The war in Iraq has sparked a parallel war between two of Washington’s most prominent partisan political publications, The New Republic and the Weekly Standard. The war has been akin to the ongoing seige of Baghdad’s Green Zone, with the Standard playing the role of Iraqi insurgents, lobbing mortars over the Green Zone gates while TNR rushes to shore up its defenses.
The war began on July 13, when The New Republic published a "Baghdad Diary" by "Scott Thomas," an Army private writing under a pseudonym about U.S. atrocities in Iraq. Thomas described his participation in the mockery of a female soldier disfigured by an IED, claimed he witnessed troops intentionally running over dogs in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, and alleged that another soldier played with the skulls of dead Iraqi children.
In attempt to challenge the wild notion that atrocities could occur amidst a violent occupation, the neoconservative Weekly Standard‘s Matthew Goldfarb published an article declaring that TNR‘s Baghdad Diary was "looking more like fiction." Goldfarb’s piece relied on a series of letters supposedly sent to him by active-duty soldiers that raised questions about the veracity of TNR’s story.
As a result of intensifying attacks from the Standard and right–wing blogs — attacks amplified by the Washington Post‘s Howard Kurtz — Thomas was forced to reveal his identity: Pvt. Scott Thomas Beauchamp. According to Foer, the Army punished Beauchamp by revoking his cellphone and email privileges. Right-wing bloggers subsequently seized on TRN editor-in-chief Franklin Foer’s disclosure that Beauchamp is engaged to TNR reporter and researcher Elspeth Reeve.
Beauchamp has placed his career in extreme jeopardy and subjected his private life to the scrutiny of right-wing trolls, all to confirm his published account of U.S. atrocities in Iraq. TNR for its part has just completed a review of Beauchamp’s diary and found only one minor error. Now it is up to Goldfarb and his allies to back up their incendiary charges. Who are the Standard‘s sources? Are they reliable? And if they are, why did the Standard omit key details about their backgrounds?