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Who Is TNR’s "Scott Thomas"?
Posted by: McQ on Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Fascinating writeup from a completely different angle concenring the author of "Shock Troops". Entirely plausible. Trust me, you haven't seen an examination quite like this before. The author comes to a conclusion which is pretty similar to mine, but for entirely different reasons.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Very interesting. However, he ends with this
it is doubtful that superior officers will be devoting any large amount of time and effort to finding or suppressing it.
From whence comes this offhanded slur? He later laments the fact that Foer gets fooled again and again and again. Ironic.
Written By: Jinnmabe
URL: http://
Ironic, huh?

It comes from the same place as his question about Foer’s ability to know what’s what with the Thomas story given Foer’s experience.

And that has been the part of this story which has separated those who know the culture of the military from those who don’t know the culture of the military but are willing to make assumptions about it. Those who know the military know that those who don’t know its culture are using bad assumptions.

But how do you explain that in a coherent manner? How do you make "they’d never stand for that" believable to those who’ve never experienced it or seen it?
Written By: McQ
My thought about "it is doubtful that superior officers will be devoting any large amount of time and effort to finding or suppressing it" is that depending on what "it" is, it is probably true. The part that requires, at minimum, a grasp of military culture (and at best a knowledge of the conditions within a particular command) is knowing what sort of things civilians wouldn’t like will be ignored and what sort of things civilians would see no problems with that will result in severe corrective action either of the official or unoffical sort.

Written By: Synova
How do you make "they’d never stand for that" believable to those who’ve never experienced it or seen it?
Well, here’s the thing. I don’t have any first hand experience with the military. My wife’s uncle was in Army intelligence (he was stationed for a long time in Berlin, and boy, does he have some stories that would amazing if he wasn’t required to leave most of the story out), and I have a client who is currently in Iraq, but other than that, my closest tie to the military is that I loved Band of Brothers (the book and the miniseries). IOW, I’m ignorant.

And yet, for all my lack of experience, I assume that "superior officers" are people, and Americans, and hence most of them will find behavior like that alleged to be repugnant. Maybe Synova’s right and we’re just talking about different "it"s and the behavior I’m thinking of is not the behavior you’re thinking of. Fine. I just thought it odd that after a long article to say that, based on his unique analysis, he thinks the stories are just made up, he still assumes that not only do our troops engage in reprehensible behavior, their officers don’t give a crap. What education do you have to have, that makes you automatically assume (and make sweeping statements based on such assumptions) that military personnel are less humane than a civilian? Sorry, it’s weird to me.
Written By: Jinnmabe
URL: http://
And yet, for all my lack of experience, I assume that "superior officers" are people, and Americans, and hence most of them will find behavior like that alleged to be repugnant.
Well yeah, but it’s more than that. And that is the difficult thing to get across. When McArthur said "duty, honor, Country", he summed it up about as well as anyone could. Officers and NCOs take all three very seriously. Most understand duty and country, it’s the "honor" part that, in many cases, isn’t transferable to a civilian analogy but plays a very large part in policing the ranks and keeping things like "Scott Thomas" describes from happening.
Written By: McQ
The same guy also said (IIRC) something about there not being anyone in authority around. That also doesn’t happen, ever. Someone is always in charge. Heck, as a civilian on my way to basic training our recruiter looked at the five of us, asked who was oldest, and handed me everyone else’s paperwork, "You’re responsible." Yay. Someone is in charge of every work detail, even if it’s entirely made up of E-2s.

Jinnmabe, I wasn’t getting on your case, I’m sure. But you’ll notice that no one is really claiming that soldiers wouldn’t kill stray dogs or would get in trouble for killing stray dogs. They’d most likely get in trouble for driving erratically or at the very least get detailed with washing dog pieces off the vehicle during their "free" time. Without knowing anything about the particular command I wouldn’t want to say if stray dog killing was orders (I heard at least one person claim that the dogs were a problem and they were ordered to shoot them), something tolerated, something tolerated as long as those in charge could plausibly pretend they didn’t know about it, or not tolerated and likely to get a soldier in serious trouble.

The other stories aren’t so ambiguous. Mocking an IED victim? If it was noticed corrective measures would happen, formally or informally. Disrespecting a child’s corpse? Might happen but it wouldn’t happen without consequences. I’d find either event shocking and I trust that those people presently serving in Iraq would as well. Repugnant is a very good word.
Written By: Synova
Have you ever thought that with conditions like they are in Iraq that the culture there has a life of its own, and can veer away from "traditional" military culture? We did have Abu Ghraib after all.
Written By: Scott Erb
Yes, we did.

Interestingly what’s-his-face worked as a civilian prison guard and he and Lindy took obscene pictures of people before they ever went to Iraq. Nothing about being in Iraq made them perverts. Nothing but opportunity. Which the military had under investigation before the story broke. Because the military does not condone that behavior or tolerate the break-down of discipline. They’d have ended up right where they are if there had been no publicity at all.

It also seems quite clear that in that case the major malfunction was one of leadership. The former general is still whining about how nothing that happened in her command was her fault and how she had first hand knowledge of female soldiers who died because they were too scared of their fellow soldiers to go pee at night, and she didn’t do anything about that either.

Part of military culture is that this sort of thing is not tolerated, that abdicating responsibility is not tolerated. It’s a harsh code, Scott.

Written By: Synova

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