Pentagon: Baghdad Diarist Writes Fiction

Infamous soldier-blogger's accounts were false, according to military.


Aug. 7, 2007 — -- According to the Pentagon, the "Baghdad Diarist" writes fiction.

The infamous soldier-blogger for the New Republic magazine came under fire in recent weeks from conservative bloggers and members of the military who questioned the veracity of his accounts of life on duty in Iraq.

Scott Thomas Beauchamp, an Army private in Alpha Company, shed his anonymity two weeks ago to assert the veracity of his accounts of misbehavior, including depictions of fellow soldiers mocking a disfigured woman, running over dogs in Bradley Fighting Vehicles and playing with children's skulls at a mass grave.

But a military investigation has concluded that Beauchamp's stories were full of falsehoods.

"An investigation has been completed and the allegations made by PVT Beauchamp were found to be false. His platoon and company were interviewed and no one could substantiate his claims," Maj. Steven F. Lamb, deputy public affairs officer for Multinational Division-Baghdad, wrote in a statement sent to the Weekly Standard, the magazine that first questioned Beauchamp's credibility.

Beauchamp signed a sworn statement on the first day of the investigation admitting that all three of his articles were exaggerations and falsehoods, reported the Weekly Standard's online editor Michael Goldfarb.

Lamb reiterated the statement in an e-mail to Asked about any reprimand or punishment that Beauchamp could face under military rules, Lamb wrote, "What may or may not happen to PVT Beauchamp is a personnel matter, and we don't discuss those publicly."

Meanwhile, the media world was waiting for the other shoe to drop in the scandal.

Will the New Republic stand by its story? Or will the respected magazine fire or suspend one of its staffers responsible for editing Beauchamp, a la Stephen Glass, the associate editor notoriously fired in 1998 for fabricating details in most of his 41 articles?

As of this morning, the magazine's editors are backing Beauchamp, posting a statement on the magazine's Web site that read:

"We've talked to military personnel directly involved in the events that Scott Thomas Beauchamp described, and they corroborated his account as detailed in our statement. When we called Army spokesman Maj. Steven F. Lamb and asked about an anonymously sourced allegation that Beauchamp had recanted his articles in a sworn statement, he told us, 'I have no knowledge of that.' He added, 'If someone is speaking anonymously [to The Weekly Standard], they are on their own.' When we pressed Lamb for details on the Army investigation, he told us, 'We don't go into the details of how we conduct our investigations.'"

The magazine is conducting its own internal inquiry into the matter and recently revealed that Beauchamp came to the magazine's attention because he was dating New Republic reporter-researcher Elspeth Reeve, whom he later married. It also disclosed that Beauchamp admitted making a mistake by placing the scene of the soldiers teasing of the disfigured woman at a base in Iraq when it actually took place in Kuwait.

New Republic editor Franklin Foer and publisher Elizabeth W. Sheldon did not return calls for comment. The magazine's editor in chief, Martin Peretz, was on vacation out of the country and unavailable for comment.

On Monday, one of the magazine's senior editors, Jonathan Chait, scoffed at claims about Beauchamp's credibility during an online video interview with the Atlantic's Ross Douthat.

When asked about the Beauchamp controversy, Chait joked that "beads of sweat are running down my forehead now." He went on to say that the writer's accounts "created a huge firestorm on the right."

"We went beyond the initial fact-checking and threw everybody at the problem and talked to experts and tried to track down other soldiers and we got multiple corroborations for every incident," Chait told Douthat. "Experts told us it was plausible that all of these things could have happened, that Bradleys could be maneuvered this way, that a woman with facial injuries of this sort could still be in theater."

As for Beauchamp's critics, Chait claimed that "they've basically invested so much in persuading themselves and others that this is all a lie that they've got to come away with something."

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