Friday, July 27, 2007


An Anti-War Pathology

As a First Sergeant, I know that the kinds of behavior confessed by PVT Beauchamp in his “diaries” for TNR, and described as routine for others in his unit, if true, would represent gross dereliction of duty on the part of his NCOs. Such behavior and practices would certainly reflect very poorly on Beauchamp’s Sergeants, first and foremost, his First Sergeant, known as “Top.”

Retired SFC McElroy blogs at Outraged at what she rightly perceived as Beauchamp’s slander against his fellow soldiers, SFC McElroy took the time to email PVT Beauchamp’s First Sergeant in Iraq via his Army Knowledge Online (AKO) email address. No mention of how she sleuthed his identity, but I note that Beauchamp’s unit has a website, so I’m sure it didn’t prove very difficult. (Certainly well within the means of editors or fact checkers at TNR, presuming they bother to learn things about the military, like all soldiers have First Sergeants and AKO addresses.)

SFC McElroy received the following in reply from Top:

SFC McElroy,

I’m not in the habit of answering these email’s. It would be far too many. I appreciate all the support from home and I can assure you that not a single word of this was true. We’ve been fighting this fight for quite some time. Numerous soldiers within my unit have served on several deployments and this is my third year as a First Sergeant in this unit. My soldiers conduct is consistently honorable. This soldier has other underlining issues which I’m sure will come out in the course of the investigation. No one at any of the post we live at or frequent, remotely fit the descriptions of any of the persons depicted in this young man’s fairy tale. I can’t and won’t divulge any information regarding this soldier, but I do sincerely appreciate all the support from the people back home. Again, this young man has a vivid imagination and I promise you that this by no means reflects the truth of what is happening here. I’m currently serving with the best America has to offer. I have worked and fought closely with every soldier within my company and they are consummate professionals in an area most people can’t fathom. I’m proud of my soldiers and would gladly give my life for any one of them. Please continue to keep them with you in your prayers and thank God that we have these courageous men willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country, Americans, and the people of this struggling nation.


1SG Hatley

Look, I’ll be the first to admit that no First Sergeant is going to admit that his unit is chock full of the kind of caricatures a fabulist like Beauchamp portrays, even if it was. Even if the 1SG shirked his responsibilities, avoided all accountability, there’s one thing that would be true no matter what. No soldier can tolerate their unit, mission or character to be tarnished with the kind of slanders reflected in TNR.

Someone covering up abuses or bad behavior would make all manner of excuses. They might point fingers, blame others, rally supporters, and gather up of lots of irrelevant evidence to “disprove.” Being dishonest and dishonorable, the last thing they would think of is to praise and honor their unit and fellow soldiers. Note the email above, and how much Beauchamp’s 1SG says about the soldiers in his unit, and how little he actually says about Beauchamp or his stories. He suggests Beauchamp has “underlying issues” and a “vivid imagination.”

I think I can guess what sort of “underlying issues” Beauchamp has likely exhibited under 1SG Hatley’s command.

We had a soldier with a drinking problem, for example, who got nailed multiple times for drunken and disorderly behavior –at the Mobilization site, at an MOS-producing school he was booted out of, and several times in Iraq. He was an alcoholic, and not surprisingly, exhibited all manner of other behavior and discipline problems as well. He had two article 15s, the last of which busted him all the way back down to E1.

Unfortunately, the powers that be felt that he was trying to get himself out of deployment (via earlier discipline incidents), and that he needed to stay with us as we deployed. Worse, he was assigned to the only section of ours that underwent combat missions in actual combat conditions. They tried to work with him, grow him, train him, change him. In the end, all they could do was baby-sit him to keep him from hurting himself or others, or jeopardize their missions.

Ultimately, he was on-hand during an IED/ambush. Though not targeted nor injured, nor likely in close nor first hand proximity to those who were, he retold his version of events with wild and extreme disparity from accounts of other participants. He had “seen the carnage,” he had been “under fire,” he was “warped and twisted.” (This explained why he smuggled alcohol into theater, got drunk, and pissed all over his fellow soldiers gear. Not the first time he did that sort of thing, he had some kind of fascination with pissing on things not his own.)

He sought treatment for PTSD post deployment. What he needs treatment for is alcoholism, and likely other mental health disorders, all of which he had before he deployed. But his story is illustrative of a small but significant number of soldiers who went into combat with discipline, mental health, and behavioral problems, and these conditions were aggravated or resurfaced during and post deployment. No small wonder the Army sometimes wants to claim soldiers deployed with “pre-existing conditions,” though I think the wiser course is for the Army to “grandfather” coverage for these kinds of issues.

It’s easy to see how anti-war groups and others with agendas however want to “score twice” on these individuals: war crippled these soldiers, and now the Army wants to abandon them.

Beauchamp admits in his writings that he joined the Army despite an anti-war disposition so that he would earn “credibility” for later criticism of Government defense policies (and presumably, the war). He admits to wanting to turn himself into an accomplished writer. He clearly practiced fictional accounts of combat, based on his training, before he was deployed. Objectively, it’s clear that the kind of “war is hell,” apocalypse now kind of Iraqi war stories are infinitely more salable than less violent, more honorable narratives. Match prior intent, with motive, opportunity, and willing accomplices, why is it so difficult for media types to entertain skepticism in the face of this kind of war reporting? They exhibit tremendously greater skepticism about Multinational Force press releases.

It’s too bad that media types with partisan agendas let their own prejudices blind them to the possibilities (and probabilities) of falsehood and manufactured “truth.” (Isn’t it almost unbelievable, the extent to which Leftists, progressives, anti-war types are guilty of precisely those faults and failing they accuse Conservatives, pro-victory, military supporters? I mean, in supreme degree?)

Critics who insanely view themselves as “moderate” and “independent” – these same view Hillary Clinton as near traitorous, Joe Lieberman as the epitome of evil, and mainstream media as leaning right rather than left – tsk tsk at those of us who criticize the “pro-war” and “moderate” TNR. We eat our own, by their discernment

Peter Beinert was ostensibly pro-Iraq war, but anyone privy to the change in editorial direction Franklin Foer endeavored to accomplish, knows TNR is far from “pro-war” now, and surely not as reflected in the “war has turned us into Storm Troopers” fantasies concocted by Beauchamp and others of his ilk.)

Anti-war screed-makers on the Left decry Michael Goldfarb, Uncle Jimbo at Blackfive, Ace at Ace of Spades, virtually anyone on the pro-victory right as the ultimate in hypocrites for challenging the identity of TNR’s “Scott Thomas,” but more importantly, the accuracy of his “first person” accounts (in any of his three pieces for TNR). We support the troops, but only when they agree with us about the war.

No, we just don’t tolerate people who fabricate stories, misrepresent their “combat” experience, malign and slander their fellow soldiers with partisan intent, or otherwise attempt to portray US military (as a class of persons) as cruel, evil, deranged, stupid, homicidal, etc. Don’t try to do to any of us today what you so successfully did to veterans of Vietnam – denigrated and disgraced their services with outright lies and disgusting caricatures that became the public face of the Vietnam Vet for a generation.

Those who support Beauchamp do so for convenience, for today; I am sure if he proves too controversial a figure (read, a discredited fabulist with significant personal and behavioral problems), they’ll excise him from the anti-war, darlings of the Left inner circle. But that won’t stop these same critics from ignoring the likely phoniness of this private’s “war stories,” and enshrining what should be a discredited “Larger Truthiness” that this war in Iraq makes monsters out of men.

Already, they claim that Beauchamp’s accusers – who focused extensively on the falsehood of Beauchamp’s “combat diary” accounts and less on his possible imposter status – are shifting attack from his status to him personally.

“He’s genuine! They said he was a phony! See, they’re wrong! The wingnuts have to destroy him now!”

And yet, all this was ever about, all it will ever be about with anti-war, anti-military agitators, is setting the record straight. Get real veterans, honest men and women of integrity. Ask them. Check out some agenda-free reporting, from independents and real embeds. Discount those oppositional voices with stark partisan objectives, or who have deeply invested their reputations on “Iraq is a quagmire,” “we’ve lost already,” “our army is broken” kinds of agenda-reporting (New York Times, AP, et al).

By mutual consent, acknowledge that there are always bad or dishonest or criminally violent among our soldiers, as there are among the rest of society. But see that they are recognizable by the fact that they are rare exceptions, not the norm.

If we ever reach a day when there cease to exist active partisans out to discredit our military and its efforts, to find evil and misdeed where there is none, then military, veterans, families and friends will not need to step forward publicly and call BS on those peddling slander.

(Via a veteran of Beauchamp's unit, via Michael Goldfarb)

Other coverage on TNR and Beauchamp:
Dean Barnett

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