Here is TNR's statement. I know my views will be discounted because of my long ties with the magazine and my deep respect for and loyalty to it, but readers know I am not afraid to challenge friends or those whom I support. Like Matt, I find TNR's statement persuasive; we do not yet know what actually happened, and Beauchamp has not been given a chance to fully defend himself without pressure from the military; and the military itself has not interviewed every relevant party, and leaked information in a selective way to political actors that does not reflect well on them. Beauchamp never recanted his story, despite some headlines to that effect. From everything I've read Beauchamp does not appear to be a reliable character. But even unreliable characters deserve fair treatment. We have no proof of anything yet.
I'd add also that the incidents at issue strike me as completely trivial.
Very similar incidents of mild troop misbehavior are on YouTube if you want to see them. Of course this kind of things happen in a war zone. These are soldiers not social workers. What's staggering to me is that having ignored some of the most serious evidence of brutality and war crimes on the part of a tiny minority of troops, the right-wing blogosphere have gone ape-shit over these typical shenanigans as if they somehow tarnish the broader reputation of the troops. You'd think they'd never heard of soldiers misbehaving in a war zone. Frankly, I'm amazed that more of this stuff doesn't happen. They're human beings - under stress the rest of us can barely imagine.
Here's what actually tarnishes the reputation of the troops: Camp Nama, where detainees were routinely tortured and abused under the motto "No Blood No Foul;" Bagram where US soldiers chained an innocent man to the ceiling and pulpified his legs. Compare the amount of attention the right-wing blogs have paid to those stories with one still not resolved allegation of making fun of a burn victim's face. Look: if Beauchamp invented any of it, the magazine should apologize and retract. But we still have no proof of that, as even some at National Review have been forced to concede.
You'd also think this piece appeared in some vicious anti-American
anti-war magazine. It appeared in The New Republic, which supported the
Iraq war in the beginning, and which has a sterling reputation with
respect to America's armed forces. This whole kerfuffle strikes me as
unhinged in its ferocity. It's really about something else: the fury of
the right at the management of a war they are permanently wedded to;
and the need to lash out at someone - anyone - other than the people ultimately responsible.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.