Here's Dean Barnett's attempt to respond to TNR's accounting of the Scott Thomas Beauchamp stories. Here's Malkin's round-up. Factually, the critics have the point that the incident of mocking an injured woman occurred in Kuwait, not Iraq. And, unless more facts emerge, that's it. For this, Beauchamp is described by Barnett as a "fabulist" and a "proven liar" and has even had his status as a soldier dismissed. The skull episode is borne out by other witnesses. The dog-baiting is completely credible. Here's a YouTube of some soldiers tormenting a wounded dog. Here's another of soldiers taunting thirsty Iraqi kids with water bottles. The incidents are gross, but in a war-zone, they're hardly something to be shocked, shocked at. Am I now slandering every soldier by linking to them? Of course not. Is TNR slandering every soldier because one soldier writes up some ugly episodes that are also self-criticism? Please. No one doubts that most of the troops are doing an amazing job in near-impossible conditions. Describing some bad apples and occasional crudeness - especially when you are criticizing yourself as well - is utterly banal.
Barnett calls the TNR statement "maddening". If you're wedded to the belief that the stories were fabricated, then it must be. It's no fun to have accused a writer and his editors of wilfull malfeasance only to discover you have no real basis for it, except your own insecurities and hatreds. If, on the other hand, you're concerned to find the full truth about Iraq - and TNR has published countless stories on every angle and supported the initial invasion - the stories are one trivial but worthwhile aspect of the complex reality of war. In the context of TNR's coverage of the entire conflict, they're completely legitimate.
I truly have no explanation why the rightwing blogosphere has managed to largely ignore and deny actual claims and cases of torture and abuse by US soldiers but have gone batshit over some trivial, unshocking, verified soldier stories by a man who, unlike Barnett and Malkin, is actually serving his country. But this is my best shot: Their president and their Congress and their movement have lost a war, wounded America's moral standing in the world and caused tens of thousands of deaths and a greater risk of terrorism across the globe.
After four and a half years of this nightmare, who are you going to blame but The New Republic?