The tale of Army Private Scott Thomas Beauchamp, the discredited "Baghdad Diarist" for the discredited New Republic magazine, is an old tale:
Self-aggrandizing soldier recounts war atrocities. Media outlets disseminate soldier's tales uncritically. Military folks smell a rat and poke holes in tales too good (or rather, bad) to be true. Soldier's ideological sponsors blame the messengers for exposing anti-war fraud.
Beauchamp belongs in the same ward as John F. Kerry, the original infectious agent of the toxic American disease known as Winter Soldier Syndrome. The ward is filling up.
U.S. military investigators concluded this week that Beauchamp concocted allegations of troop misconduct in a series of essays for The New Republic. "The investigation is complete and the allegations from PVT Beauchamp are false," Major Steven Lamb, a spokesman for Multi National Division-Baghdad, told USA Today. The New Republic is standing by Beauchamp's work. But Michael Goldfarb, online editor and blogger at The Weekly Standard who first challenged Beauchamp's writing, reported Monday that Beauchamp had "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,' in the words of our source."
To illustrate the soul-deadening impact of war, Beauchamp had described sitting in a mess hall in Iraq mocking a female civilian contractor whose face had "melted" after an IED explosion. "I love chicks that have been intimate -- with IEDs," Pvt. Beauchamp claimed he said out loud in her earshot. "It really turns me on -- melted skin, missing limbs, plastic noses." Beauchamp recounted vividly: "My friend was practically falling out of his chair laughing. The disfigured woman slammed her cup down and ran out of the chow hall."
It wasn't true. After active-duty troops, veterans, embedded journalists and bloggers raised pointed questions about the veracity of the anecdote, Beauchamp confessed to The New Republic's meticulous fact-checkers that the mocking had taken place in Kuwait -- before he had set foot in Iraq to experience the soul-deadening impact of war.