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Private Scott Thomas Beauchamp
Posted by: Jon Henke on Friday, July 27, 2007

I agree with every word Megan McArdle has written here.
The least convincing rebuttal of Private Beauchamp's allegations is that "American soldiers are good people!". But on the other hand, the least convincing defense is "atrocities happen in war!" Both can be true, and irrelevant to the question of whether Private Scott Beauchamp is an incredible jerk, with enough other incredible jers around him that he managed to get away with some incredibly awful things. It seems ludicrous that the main subject of argument seems to be whether Michelle Malkin and Hugh Hewitt, or Franklin Foer and his editors, are deluded losers keeping themselves willfully ignorant of wartime conditions in order to advance their ideological agenda.

So let's get it out of the way. The Iraq war was a bad idea. Undoubtedly, American soldiers are doing things that are either immoral, or disgusting, or both, because that's what happens when you give people guns and tanks and power, and the UCMJ can only reel that sort of thing in so far. American soldiers in World War II used to boil Japanese skulls and send them to their girlfiends, and yes, we were still the good guys in that one. War is hell, she said with unabashed clicheness.
[...]
Whether they got taken, which is my bet, or whether it turns out that I am wrong and there is no reason to doubt the stories, that will not actually change anything about Iraq. The vituperative focus of both sides on the imagined nastiness of the other, is both beside the point, and says more about the culture war here than anything in the actual stories, or the decision to run them.

And that still won't make Iraq be successful.

But TNR's defenders seem to think that it is a defense to say, "Well, everyone who's talking about this is evil; and also, bad things happen in war." Both could be true, and wouldn't tell us whether *these* bad things happen. ... [T]he question is, are these particular things likely things to have happened? There are decent arguments, technical, psychological, and practical, that they weren't: [...] Those aren't idle questions; they need an answer better than "I friggin' loathe Michelle Malkin."

More generally, I think a moderate tone is a good idea in these things. Otherwise, you run a high risk of looking like a jerk when you have to admit you're wrong; or a real jerk when you pretend the whole thing never happened. Posts on what embarrassing morons your opponents will be bitterly regretted if, say, it turns out that there is no such contractor at Beauchamp's base; as will fulminations about left-wing lies if Beauchamp's stories are corroborated at his court martial. Safer to say that your best judgement lies one way or another, and leave it at that.
I find it best to be skeptical when empirical debates divide up on ideological grounds.
 
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Let the investigations begin.
 
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
Here’s the thing: on their podcast last week, your co-bloggers Dale and Bruce seemed to say that there’s just no way in the military for any kind of atrocity to happen. I don’t know if the things in the TNR story happened or not (my gut tells me the author has at the very least added some dramatic flair), but they seemed to be saying that in their experience soldiers were never left on their own to do anything wrong ever. But of course, history tells us that that’s just not true. Like society at large, the military is mostly good guys by far, but there are bad people all the way from the Commander-in-chief down to a private - does it really make sense to act otherwise?
 
Written By: Oliver Willis
URL: http://www.oliverwillis.com
I almost never listen to podcasts, even when I’m on them. I didn’t hear that podcast, so you’ll have to give me quotes rather than paraphrasing what they "seemed to say". I’ll be glad to comment on those quotes.

I strongly doubt either Dale or McQ would say soldiers were never left on their own to do anything wrong ever. I’m not aware that either of them believes soldiers are exempt from basic human nature, and I would guess that each could give you examples in their own military experience of (other) soldiers doing bad things.

I do agree that war causes people to act in ways they never would have expected, and would otherwise have deplored. I don’t think you’ll find anybody who objects to the proposition that horrible things are unnecessarily done in wars, nor to the proposition that some US troops have done bad things.

I have no problem with having opinions, even strong opinions, on this case. But it seems a bit odd that it has (a) broken down on party lines, and (b) gotten so vicious. Ultimately, vigorous debate on this story is exactly what will help lead us to a definitive answer, because it provides the oversight that both produces and sharpens the investigation.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://QandO.net
But it seems a bit odd that it has (a) broken down on party lines, and (b) gotten so vicious.
Where have you been for the last seven years? Really, come on. I can’t possibly think you’re really that naive considering your two previous and your current employer.
 
Written By: Oliver Willis
URL: http://www.oliverwillis.com
Here’s the thing: on their podcast last week, your co-bloggers Dale and Bruce seemed to say that there’s just no way in the military for any kind of atrocity to happen.
No Oliver, that’s not what we "seemed to say". What we said is it wasn’t very plausible that any of them happened the way he described them since they seemingly took place in a leadership vacuum. I.e. either no leadership was present or none took action if they were present. Given the situations as described, that just didn’t ring true and that was the point we discussed. Then there were the technical problems.

No one is arguing that bad things haven’t or don’t happen in Iraq. What we’re saying is these bad things are unlikely to have happened for the numerous technical and cultural reasons that have been laid out in multiple posts which, apparently, you haven’t bothered to read.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Let the investigations begin.

I said quite some time ago.


This is a sane post, Jon. Good to have you back.

It was generous of you not to point out that some conservative websites seemed pretty sure that the New Republic just invented these stories and the soldiers behind them, only a short time ago.

Q,

What we’re saying is these bad things are unlikely to have happened for the numerous technical and cultural reasons that have been laid out in multiple posts which, apparently, you haven’t bothered to read.

I’ve seen posts on this topic, but I seem to have missed the posts where specific technical and evidentiary contradictions or questions have been raised on the stories. I’m not on here all that often, especially given my current schedule.
Mind doing me a favor and posting a link to them?
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
Where have you been for the last seven years? Really, come on. I can’t possibly think you’re really that naive considering your two previous and your current employer.
My bad, I was unclear. It doesn’t seem unusual that it has broken down as it has...just inappropriate. I’m sure you and I can both think of times that the Leftosphere and Rightosphere have divided over strictly partisan lines, fought bitterly, remarked upon the sheer idiocy of the other side for believing something so plainly incorrect...and then ended up looking stupid when the facts came out to prove one or the other wrong.

Obviously, people in the Rightosphere think it happens more often to the Leftosphere, people in the Leftosphere think it happens more often to the Rightosphere. Confirmation bias, you know.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
It was generous of you not to point out that some conservative websites seemed pretty sure that the New Republic just invented these stories and the soldiers behind them, only a short time ago.
I haven’t been following it closely enough to know the players involved. I’ve mostly read the big picture reviews of how it’s played out.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
"...I seem to have missed the posts where specific technical and evidentiary contradictions or questions have been raised on the stories. ... given my current schedule.
Parenthetically; this is a typical liberal expostulation justifying the propensity to never "waste time" clicking on links, which might provide them with some real facts, while maintaining their rigid ideological faith by checking with a few liberal pundits from time to time.

 
Written By: Robert Fulton
URL: http://
It was generous of you not to point out that some conservative websites seemed pretty sure that the New Republic just invented these stories and the soldiers behind them, only a short time ago.
I keep seeing this accusation, but I have yet to see any evidence to back it up. Do you have any links, glasnost, or can you at least point in the right direction?
I’ve seen posts on this topic, but I seem to have missed the posts where specific technical and evidentiary contradictions or questions have been raised on the stories. I’m not on here all that often, especially given my current schedule.
Mind doing me a favor and posting a link to them?

Weekly Standard


Blackfive:
Now I am not saying that US troops are not capable of horrifying depravity, the cells at Leavenworth show otherwise. But see, that is just the point, we punish the evil amongst us. We have a stake in the reputation of the US military and the overwhelming majority of us would never tolerate the acts described by this chump. I can imagine someone with so little compassion that they would openly mock a burned female. I can also easily imagine the bullet-headed First Sergeant who would have jerked a knot in his tail quicker than suddenly, and if perchance a punk ass Private found a piece of skull and decided to use it in place of a helmet, he would last about 30 seconds before his squad leader was chewing his ass threatening to "beat him like a wet dog in a dry house". I also think we heard from enough real Bradley drivers to front out his dog-killing exploits.
OpFor

Michael Yon at The Weekly Standard

Vox Veterana:
For starters I believe the entire New Republic story to be a fake, no soldier would ever be able to get away with the things that the author says he did. Not even taking into consideration that most of what he said is basically impossible i.e. running over dogs in a Bradley (a Bradley cannot maneuver quick enough to run over a moving dog), a soldier wearing a human skull on his head (how exactly does a human skull fit like a hat?), and making fun of a woman scarred by an IED (a soldier who said something like that would get his ass kicked by anyone in the vicinity, including me).
There’s lots more if you care to look.
 
Written By: MichaelW
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
All ways agreeable Megan says:
Whether they got taken, which is my bet, or whether it turns out that I am wrong and there is no reason to doubt the stories, that will not actually change anything about Iraq.
But Jon, the point is that this is not about Iraq. It is about stereotyping the military. Suppose someone (TNR) wants to use the actions of a group of black thugs to suggest that this is the norm for black culture. Would you still agree with the person that says regardless of who’s right it won’t affect society? This is not about the Iraq war. It is about the labeling of our military. There has been a real attempt this month to do just that. The TNR/Beauchamp article, the KOS "Killitary" post, or A Whitney Browns video.
These have all taken place since the 20th of July in a concerted effort to libel our military.
And I’m not denying that bad things don’t happen. In fact, when they do I want those military persons punished appropriately and openly. They do as much to discredit the military as does TNR or Daily Kos.
 
Written By: tom scott
URL: http://
These have all taken place since the 20th of July in a concerted effort to libel our military.
Ah, yes, the pacifists at TNR, who published a story by an actual US soldier...and some nobody diarists at Daily Kos. Well, three uncoordinated anecdotes must make a campaign.

Gotcha’s can be amusing fun, but grabbing anecdotes and drawing larger conclusions about completely different people is just weak. I refer back to McArdle’s comments on the whole thing.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Glasnost:

Link

Link

Link

Link
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Several commenters have graciously provided glasnost with the links that he specifically requested. Implicit in his request is his commitment to actually read most if not all of the links and to consider what they have to say in forming his opinion on the issue. Do I think he will do so?
No.

My bias as to the propensity of lazy liberals to click on links and read them is a matter of record here. What he is likely to do is:

1. Click on a few of the links.
2. Select a few key phrases.
3. Google those phrases.
4. From the result, select the usual sources (Firedoglake, etc.)
5. Go to the usual sources
6. Prepare a rebuttal based on the “information” on those points in the liberal sites.

This way he will seem to have checked out the links and despite the information contained in them, have maintained his ideological purity – thus (supposedly) confirming the fundamental accuracy of his faith.
 
Written By: Robert Fulton
URL: http://
Do I think he will do so?
No.
Not so fast, Robert. I don’t agree with glasnost on just about anything, but I have always found him to be thorough and fair in our debates. If he’s asking for links, it’s probably because he wants to read them. Moreover, if I had to guess, I would say that glasnost asked for links here at QandO because he trusts that he’ll get the meat of the argument in doing so, whether or not agrees with anyone’s conclusions.
 
Written By: MichaelW
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
Well, MichaelW, I want to think that your expressed faith in glasnost is appropriate. However, examine the "thoroughness and fairness" of his comment to McQ above thread:
”You accepted it as certainly false.”
That means completely, utterly, definitely, entirely and unconditionally false as glasnost damn well knows. Anyone who has read what McQ has posted and commented knows that that is a damnable lie*.

You made a decisive judgment on it.”
That means conclusively and absolutely. Another damnable lie.
”...a few days ago you were convinced that the guy was an MFA student...”
Another damnable lie.

Followed by the typical liberal strawman reframing of the issue (why do you still beat your wife?):
”The counterargument is Why do you keep overstating the certainty of your case?”




I am not calling glasnost a liar in that I believe he is not among the group that has read McQ’s posts and comments.
 
Written By: Robert Fulton
URL: http://
Just a question. Or, a clarification if you will.

I agree with every word Megan McArdle has written here.
...So let’s get it out of the way. The Iraq war was a bad idea...
Written by: Jon Henke
Every word, Mr. Henke?

Cheers.
(and also, it is good to be reading you again.)
 
Written By: PogueMahone
URL: http://
Yes.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Michael, I just read all of your links. None of them had any specific information or evidence demonstrating that anything in the story didn’t or couldn’t have happened.

I’ve found exactly one specific contrary claim so far. Not in your links, but I believe mentioned in a post by Dale on here - that the unit in question never found a mass grave on its territory.

I hate to quote Yglesias too much, but it was his post that basically formed the root of my opinion on the allegations so far - which nothing has disconfirmed yet - so here goes:
. . . but amidst The Weekly Standard’s huffing and puffing about how "Scott Thomas" couldn’t possibly have come across a mass grave in a particular area of operations where he allegedly said he came across one (crucially, he didn’t actually say that), they inadvertendly corroborated the story. Thomas said he and other soldiers found a bunch of skeletons during the construction of a combat outpost. One of the article’s detractors concedes that "There was a children’s cemetery unearthed while constructing a Combat Outpost (COP) in the farm land south of Baghdad International Airport" and then gets very insistent that it was no mass grave. The article, however, just said they found a bunch of bones and then speculated idly that it might have been a mass grave. Well, turns out it was a children’s cemetary.

Meanwhile, the case that nobody could possibly have driven around in his Bradley Fighting Vehicle killing dogs seems to essentially come down to the fact that "This would violate standard operating procedure (SOP) and make the convoy more susceptible to attack." I don’t, however, think anyone ever argued that killing dogs was SOP, the claim was that it happened. Surely the Standard is prepared to concede that SOP, though standard, is sometimes violated.
Is any of the above untrue, Mike?

I don’t know if these stories happened. I don’t know if they didn’t happen. And I don’t have any problem with someone posting something like "running over dogs in your Bradley would make you an IED magnet." And so it would, or at least that sure correlates with what I understand. You could even say, "hey, this isn’t anything like what I experienced over there", or "this doesn’t seem credible to me." Fine.

But here at QandO anyway, the attitude taken sure seemed to me like the guy was obviously, definitely full of grass-grower, TNR was a sorry, rotten publication for publishing his lies in the first place, and so on. Should I go back through Q and O and see if anyone came out and called the story "lies"?

I don’t know what the lawyerly parsing of Q’s statements would lead out, but the message I got from it was, "We know this guy’s a fake. And a bunch of other four-letter words, as is everyone who publishes him, anyone who believes him and anyone not prepared to dismiss the story."

Hell, Michael, one of your own links tells people to go cancel their TNR subscriptions... for what? For doing, basically, the same thing Mike Totten is doing - publishing first-person accounts of behavior on the front lines. I’m on Mike Totten’s page a lot. You don’t see me calling everything he reports as obvious lies. I can and will claim that I’m not fully convinced that they’re representative of the whole experience. And I’d say equally that these stories aren’t either.

But I don’t see liberals going around and attempting to convince people that the piles of happy journalism coming out of both the MSM and the milbloggers and ’independent bloggers’ are just making it up.


 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
McQ’s middle links are better, but they add up to:

1. Some people say there weren’t any women with burned faces on this base during that year.

2. They also say that, soldiers get pretty nasty about mocking IED victims.


3. Petraeus’ PAO says that putting a skull on under your helmet is bad behavior, and would have been stopped by an officer.

4. He also mentions that under one type of helmet that we’re assuming he’s wearing, a skull wouldn’t fit under said helmet.


#1, #2, and #3, don’t really mean anything, just like "running over dogs in your Bradley exposes you to IED attack" does really mean anything in terms of disproof. I’m sure that the people who said this had experiences that generally back those statements up: all of it is extremely variable based on local circumstances. It only takes one lousy supervising officer, and in order for this to be considered disproof, that has to be beyond possibility.

#4 is more interesting, but who knows what exceptions exist? Troops in the field can uparmor humvees from scratch, but they can’t find a way to make a piece of skull fit under a helmet? Or who knows, maybe it was attached to the helmet in some way other than under, and the author remembers wrong or flat-out lies about the method, with the basic point of the story the same?

 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
#1, #2, and #3, don’t really mean anything, just like "running over dogs in your Bradley exposes you to IED attack" does really mean anything in terms of disproof.
You are as dense as a collapsed star on some things.

Show me where anyone is trying to "disprove" his stories. Just one instance.

The word is plausible. Or if you prefer, believable. What are offered are reasons why his stories are neither.

Now, start again and apply the proper standard.

Oh and this?
#4 is more interesting, but who knows what exceptions exist? Troops in the field can uparmor humvees from scratch, but they can’t find a way to make a piece of skull fit under a helmet? Or who knows, maybe it was attached to the helmet in some way other than under, and the author remembers wrong or flat-out lies about the method, with the basic point of the story the same?
It’s just pathetic.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
glasnost:
“The counterargument is Why do you keep overstating the certainty of your case?”
Having failed to set up his straw man for the slam dunk, glasnost is now appealing to his “buddy” to let him off the hook for his prior disingenuous mis-statements of McQ’s position and still desperately trying to reframe the issue into his strawman:
“Michael, I just read all of your links. None of them had any specific information or evidence demonstrating that anything in the story didn’t or couldn’t have happened.
As has been amply stated, no one here is or has stated that the incidents absolutely could not have happened (and glasnost is well aware of that fact). However,
“…the guy was obviously, definitely full of grass-grower, TNR was a sorry, rotten publication for publishing his lies in the first place..”
Take out your weasel (definitely) and you’ve got this one right.


I tired of pointing out what a turkey (and weasel) glasnost is on this one.
 
Written By: notherbob2
URL: http://
Should I go back through Q and O and see if anyone came out and called the story "lies"?
No ... instead tell us why, given the reasons we’ve cited that the stories aren’t plausible, that we’re wrong and in fact the stories are plausible.

OK?
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog

 
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