If what Private Scott Thomas Beauchamp wrote in the New Republic isn't true, he's in trouble, and so is the magazine.
If what Pvt. Beauchamp wrote is true, he's in bigger trouble.
Pvt. Beauchamp is the Baghdad Diarist whose July 13 article, written under the clever pseudonym "Scott Thomas," drew much skepticism.
Pvt. Beauchamp described how he made fun of a woman whose face had been severely scarred by an IED: "I love chicks that have been intimate with IEDS," Pvt. Beauchamp quotes himself as saying, loudly, to his buddies in the chow hall. "It really turns me on melted skin, missing limbs, plastic noses."
"My friend was practically falling out of his chair laughing," Pvt. Beauchamp recounted. "The disfigured woman slammed her cup down and ran out of the chow hall."
Next he described finding the remains of children in a Saddam-era mass grave uncovered when his unit was constructing a combat outpost: "One private...found the top part of a human skull...He marched around with the skull on his head...No one was disgusted. Me included."
Finally, Pvt. Beauchamp described another friend "who only really 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."
Pvt. Beauchamp described how his friend killed three dogs in one day: "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 New Republic's editors told Michael Goldfarb of the Weekly Standard the chow hall incident occurred at Forward Operating Base Falcon near Baghdad. Since only one company of soldiers at FOB Falcon have Bradleys, the outing of "Scott Thomas" was just a matter of time.
Now that they've demonstrated their diarist is a real soldier, the New Republic's editors feel vindicated. But the issue is not whether Pvt. Beauchamp is a soldier. It's whether he's telling the truth or not. And his story stinks to high heaven. No one else at the base ever seems to have a seen a woman who fits the description of the woman in the chow hall. No mass graves have been discovered during the time Pvt. Beauchamp has been at FOB Falcon. It is physically impossible for the driver of a Bradley to see a dog to the immediate right of his vehicle.
It would be better for Pvt. Beauchamp if he made his stories up. It breaks no military rule to BS gullible liberal journalists. But if Pvt. Beauchamp is telling the truth, he and his buddies have broken so many articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice that I haven't space to list them all.
It isn't only Pvt. Beauchamp who'd be in trouble. If the latter two stories are true, then his fire team leader, squad leader, platoon sergeant and platoon leader either witnessed them, and did nothing about them, or were negligent in supervising their soldiers. And if I were his company commander, I wouldn't be expecting below the zone promotion to major anytime soon.
His superiors won't be happy campers, and neither will his fellow troops, to whom he has brought unwanted scrutiny, deserved or not. I suspect Pvt. Beauchamp soon will be the guest of honor at a blanket party.
That he is Pvt. Beauchamp suggests this is not his first brush with the UCMJ. He called himself PFC Beauchamp on his Web site last September, which indicates he's been busted a stripe. He's been in the Army long enough to be a Spec 4.
On his blog (Sir Real Scott Thomas), Pvt. Beauchamp indicates he's an aspiring writer who joined the Army to establish credentials for voicing his liberal political opinions.
"I know that NOT participating in a war (and such a misguided one at that) should be considered better than wanting to be in one just to write a book," he wrote May 18, 2006. "But...maybe I'd rather be both."
But is Pvt. Beauchamp telling the truth about what he sees in Iraq?
In a blog entry for May 8, 2006, Pvt. Beauchamp describes an atrocity: "'Put a 556 in his head.' (The caliber of an M-16 rifle is .556 millimeters.) On the street below, the man's brown face dissolves in a thick red mist. The lights in the city's houses shut off in unison. Electricity rationing. Water rationing too. You ever tried to survive for more than a few hours in 120 degree weather?"
On May 8, 2006, Pvt. Beauchamp was in Germany, where temperatures rarely reach 120 degrees, and the electricity and water work just fine.