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It’s time to lay off of Scott Thomas Beauchamp: Young men make mistakes, and he deserves a chance to learn from his

Jeff Emanuel

October 26, 2007


Note: More here on why I think STB is sincere.

Note 2: Even more here, following TNR's latest statement on the matter.

The New Republic
’s “Baghdad Diarist,” Scott Thomas Beauchamp, was thrust into the spotlight once again this week (after a two-month escape into anonymity) by the Drudge Report, which obtained and published U.S. Army documents showing that the erstwhile writer’s stories of soldier atrocities in Iraq were fabricated, and showing that the editors of TNR knew – even while they were defending them publicly – that the articles they had published were likely untrue.

While TNR’s continued defense of their own indefensible actions and handling of this situation are fair game for any who wish to continue pursuing them, it is time to stop going after the author himself, who has not only recanted his works of fiction, but is, by all available evidence, doing his best to rehabilitate himself, to learn from his mistakes, and to move on from this unfortunate episode.

The episode was incredibly unfortunate, as The New Republic decided to publish the fictional writings of this young soldier as though they were absolute truth, largely because what he had to say played precisely into the opinion of America’s military that is shared by TNR’s editorial staff and readership. While Franklin Foer and his colleagues at the 90-year-old liberal publication likely hoped that Beauchamp’s stories of American atrocities would receive the widest possible readership, there is every indication that Beauchamp himself neither wanted nor expected for the situation surrounding his essays to explode into the storm of controversy that it did – and that he wants more than anything to be able to put this situation behind him.

In a September 6 conference call with Foer and TNR executive editor Peter Scoblic, Beauchamp responded to their repeated requests for him to talk to them (and their invocation of his wife, telling Beauchamp that she said that “it’s the most important thing to her that you say you didn’t recant”) by saying:
...this is the last statement I’m giving any media outlet…my final statement is thus is spun out of control in a way that has distracted me from my job and more importantly distracted me from helping protect the people around me. The fellow soldiers around me who I do love and respect and that’s way more important to me and it requires an amount of dedication that I can’t give to it if I’m caught up in all this. So, I’m going to have to…and I know it’s going to hurt my wife [a TNR employee] and I regret that, but it’s something that I have to do because it’s my job, and I swore to do it. And it’s more important to protect the people around me than to…be involved in all of this.
If Beauchamp sincerely wants to do as he said, and to move beyond this for the purpose of getting on with his life and of focusing his concentration on the job that he has to do as a soldier currently at war, then he should be given that opportunity. The spotlight that has been shone on him since Michael Goldfarb at The Weekly Standard first pointed out the obvious errors in the stories that TNR had pushed as being “fact” should be removed, and he should be permitted to slip back into the anonymity that is afforded all who are quietly putting their lives on the line on freedom’s frontier in the Middle East. This is not to say that TNR should be given a reprieve in any way; on the contrary, nearly every bit of criticism that has been sent their way since this scandal erupted has been deserved, and the editors of that enduring publication should not be afforded anywhere near the forgiveness or the benefit of the doubt that the Baghdad Diaries’ author is entitled to. Their years of experience and the reputation of their magazine preclude their being simply let off the hook. Beauchamp, though, as a young man who is, by all accounts, honorably and capably serving his country even now, should see his public demonization end, and should be allowed to get back to his own life.

Beauchamp’s fellow soldiers have apparently taken the lead in affording him that second chance. ‘Laughing Wolf,’ a contributor to leading military blog BlackFive, recently spent time at Forward Operating Base Falcon in southern Baghdad (the home of Beauchamp’s battalion, the 1-28 Infantry of the 1st Infantry Division’s 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, and one of the most dangerous parts of that city), where he met and spoke with Beauchamp. In a blog post after that meeting, ‘Laughing Wolf’ said, “I enjoyed meeting him. I had heard a lot of good things about him as a soldier from the people who know him, and the leaders above him.” Further, when we spoke in person in Baghdad, ‘Laughing Wolf’ told me that many of Beauchamp’s fellow soldiers seemed not only to like him, but also to be very protective of him, especially with a member of the media present.

This sentiment was echoed by combat photojournalist Michael Yon, who this week wrote on his website that “[Lieutenant Colonel George] Glaze [Beauchamp’s Battalion Commander] 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.”

Yon continued:
[T]o 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.
That observation is borne out in the Memorandum of Concern which LTC Glaze presented Beauchamp with after the Army’s investigation into the TNR articles, and which the Drudge Report leaked this week. It concludes:
Despite my concerns, I believe you have a great deal of potential to continue to serve this Battalion and the United States Army. Even good Soldiers make mistakes and I am affording you the opportunity to move beyond your mistakes. You are an asset to this battalion and I hope that you will strive to uphold the values that continue to bring the Vanguards success in this challenging environment.

This memorandum of concern is an administrative action and is not punishment. This memorandum will remain in your counseling packet until you depart the Vanguard battalion. You are and will continue to be a member of the Vanguard Family. You will conduct yourself as a professional Soldier and I expect you to give 100% to the mission.

George A Glaze

LTC, IN

Commanding [1-28 INF, 4th IBCT, 1st Infantry Division]
With that, Beauchamp’s fellow soldiers, and his commander, have given him all the votes of confidence that he should need to be given a second chance in the eyes of those who have condemned him to this point. All young men make mistakes, and Beauchamp is no exception. The fact that his was so public and became so controversial – not in the least because it involved an established American media outlet – may make it more difficult for the people of America to forgive him; however, it is for that same reason that he has most likely now learned a lesson that he will never forget.

Scott Thomas Beauchamp is no "phony soldier"; he is literally putting his life on the line every day in an ongoing war in Iraq. The people who share the trenches with him in this war have not held this mistake against him. If they, who know him better than anybody, have made that choice, then it would be an exceedingly poor decision for those who condemned him on the basis of their support for America’s troops not to follow suit.

Jeff Emanuel, a special operations veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, was embedded with the U.S. military on the front lines in Iraq both in April and May, and from August through October, of this year. His reports, which are 100% funded by reader donations, can be seen at JeffEmanuel.com.

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1 Comments:

At 2:36 AM, Blogger BrianFH said...

Sorry, not buying. A shortcut-to-glory-hound with zero history or evidence of ability to mentally model or empathize with the effects of his actions, aka a sociopath. Can emulate "repentence" for a while when it's useful, but follow-thru is negligable. You evidently haven't dealt with, e.g., addicts on the take or others with their forebrains in deep freeze.

Check out his history. Listen to his weasel words. Don't be suckered.

 

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