The Baghdad Fabulist
For weeks, the veracity of the New Republic's Scott Thomas Beauchamp, the Army private who has been sending dispatches from the front in Iraq, has been in dispute. His latest "Baghdad Diarist" (July 13) recounted three incidents of American soldiers engaged in acts of unusual callousness. The stories were meant to shock. And they did.
In one, the driver of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle amused himself by running over dogs, crippling and killing them. In another, a fellow soldier wore on his head and under his helmet a part of a child's skull dug from a grave.
The most ghastly tale, however, was about the author himself mocking a woman whom he said he saw "nearly every time I went to dinner in the chow hall at my base in Iraq." She was horribly disfigured, half her face melted by a roadside bomb. As she sat nearby, Beauchamp said loudly, "I love chicks that have been intimate -- with IEDs. It really turns me on -- melted skin, missing limbs, plastic noses." As his mess-hall buddy doubled over in laughter, Beauchamp continued: "In fact, I was thinking of getting some girls together and doing a photo shoot. Maybe for a calendar? 'IED Babes.' " The woman fled.
After some commentators and soldiers raised questions about the plausibility of these tales, both the Army and the New Republic investigated.