Throwing the Baby Out with the Bathwater...As soon as I heard about the “Baghdad Diarist” and then read of his “first hand” descriptions of “scandalous” troop actions in Iraq, I was skeptical.
Why? Because of my own experiences in today’s all-volunteer professional armed forces. I’ve only been retired for 5 years; I still know people who serve and I think things have not changed so much since I got out.
The “USA haters” that seem to predominate the media are infected with the mindset that people who serve in uniform MUST have something “wrong” with them; after all, they think, ‘Why would “these people” join up and continue in a military that pursues such an “evil and misguided policy?” ’
Speaking for myself and others like me, if I were serving in-theater and saw that our policies were truly immoral—I WOULD "quit" (not reenlist); or, desiring to continue my career, I’d find some other way. I’d probably blow the whistle to my congressman and senators; I’d tell everyone I knew about the wrongs I was seeing, and I would DEMAND that they get us the heck out.
But, isn't that what Beauchamp did? ...or was it?
I can tell you that that way of thinking is the mindset of most military folks, people who are extremely honorable. Thing is, that’s NOT what is happening. By and large, the troops serving in the war are not squawking about being a cog in some nefarious endeavor. In fact, statistically, most are reenlisting; and by all accounts the morale is not low.
The best way for the antiwar crowd to explain this phenomena is to discredit those directly involved in the war, and what better way to do that than by finding one of the troops “willing” to actually describe how truly awful the whole thing is. When they found Scott Beauchamp they must have thought they had hit the journalistic lotto; that they had found their next little John Kerry. They must have been so excited by the prospect that the concept of checking the veracity of the storyteller (and his story) must have flown right out the window. Kind of like when “Baghdad Pete” didn’t bother to prove that US forces had actually used nerve gas in Laos in 1970 before publishing it as fact. (To this day Peter Arnett STILL believes this fabrication).
Putting myself in Beauchamp's shoes, maybe I too would “make some stuff up” to make my whole outfit look bad. Perhaps I would do this if I was some low-ranking Sad Sack with a chip on my shoulder and an emotional screw loose, maybe with a beef against an “overbearing” sergeant or arrogant officer. Malcontents have been in the military since before the days of Alexander, but his aggrieved rank-and-file did not have internet access. In Pvt. Scott Thomas Beauchamp's case, he found out exactly how easy it was to make some horrible stuff up so that the Bush-hating lose-the-war-at-all-costs-crowd would EAT it up. He told them what they wanted to hear and they were off to the races.
As it turns out, this private, although technically in-theater, is by no means near any of the battle zones of Iraq. His experiences can only describe truthfully what he’s seen in the safety of the rear areas of Kuwait, but that’s NOT what he claimed in his anecdotes. That the anti-war media latched onto the falsehoods written by this obviously peeved and probably troubled individual says a lot about their agenda of getting us out of Iraq no matter what it takes, even if it means publishing “made-up stuff.”
In a phrase, I find what Beauchamp did to be very “John Kerryesque.” Remember him? He did the same thing when he came back from Vietnam in the early 70s. He also appealed to an antiwar crowd by confabulating his former mates into war criminals, all in the interest of establishing a liberal political career. Just like Beauchamp, he did this by smearing his own comrades. In my book it makes both of these fellows similarly despicable, although I’d rate Kerry far higher on my “contempt scale.” Beauchamp is a lying “no body” turned into a “some body” by some defective “alleged” journalists.
Let me tell you something. THE most idealistic and professional military EVER is the American one. It is made up of THE most freethinking bunch of individuals that have ever served in ANY significant military force.
It is THE most educated group, military or not, of its size per capita ANYWHERE in the world. Not only that, it is the best trained, not only in what they do, but also in how to do it ethically. Every year, for the last ten or so years that I served, I took mandatory classes on such subjects as the Law of Armed Conflict, The US Military Code of Conduct, The Code of Ethics in Government, and Human Relations. The troops in the battle zones are continually bombarded with Rules of Engagement and how to properly conduct themselves in virtually every conceivable situation. Believe me, our people KNOW right from wrong; if not from what they learned at home BEFORE they enlist, then by what they are immersed in AFTER they are sworn in.
Today’s army is not the one that served in Vietnam, which was made up by and large of non-careerist draftees. Even so, those citizen soldiers mostly served with distinction, bravery and attention to duty; but you’d never think so if you watch the films about that war that have come from the skewed minds of the other batch of USA haters that run Hollywood. Both batches of America haters, the Hollywood and media ones, simply feed off each other’s regurgitated hatred. What isn’t accurate, in the interest of furthering their agenda, they’ll simply dramatize into existence. Their message: “See how bad WE are!”
Some of the things Beauchamp claims to have witnessed are really not all that terrible—lowdown for sure, but not criminal. Making fun of a disfigured woman, running down dogs with their vehicles, and wearing bones on their helmets are all undoubtedly screwed up things to do, but by no means do they rise above mere awful behavior. Even so, I have no doubt that any NCO or officer witnessing any of those things would immediately step in and correct them. Beauchamp himself should have turned in anyone doing such actions. By not doing so, under military code, he also was complicit.
This is not to say that some individuals do not do dreadful things. I’ve witnessed idiots in uniform do plenty of stupid things. Every time I saw it I stepped in and corrected it. It’s the beauty of the military system because every NCO and officer is REQUIRED to do it. I miss the days when I could go up to some young E-3 or O-1 in the base exchange, identify myself by my name and rank and remind them that they should watch their language in a public place. Try that in a Wal-Mart and you’ll more than likely receive a healthy dose of “F**k you!”
In fact, we are much better at institutional self-correction than most any other organization, including religious ones. I wonder how many priests, cardinals and bishops knew that one of their own was messing around with altar boys and did nothing about it? (Obviously a rhetorical question.) We know what happened at Abu Ghraib because a troop seeing wrong being done turned it in. The Army was already investigating when the press got wind of it. The same thing goes with the Marines and Soldiers who were recently tried and convicted of rape and murder. It wasn’t some reporter who exposed those crimes—it came from people within the service, and that’s exactly how it was designed to work.