Stephen, that New Republic statement is, to put it mildly, unpersuasive. The first sentence of Private Beauchamp’s now famous column reads as follows:
I saw her nearly every time I went to dinner in the chow hall at my base in Iraq.
The magazine now concedes that that statement was an “error”. The disfigured woman that he and his pal were mocking was not at the chow hall “every time” he went to dinner at his base in Iraq, but in an entirely different country, back in Kuwait – before he got anywhere near the war. Which demolishes the entire premise of the piece:
That is how war works: It degrades every part of you, and your sense of humor is no exception.
In this case, his sense of humor seems to have come pre-degraded – see also the blog entries he wrote while still in Germany. This is not just a “discrepancy” in one of the three anecdotes that make up the diary. It renders Private Beauchamp’s agonizing in The New Republic over his desensitization by war transparently fake:
Am I a monster? I have never thought of myself as a cruel person… I once worked at a summer camp for developmentally disabled children, and, in college, I devoted hours every week to helping a student with cerebral palsy.
Dean Barnett has more. War is hell, but, if you beat up a bloke in a pub in southern England a year before D-Day, that may not be the best anecdote to prove your point.