The Beauchamp story: Why we care

posted at 11:15 am on July 28, 2007 by Bryan

How important, in the grand scheme of the war, is the Scott Thomas Beauchamp story? By itself, it’s not all that important. But contrary to the opinions of those who can’t be bothered to care about it but nonetheless opine on it for whatever reason, and then mainly to downplay its importance, Beauchamp hasn’t happened all by itself and to those of us who served, its context and trajectory make it very important.

Starting with the Vietnam war, the American public has been divided on the military question. A majority before, during and even after that war will claim that it supports and respects the military, but words are cheap and the actions of some tell a very different story. Some of those who say in a poll that they generically respect the military were undoubtedly among those who called returning troops “babykillers” as they spat on them. Some of those who claim to support the military only support it when it isn’t being used to defend the country, and even then they spend their time trying to cut the defense budget even while international threats mount and multiply. Some of those who claim to support the military look down upon those who choose to join it as either children who joined solely for the benefits, or thugs who joined because they love violence. And some of those who claim to support the military mistrust it and its intentions and see its members as the weapons of a fascist state.

Somewhere in all those descriptions, you’ll find the motivations that led TNR to publish the writings of Scott Thomas Beauchamp but not J. D. Johannes, Pat Dollard, Michael Yon, Michael Totten or any of the writings published by those of us who have been to Iraq for whatever length of time and have things to say about the troops and the war. TNR sought out a war critic, but not any war critic: TNR sought out a war critic whose writings either smeared the troops or exposed serious discipline problems among the troops. And examining the details of his writings, it became clear to many veterans and non-veterans alike that Beauchamp simply wasn’t writing the truth, and was therefore letting the men in his unit down by exposing them to unfair criticism. He was also reinforcing several stereotypes that many of those who claim to support the troops hold: That they’re dehumanized animals. Beauchamp’s work is today’s equivalent of calling the troops “babykillers,” only from inside the military where presumably the person tossing the insult will be insulated by his having “absolute moral authority.” TNR got to take part in the awful anti-military activities of the last lost war, but in a new and more pernicious way, by replacing smelly hippies with a man in uniform in the war zone.

There were few who stood up for the troops after Vietnam, but that’s a shame that shouldn’t be and won’t be repeated. The Beauchamp story comes down to a simple thing that most who never served in the military may not understand, and that’s the linked concepts of service and honor. It’s an honor to serve in the US military. With that honor comes responsibility not to besmirch the uniform or let down your comrades. Some obviously don’t live up to that honor. It’s up to the rest of us to protect that honor, keep its value high and keep the traditions of the service worthy of honor.

Throughout the Scott Thomas affair, no one was saying that atrocities can’t and don’t happen — they do. But remarkably, in this war our troops have committed far fewer war crimes than in any other conflict. Far fewer. Military training is different now from what it was in previous wars, and the rules of engagement are far tighter than they were in previous wars. It was routine during World War II, for instance, to capture enemy soldiers, extract information from them, and then shoot them because the advancing US troops had no way to keep them. Gitmo was nearly unthinkable, and granting captured enemy troops access to our courts would have been thought insane (and still ought to be, imho.) This war has seen far fewer casualties for our side, far less collateral damage for the civilian population in the war zones, and far fewer atrocities committed by our troops than by any other force in any previous war in the modern era and probably in all of history. By historic standards, this has been one of the most antiseptic wars ever and our troops have behaved exceptionally well under grueling and often confusing conditions.

But even though all of that is true, we still have TNR’s out there willing to publish whatever unchecked smears against our troops they can get their hands on. If they still knew how to feel shame, I’d say “Shame on them.” But they don’t, or they would be aware of all I’ve said and would never have published Scott Thomas Beauchamp. They would have done more than pass his tales around to check them for smell. That’s not to say that they didn’t know what they were doing, though. They did. And when the smear merchants strike, it’s up to those of us who are in the best positions to refute them, to do so, or the smears will stand as fact. Beauchamp wasn’t the first to smear the troops as a veteran or former veteran, and he won’t be the last. Future Scott Beauchamps should always know that there are others out there, who have also worn the boots and uniform, who always stand ready and able to face them down. It’s the right thing to do.

Besides all of that, truth matters. “Fake but accurate” amounts to a lie, TNR. And in a post-modern war such as the one we’re fighting, and especially as we place more emphasis on the morality of our actions in war than on actually winning it by defeating the enemy, Beauchamp represents an informational attack on our ability to wage war. Words are weapons. Loss of morale leads to loss in war, by the way we fight wars now. Letting his smears stand has the potential of letting another toilet-Koran story to get out there into the infowar zone unchallenged. So again, stopping that from happening is just the right thing to do.

Update: Via Ace, Mr. Foer, where’s the mass grave? Explain Beauchamp’s assertion that the Iraqi police are the only ones in Iraq who use Glocks, the bullets casings of which have “square backs.”

Just the facts, in other words.

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Comment pages: 1 2

Beauchamp’s loathing agenda is obvious–loathing self and all others to the extent that he would sabotage our entire nation and even Western civilization for a buck.

Noting the morning’s news of the “lost” Israeli soldier, his comrades seemingly left him behind, purposely? Who departs his sleeping friend AND pretends he is present by answering for him at role call? Rescued, presumably lesson learned, but not all are so fortunate. Not all.

Beauchamp has placed himself in a very precarious position.

maverick muse on July 30, 2007 at 10:07 AM

This is considered a fable by most liberals

scooter on July 28, 2007 at 1:26 PM

There; fixed that for ya…

Jaibones on July 30, 2007 at 10:25 AM

It was an honor to serve in the U.S. Air Force. I did my 4 years from ’89 to ’93, I served in Desert Storm. My best friend stayed to make a career. He was killed in Iraq 3 years ago. I miss him to this day, I guess I always will. Last night, the wife and I were watching Forest Gump. During the scene when Forest is tricked into speaking at an anti war ralley in D.C. there was a huge banner that said “support our troops, bring them home”. My wife thought it was quite telling that the “we support the troops but not the war” crowd would use the same language and slogans as the “baby killer” crowd. As much as we would like to think that certain parts of our population would never repeat the treatment of soldiers returning from Vietnam, I believe we will start to see their true colors come out. The old media is leading the way with same bias that was shown by Cronkite and his ilk back in the late ’60′s and early ’70′s.
God bless America. God bless our soldiers and their families.

clawjockey on July 30, 2007 at 11:46 AM

There were few who stood up for the troops after Vietnam, but that’s a shame that shouldn’t be and won’t be repeated. The Beauchamp story comes down to a simple thing that most who never served in the military may not understand, and that’s the linked concepts of service and honor. It’s an honor to serve in the US military.

Our Armed Services are a direct arm/reflection of our society as a whole. Anyone who spits on the military spits on themselves, and what does that really say about the spitter?

I wasn’t old enough at the time to welcome back our Vietnam Veterans. Yet it was your duty and honor in the face of adversity in war and later in peace that inspired me to take my turn defending the walls. Just like you did for me when I was to young to know any different. And if we ask the average person serving in the Armed Forces, we are going to get a very similar answer. But it is not the average person who gets the press. It’s the small majority of nut-jobs that draw the media focus.

Lawrence on July 30, 2007 at 12:20 PM

Bryan, you’re overstating the case. Our guys in WWII did shoot prisoners on occassion, but it wasn’t routine.

Tantor on July 29, 2007 at 6:46 PM

Thank you, Tantor. This was (and is) not routine. It does happen but is the exception rather than the rule.

A large majority of German prisoners ended up in prisons here in the U.S. and stayed at the end of the war. They stayed because of opportunity, but also because of how well they were treated as prisoners.

Japanese prisoners where killed, and it had a lot to do with their warrior ethos forbidding surrender. Very often a surrender flag meant an ambush. Yet, the Japanese prisoners we did hold gave U.S. soldiers high marks for their professionalism. One of the reasons Japan is our ally is because they still respect the esprit de corps of American Armed Forces.

But these examples have nothing to do with ‘Gitmo’. Most German and Japanese soldiers were professionals in their own right. But what we have locked away at Gitmo are at best international criminals. In any other sense they are murdering psychopaths. But just because we don’t have specific rules for these kinds of bad guys, doesn’t mean the responsible thing to do is to just let them go. It’s kind of like turning loose a hungry wolf pack in a flock of sheep.

Lawrence on July 30, 2007 at 12:43 PM

“By itself, it’s not all that important.”
Wrong. It is extremely important. It is an IED in the lib’s arsenal. If we ignore this, it is at our own peril. Imagine if F9/11 went unchallenged.

Some of those who say in a poll that they generically respect the military were undoubtedly among those who called returning troops “babykillers” as they spat on them.
Jack Murtha. The first on a major media outlet to call our Marines babykillers. What’s more repugnant, he’s a leader.

As someone said before, it strikes at the sympathy and outrage strings: Women (especially veteran women), the disfigured and disabled, children, and pets. The Army must investigate and close this case. The Marines went after the Hamandia and Haditha cases fairly. This must be addressed.

This is a seditious act. It is Libel. When are we going to prosecute this?

Mazztek on July 30, 2007 at 6:00 PM

clawjockey

I also served in the Air Force from 89-93. I also was in Desert Storm, but 1 year after. I was in KSA Dec 92-June 93. Eskan Village. I like it there, would of stayed another 6 months but would of had to leave the AOR from 1 day, forget it if I have to fly back to Germany, might as well fly home, and I did.

Seems the story has died down a little, will be interesting to see what becomes of it.

WoosterOh on July 31, 2007 at 1:19 AM

Hmmm this Beauchamp thread has been very enlightening. While on vacation up North I heard nothing. Thank you, Bryan for keeping the light shining on this issue. As an aside, I experienced the “myth” scooter was referring to earlier… Funny, at the time, I sure thought it was spit on my shoulder. It was April, 28, 1971 at Long Beach. My squad had been providing security on ship for crypto gear that we brought back from Nam. We 12 Marines were unloaded from the stern of the ship and loaded into windowless “cattle cars” but were seen and rushed on by people who didn’t have what I perceived to be my best interests at heart. Point is, it happened, I’d forgotten it and I’d moved on. Thanks,scooter, for bringing it back to my thought processes, you foolish ….. ahhh never mind.

MNDavenotPC on August 1, 2007 at 12:04 PM

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