After months of wrangling over Scott Beauchamp’s disturbing little war story entitled “Shock Troops“, The New Republic has acknowledged that it cannot stand behind the facts of the story as printed.
The repudiation piece is about 10 times longer than the bit that sparked the controversy, a sure sign that there’s some excuse-making to be done. TNR concludes thusly:
in light of the evidence available to us, after months of intensive re-reporting, we cannot be confident that the events in his pieces occurred in exactly the manner that he described them. Without that essential confidence, we cannot stand by these stories.
No, I’d say not.
Publishing “Shock Troops” in the first place was a case of bad judgment, one that it seems to have been motivated by TNR’s desire to malign U.S. troops and the war effort in Iraq.
Why else would a reasonable, professional organization put its seal of approval on an otherwise unpleasant, amateurish piece of no strategic or practical import whatever?
Assuming soldiers’ stories check out, it could be important for a news agency to publish a front-line soldier’s account of how the brass is botching the war effort or one revealing that enemy strength is vastly greater than what military commanders report publicly. But what value is there in a story about driving over feral dogs?
Personally I’m inclined to believe the spirit of Beauchamp’s story even if the specifics are not accurate. So what?
Troops in harm’s way are under stress that writers such as TNR’s editors or yours truly cannot imagine. What of it if they make jokes, shout insults, or perform antics that would be considered disgusting in a civilian situation? Are we in a position to judge them?
True, I would think that there would be discipline in regular military units. Then again, nothing written about in “Shock Troops” was even remotely criminal in nature and therefore not worth commanders’ efforts to stamp out.
In my opinion the whole Beauchamp/TNR episode has been a waste of too many people’s time and mental energy. I for one am glad that it seems to be winding down.