The New Republic subtitles John Judis’s article on the suicide of a troubled Iraq war veteran “what war did to Jeffrey Lucey.” Judis doesn’t actually know what caused Lucey’s alcoholism and mental illness, as the reader can observe:
[W]hether Lucey’s memories of what he did were of real or imagined events, what remains striking about his story is the degree to which the fear and anxiety that are normal to war are mixed from the start with a searing guilt. Lucey may never have killed two unarmed Iraqi soldiers, but he did witness the carnage in Nasiriyah and perhaps elsewhere, and that may have fuelled his later delusions.
By the following sentence, Judis’s speculations become a fact on which further speculation can be based:
This toxic combination of anxiety and guilt may be a factor in the high incidence of mental illness and of suicide among Iraqi veterans.
Judis is quite confident that the Iraq war caused Lucey’s mental illness and suicide. After reading his article, a reader can conclude that it’s possible. A reader can also conclude that we don’t really know what caused Jeffrey Lucey to kill himself, though the New Republic wants its readers to conclude that the war did it.
Here we see certain themes from the antiwar movement of the era of the Vietnam War being recycled. With the return of “Winter Soldier Syndrome” Michelle Malkin finds the same phenomonenon at work in the the fabulations of the New Republic’s Baghdad Diarist:
Ever since John Kerry sat in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and accused American soldiers of wantonly razing villages “in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan,” the Left has embraced a small cadre of self-loathing soldiers and soldier wannabes willing to sell their deadened souls for the anti-war cause. Think Jimmy Massey, the unhinged Marine who falsely accused his unit of engaging in mass genocide against Iraqis. Think Jesse MacBeth and Micah Wright, anti-war Army Rangers who weren’t Army Rangers.
Winter Soldier Syndrome will only be cured when the costs of slandering the troops outweigh the benefits. Exposing Scott Thomas Beauchamp and his brethren matters because the truth matters. The honor of the military matters. The credibility of the media matters. Think it doesn’t make a difference? Imagine where Sen. John Kerry would be now if the Internet had been around in 1971.
Yesterday Michael Goldfarb reported that he has interviewed a military source close to the Army’s investigation into Beauchamp’s “Shock troops” column and that Beauchamp has recanted his New Republic articles in a sworn statement signed as part of the Army’s investigation. Consistent with Goldfarb’s report, the Army investigation of Beuachamp’s column has reached the conclusion that Beauchamp’s allegations are “false.”
“The editors” of the New Republic responded to Goldfarb’s report with their third (or is it fourth?) note or statement:
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 [first] statement. When we called Army spokesman Major 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 editors” fail to note that the Army investigation has concluded that Beauchamp’s allegations are false, and they are unable to contradict Goldfarb’s report regarding Beauchamp’s sworn statement recanting his New Republic articles. In his Washington Post article updating the Beauchamp story today, Howard Kurtz leads with the conclusion reached in the Army investigation.
Kurtz’s article is straight he said/she said reportage, but a critical reader of Beachamp’s column and its subsequent correction (i.e., Michelle Malkin) can see the absurdity of the New Republic’s standing by it as corrected:
To illustrate the soul-deadening impact of war, Beauchamp had described sitting in a mess hall in Iraq mocking a female civilian contractor whose face had “melted” after an IED explosion. “I love chicks that have been intimate — with IEDs,” Pvt. Beauchamp claimed he said out loud in her earshot. “It really turns me on — melted skin, missing limbs, plastic noses.” Beauchamp recounted vividly: “My friend was practically falling out of his chair laughing. The disfigured woman slammed her cup down and ran out of the chow hall.”
It wasn’t true. After active-duty troops, veterans, embedded journalists and bloggers raised pointed questions about the veracity of the anecdote, Beauchamp confessed to The New Republic’s meticulous fact-checkers that the mocking had taken place in Kuwait — before he had set foot in Iraq to experience the soul-deadening impact of war.
Military officials in Kuwait tried to verify the incident and called it an “urban legend or myth.” Beauchamp’s essays are filled with similarly spun tales. How much of a bull-slinger was Beauchamp, an aspiring creative writer who crowed on his personal blog that he would “return to America an author” after serving (which he told friends and family would “add a legitimacy to EVERYTHING I do afterwards”)? The very first line of his essay “Shock Troops,” which opened with the melted-face mockery, was this: “I saw her nearly every time I went to dinner in the chow hall at my base in Iraq.”
“Nearly every time.” At “my base in Iraq.” Complete and utter bull.
In short, the New Republic stands by Beauchamp’s Baghdad Diarist column as corrected, although the correction is inconsistent with the theme of the column and shows Beauchamp to be a fabulist. John Judis is a senior editor of the New Republic and may be even be one of those “editors” who stands by Beauchamp’s column as corrected. Perhaps in his next article for the New Republic he can take a look at what war did to the New Republic, a subject he could address with somwhat more authority than “what war did to Jeffrey Lucey.”
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