Left in the West recants its acceptance of reports in The New Republic by now notorious soldier Scott Thomas Beauchamp. "I backed the wrong guy," writes Jay Stevens.
I'm not so sure. I was an agnostic about Beauchamp's honesty before the Army investigation, and I remain one. The only remarkable thing about his story, it seems to me, is the war-backing blogosphere's surprise at learning that soldiers can be cruel and insensitive during wars.
I served in the Army and used to subscribe to The New Republic. Given a choice between the Army's version of events and The New Republic's, I tend to lean toward TNR. For every Steven Glass at TNR, the Army has a Pat Tillman cover-up. Taken in sum, the Army has more incentive and more power to get the results it wants out of an investigation than TNR does.
A couple of other things incline me Beauchamp's way. One is that at least one of the anecdotes he tells makes him look like a real jerk. In my experience, people rarely tell lies that make themselves look bad. The only exceptions I can think of are professional comedians and people who concede a small indiscretion in hopes of concealing a larger one.
The other thing is that the stories are so unexceptional. If I were willing to risk my writing career and professional reputation on a pack of lies, I would print more sensational lies. Admittedly, I have been burned on this point before. When questions were first raised in the "60 Minutes" forged documents scandal, I figured the documents had to be authentic because anyone who would take the trouble to forge documents would have put a little more smoke in the gun. But I may have been wrong. Some people lie just because they can.
So I remain agnostic. But I do hold out against those who argue that Beauchamp's admission that one incident occurred in Kuwait rather than Iraq changes everything. They say that if the incident occurred before he went to war, then that undermines his point that war leads to cruelty. Wrong. The cruelty of war begins well before actual combat.