Scott Thomas Revealed

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As you may know, a little while back a soldier serving in Iraq writing under the pseudonym "Scott Thomas" did a piece for TNR detailing the morally deadening aspects of wartime service in Iraq. The Weekly Standard and the conservative blogosphere whipped themselves into a frenzy wherein they convinced themselves that Thomas' story was bogus. In the course of doing so they accidentally confirmed a key detail -- Thomas unit did, just as he wrote, uncover a bunch of children's bones during the construction of a combat outpost.

The critics, however, managed to convince themselves that their discovery of this children's grave incident actually debunked Thomas' claim that he had found a mass grave even though his article didn't claim this. At the same time, the Standard was reduced to arguing that Thomas couldn't have witnesses soldiers using a Bradley Fighting Vehicle to kill dogs because -- ta da -- to do so would violate Army Standard Operating Procedure. Then they started making a big deal out of the idea that TNR editor Frank Foer labeled said he knew Thomas was a soldier with "near certainty" -- why not total certainty?

Well, now here he is -- his real name is Scott Thomas Beauchamp, he's a soldier, and as best I can tell nobody has yet brought forward any serious reason to doubt his story. Needless to say, rather than spend some time reflecting on the fact-free zone the conservative press is trying to create, Jonah Goldberg is attacking Beauchamp while Mark Steyn argues that Jonah isn't attacking him viciously enough.

That's just crazy. All these people need to stop. They need to take a deep breath. They need to apologize to the people at TNR who've wasted huge amounts of time dealing with their nonsense. And they need to think a bit about the epistemic situation they're creating where information about Iraq that they don't want to hear -- even when published in a pro-war publication -- can just be immediately dismissed as fraudulent even though the misconduct it described was far, far less severe than all sorts of other well-document misconduct in Iraq.

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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