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?
Among all the active duty soldiers used by Goldfarb to undermine Beauchamp, only one is cited by name: Matt Sanchez, a corporal in the Marine reserves. "Frankly, I don't believe ANY of this story," Sanchez proclaimed in the Standard about Beauchamp's diary. Who is Sanchez? According to Goldfarb, he is simply a soldier "who stands behind his work."
But Sanchez is more than a mere man in uniform. As I reported for Media Matters today, Sanchez is also a conservative pro-war activist whose bio includes a stint as the gay porn actor Rod Majors, (star of such filmic classics as "Beat Off Frenzy") and an illustrious part-time job as a male prostitute -- facts he has acknowledged "leaving ... off my curriculum vitae."
More importantly, Sanchez has been under investigation by the Marine Corps for fraud. According to an April 1 Marine Corps Times article, Sanchez was informed in a March 22 email from Reserve Col. Charles Jones, a staff judge advocate, that he was under investigation for lying "'to various people, including but not limited to, representatives of the New York City United War Veterans Council [UWVC] and U-Haul Corporation' about deploying to Iraq at the commandant's request." The email added: "'Specifically, you wrongfully solicited funds to support your purported deployment to Iraq' by coordinating a $300 payment from the UWVC and $12,000 from U-Haul."
There is no excuse for Goldfarb's omission of these facts about Sanchez. They were easily accessible through a simple Google search of Sanchez's name, and have been the talk of the blogosphere for some time. I wrote extensively about Sanchez for the Huffington Post in March and appeared on a segment of Countdown with Keith Olbermann to discuss his strange double life. Sanchez has also been profiled by Radar and by numerous bloggers. He even penned a long auto-apologia for Salon.com about his path from porn to the conservative movement. Couldn't Goldfarb find a better on-the-record source? Apparently not.
The efforts of Sanchez and right-wing bloggers to take Beauchamp down were allegedly supported by a TNR staffer with a bizarre background. I just received a letter from a source close to TNR. The source wrote:
One reason Beauchamp had to go public was that conservative bloggers were tracking him down. And the reason they were was that a temp who was working as assistant for our publisher was leaking like crazy to right-wing websites. Not that he knew much, but he was hanging around, he went to a going away party for Ryan [Lizza] at frank's [Frank Foer] house, eavesdropping and then posting on right-wing websites.
That's how they found out about Scott being married to Ellie [Elspeth Reeve].
Anyway, the guy's name is Robert McGee. His online pseudonym: Throbert McGee. Not real hard to track down (especially when he's posting that he works at TNR.)
After a little Googling, I found that "Throbert McGee" (seen here embracing his "longtime sidekick Juan") once kept a "blinkin' blog" where he posted about "Faggot fixer-upper wallpaper" and linked to the overtly racist right-wing blog, "Little Green Footballs." On the forum of another conservative blog, Throbert commented favorably about Matt Sanchez's "11" Monster Cock." Throbert also used this forum as his platform to attack Beauchamp and leak information to conservative bloggers about Beauchamp's private life.
I hear there are darker postings by Throbert lurking in the blogosphere, but I will leave it to his right-wing mouthpieces to explain those. And I will wait (hopefully not in vain) for the Weekly Standard's Goldfarb to come clean about Sanchez and the rest of the unnamed "active duty soldiers and various experts" he used as sources.