Infamous 'Shock Troops' Author Back in the News
It seemed we'd heard the last of Scott Thomas Beauchamp and Elspeth Reeve in late January, after I posted copies of the sworn statements gathered during the "Shock Troops" investigation on my blog. The documents included Beauchamp's own sworn statements -- his first, where he did not see any of the minor atrocities written about in "Shock Troops," and a backdated one where he finally admits he was the author. The documents also included the sworn statements from 22 other soldiers saying that the minor atrocities written about in "Shock Troops" were events that they did not witness.
Even the editor of the New Republic, Franklin Foer, announced a month previously in December that he could not stand behind Beauchamp's stories. But just when we though it was all behind us, Beauchamp is back, (with his former fact checker wife still supporting him), courtesy of Spencer Ackerman in Radar magazine.
In "Notes on a Scandal," Ackerman interviews Scott Beauchamp and Elspeth Reeve -- and no one else -- and shockingly comes to the conclusion that the magazine that fired Ackerman for his anti-war views was wrong to pull its support for a series of articles ("Shock Troops" was just one of three Beauchamp stories) that reinforced those views.
How did Ackerman conduct this investigation? He hung out with Beauchamp and Reeve at a bar and later communicated with them via email. What he did not do is present any evidence to support the contention that Beauchamp's claims are true, or that Franklin Foer was wrong to pull support for stories that still lack on-the-record evidence of any kind.
On the first page of "Notes on a Scandal," Ackerman attacks Michael Goldfarb, a McCain campaign blogger formerly of the Weekly Standard, for posting a claim that Beauchamp signed a sworn statement conceding that the events written about in "Shock Troops" were falsified. This was an error, as Beauchamp, to this day, has never recanted "Shock Troops."
What his statements did prove is that Scott Beauchamp is either great at parsing language -- or he lied.
In "Shock Troops," Beauchamp wrote:
I know another private who really only enjoyed driving Bradley Fighting Vehicles because it gave him the opportunity to run things over. He took out curbs, concrete barriers, corners of buildings, stands in the market, and his favorite target: dogs. Occasionally, the brave ones would chase the Bradleys, barking at them like they bark at trash trucks in America--providing him with the perfect opportunity to suddenly swerve and catch a leg or a tail in the vehicle's tracks. He kept a tally of his kills in a little green notebook that sat on the dashboard of the driver's hatch. One particular day, he killed three dogs. He slowed the Bradley down to lure the first kill in, and, as the diesel engine grew quieter, the dog walked close enough for him to jerk the machine hard to the right and snag its leg under the tracks. The leg caught, and he dragged the dog for a little while, until it disengaged and lay twitching in the road. A roar of laughter broke out over the radio. Another notch for the book. The second kill was a straight shot: A dog that was lying in the street and bathing in the sun didn't have enough time to get up and run away from the speeding Bradley. Its front half was completely severed from its rear, which was twitching wildly, and its head was still raised and smiling at the sun as if nothing had happened at all.
I didn't see the third kill, but I heard about it over the radio.
Beauchamp's statement that he "didn't see the third kill" is an indirect claim that the saw the first two as he described them, yet in his first sworn statement, before admitting to being the author, he wrote:
I have never hit a dog with a Brad or even wanted to. I swerve to avoid them. I'm a new driver, so I drive very carefully. I have just begun driving within the past couple of months and I have not seen a dog hit within that time.