Today’s TNR statement:
In the first [“Shock Troops” anecdote], Beauchamp recounted how he and a fellow soldier mocked a disfigured woman seated near them in a dining hall. Three soldiers with whom TNR has spoken have said they repeatedly saw the same facially disfigured woman. One was the soldier specifically mentioned in the Diarist. He told us: "We were really poking fun at her; it was just me and Scott, the day that I made that comment. We were pretty loud. She was sitting at the table behind me. We were at the end of the table. I believe that there were a few people a few feet to the right."Shock Troops:
Then, on one especially crowded day in the chow hall, she sat down next to us.TNR statement:
The recollections of these three soldiers differ from Beauchamp's on one significant detail (the only fact in the piece that we have determined to be inaccurate): They say the conversation occurred at Camp Buehring, in Kuwait, prior to the unit's arrival in Iraq.One of the main lessons hammered repeatedly into a new recruit of any of the services is the ability to recognize the uniforms of all service members. However, in case of brain fart, the combat uniforms of all are labeled something like “U.S. Air Force,” “U.S. Army,” etc. above the left breast pocket.
But let’s leave that aside. TNR characterizes Beauchamp’s location discrepancy as a "regretful error." But was it a purposeful one?
In Shock Troops, Beauchamp idly wonders whether he is a monster after he says that he
saw [the disfigured woman possibly injured by an IED] nearly every time I went to dinner in the chow hall at my base in Iraq.He did well to ask himself that, still presuming that this particular anecdote is true. "Shock Troops":
"Are you kidding? I think she's fucking hot!" [Beauchamp] blurted out.But if he teased such a woman before he arrived in Iraq, I’m guessing that it’s a question he probably should have asked himself long before he joined the Army. (Call me crazy, but I’m betting that the Army isn’t teaching its Boot Camp and Infantry School students to be callous toward those who bear obvious injuries inflicted by America’s enemies.)
"What?" said my friend, half-smiling.
"Yeah man," [Beauchamp] continued. "I love chicks that have been intimate--with IEDs. It really turns me on--melted skin, missing limbs, plastic noses ... ."
"You're crazy, man!" my friend said, doubling over with laughter. I took it as my cue to continue.
"In fact, I was thinking of getting some girls together and doing a photo shoot. Maybe for a calendar? IED Babes.' We could have them pose in thongs and bikinis on top of the hoods of their blown-up vehicles." [SNIP]
Even as I was reveling in the laughter my words had provoked, I was simultaneously horrified and ashamed at what I had just said. In a strange way, though, I found the shame comforting. I was relieved to still be shocked by my own cruelty--to still be able to recognize that the things we [two] soldiers found funny were not, in fact, funny.
Furthermore, by placing the location of such an occurrence at the FOB Falcon Dining Facility in Iraq, rather than one in Kuwait—the staging country for entry into Iraq—I contend that Beauchamp was counting on implanting the idea that such bad behavior on his part could be attributed to the effects of “the Horrors of War.” Still assuming that the anecdote is true, had he set the scene in Kuwait—before he had actually experienced “the Horrors of War”—his actions had more of a chance to be judged to be evidence of his own flawed character and that of one other man who also hadn't yet been to Iraq . (And, for the record, I’m still calling BS. I’ll explain why—again—further on.)
In the second anecdote, soldiers in Beauchamp's unit discovered what they believed were children's bones.
Beauchamp didn’t characterize the discovery as “children’s bones.” He said that “it was clearly a Saddam-era dumping ground of some sort.”
Publicly, the military has sought to refute this claim on the grounds that no such discovery was officially reported.
And the military was correct. No Saddam-era dumping ground was officially reported. The relocation of a children’s cemetery, however, was and TNR even links to the Michael Goldfarb post—one which demonstrates the difference between a cemetery and a “Saddam-era dumping ground” and how the confusion got started.
For the "Saddam-era dumping ground" and the Bradley anecdotes, TNR again relies on anonymous tips and assertions, proving that TNR's staff has yet to learn its lesson.
And then there's this:
[L]ate last week, the Army began its own investigation, short-circuiting our [TNR's] efforts.No. The Army’s investigative arm isn’t “short-circuiting” TNR’s efforts. It is taking over what is its province: to investigate violations of the UCMJ and of military policy, which is what Beauchamp says that he and others did. That TNR would characterize such a thing using a term with such negative connotations demonstrates that it views itself as the official arbiter of military justice--because the stupid-brutal military can't be trusted to follow through on such things. (Well, in at least one case--Beauchamp--they're right.)
Look, no one is saying that every person in the military is an angel. There are too many incidents—well-known and anecdotal—which would refute that supposition. But nearly every endeavor in the military is a team effort—especially in a combat zone. And when one member misbehaves, it doesn’t just reflect on that individual (unlike civilians), it reflects on the entire US Armed Forces and the country it represents--especially when it (the person's unit) is deployed to a foreign country.
Not only does the military encourage its leaders to correct infractions which can harm its image and, therefore, its mission, it demands this of them. Which is why I could possibly believe that these incidents occurred had the men been placed in settings in which they could have plausibly been unsupervised/unobserved by commissioned officers and/or NCOs.
However I absolutely (still) do not believe that every single commissioned officer and NCO who would naturally be present in all such cases stood by and let these things happen.
And nothing TNR has said today has convinced me otherwise.
UPDATE: Hey, John! Happy now? :-)