stress fiction, but that a media organization printed it as truth.

And what of Beauchamp? Because he was the man who originally wrote the lurid overwrought fable of puppy-killing among the grave-desecrating cretins who made fun of a woman disfigured by bombs, the tepid outcome left many people unhappy. Especially those who wanted to see him humiliated (he has been plenty humiliated.) Beauchamp was allowed to stay in the Army and suffered only a minor administrative setback.

I was at a reconciliation meeting between Sunni and Shia in the West Rashid district of Baghdad on 24 October, and it happened by complete coincidence that I was with Beauchamp’s battalion. In fact, I was with his old company commander for much of the day, although I had no idea for most of it that I was with Beauchamp’s old company commander.

At the reconciliation meeting, Beauchamp’s battalion commander, LTC George Glaze, politely introduced himself and asked who I wrote for. When I replied that I just have a little blog, the word caught his ears and he mentioned Beauchamp, who I acknowledged having heard something about. LTC Glaze seemed protective of Beauchamp, despite how the young soldier had maligned his fellow soldiers. In fact, the commander said Beauchamp, having learned his lesson, was given the chance to leave or stay.

It can be pretty tough over here. The soldiers in Beauchamp’s unit have seen a lot of combat. Often times soldiers are working in long stretches of urban guerrilla combat dogged by fatigue and sleep deprivation. This is likely one of the most stressful jobs in the world, especially when millions of people are screaming at you for failures that happened three years or more ago, and for decisions to invade Iraq that were made when you were still a teenager. Just as bad is the silence from the untold millions who have already written off your effort as hopeless. Add that to the fact that buddies are getting killed in front of you. (More than 70 killed in Beauchamp’s brigade.) I see what these young men and women go through, and the extraordinary professionalism they nearly always manage to exude awes me on a daily basis.

Lapses of judgment are bound to happen, and accountability is critical, but that’s not the same thing as pulling out the hanging rope every time a soldier makes a mistake.

Beauchamp is young; under pressure he made a dumb mistake. In fact, he has not always been an ideal soldier. But to his credit, the young soldier decided to stay, and he is serving tonight in a dangerous part of Baghdad. He might well be seriously injured or killed here, and he knows it. He could have quit, but he did not. He faced his peers. I can only imagine the cold shoulders, and worse, he must have gotten. He could have left the unit, but LTC Glaze told me that Beauchamp wanted to stay and make it right. Whatever price he has to pay, he is paying it.

Though Beauchamp is close, I’m not going to spend half a day tracking him down when just this morning I woke to rockets launching from nearby and landing on an American base. Who has time to skin Beauchamp? We need him on his post and focused.

As for The New Republic, some on the staff may feel like they’ve been hounded and treed, but it’s hard to feel the same sympathy for a group of cowards who won’t fess up and can’t face the scorn of American combat soldiers who were injured by their collective lapse of judgment. It’s up to their readers to decide the ultimate fate.

The New Republic treed like a bandit … personally, I think they would make a nice Daniel Boone hat.

After reading this, I can understand where Mr. Yon is coming from. But, then again, we were satisfied with the Army's investigation into him and his fables. What irritates us is that The New Republic seems to be getting away with this without an apology, or any heads rolling behind the scenes. They're slinking away, hoping that people will leave them alone and forget about their purposeful lapses.

That's not going to happen, though. There are still people "baying for blood" from The New Republic editors. If a couple people aren't fired over this, then the magazine's credibility is forever in the crapper. And honestly folks, it couldn't have happened to a nicer group of sh*t-birds.

Publius II

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's good to see you in print once more, Yes, Scott Beauchamp made serious judgement errors and hopefully we will see what kind of a man he is with what he writes. The New Republican shows no shame and for that should not be forgiven. Do not purchase it. Rawriter

October 25, 2007 at 10:48 PM  

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