The Press’ Predisposition to Believe the Worst about the Troops

The New Republic has come under fire by bloggers for a series of recent articles purportedly written by an active duty soldier in Iraq. The picture he draws of US soldiers is not a pretty one. Many commentators, including a number of folks who are serving, or have served, in Iraq, believe the articles, written under the pseudonym of “Scott Thomas,” are bogus. So do I.
Here’s my take on the issue in today’s National Review Online.

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Pat Crowley
14 years ago

You don’t believe it, therefore it isn’t true? Thats great logic Mac.

Mike
Mike
14 years ago

Considering one of our “heroes” was just convicted of murder and cover-up of an innocent Iraqi and a jury of fellow “heroes” gave him a small fine, those who continue to support this war and the world domination policies of BOTH parties have amply demonstrated their moral bankruptcy.
RON PAUL
RESTORE FREEDOM
DISMANTLE THE EMPIRE

Greg
Greg
14 years ago

Vote Hillary! The best Republican running. She’s more willing to ‘stay the course’ in Iraq than the Republican candidates.

smmtheory
smmtheory
14 years ago

Apparently Mac, it’s not just the press, but the gullible as well.

Aldo
Aldo
14 years ago

Mac, Judging by the responses so far, it seems that some posters have no problem drinking the “Kool Aid” put out by the press. I seriously doubt they have ever worn a uniform or lived through what these kids are going through every day. Brings to mind the following from Kipling’s “Tommy”. Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap; An’ hustlin’ drunken soldiers when they’re goin’ large a bit Is five times better business than paradin’ in full kit. Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy how’s yer soul?” But it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll, The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll, O it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll. We aren’t no thin red ‘eroes, nor we aren’t no blackguards too, But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you; An’ if sometimes our conduck isn’t all your fancy paints: Why, single men in barricks don’t grow into plaster saints; While it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, fall be’ind,” But it’s “Please to walk in front, sir,” when there’s trouble in the wind, There’s trouble in the wind, my boys, there’s trouble in the wind, O it’s “Please to walk in front, sir,” when there’s trouble in the wind. You talk o’ better food for us, an’ schools, an’ fires an’ all: We’ll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational. Don’t mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face The Widow’s Uniform is not the soldier-man’s disgrace. For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!” But it’s “Saviour of ‘is country,” when the guns begin… Read more »

msteven
msteven
14 years ago

Pat,
He said he didn’t believe it and presented an argument. And you took that to mean he asserted that it isn’t true. Now that’s great logic. Dissent = Assertion.
Mike,
So the fact that there are people in the military who do bad things is an indictment of the entire military.
And anyone who continues supports the war is ‘morally bankrupt’.
And the only agenda of ‘supporting the war’ is the pursuit of world dominance.
Are you saying that any view other than the Libertarian view of no military internvention in the pursuit of foreign policy is ‘morally bankrupt’? I can see an argument of benefit vs. cost and that the US should not use its resources to assist other countries – but using phrases like ‘morally bankrupt’ & ‘world dominance policies’?
Ron Paul may be against the war, but I doubt he indicts all soldiers because of a minority, and I doubt he considers the supporters of the war “morally bankrupt” or that the purpose of the war is “world dominance”. I’d expect this level of bologna from Mike Gravel, not a Libertarian.

Anthony
Anthony
14 years ago

Pat,
You know why I don’t believe it? Here’s my logic-
1. The writings are anonymous. We don’t know who he is and nobody can ask him any questions about his allegations.
2. If the writer had any degree of ethics as he claims, he would have reported these incidents as he is REQUIRED to do under military law rather than write about them anonymously.
3. There have been several previous stories just like this one that have been proven false. Guys like Jesse MacBeth, one of the leaders of Iraq Veterans Against the War who claimed to be an Iraq vet and Army Ranger. MacBeth said he particpated in and witnessed several atrocities while serving in Iraq. The only problem was that he had flunked out of basic training and was thrown out of the military after a few days.
That didn’t stop him from becoming a leading spokesman for major anti-war groups and featured on so-called progressive websites.
So now there’s a guy who won’t even give his name making less severe allegation than MacBeth made.
I don’t know for sure whether or not these things happened, whether the author heard rumors about them happening and took them at face value or simply invented them. But given the track record of such stories, I’d need more than anonymous online allegations to give them any credibility whatsoever.

George
George
14 years ago

Well hey, can’t win ’em all can you..
“My Diarist, “Shock Troops,” and the two other pieces I wrote for the New Republic have stirred more controversy than I could ever have anticipated. They were written under a pseudonym, because I wanted to write honestly about my experiences, without fear of reprisal. Unfortunately, my pseudonym has caused confusion. And there seems to be one major way in which I can clarify the debate over my pieces: I’m willing to stand by the entirety of my articles for the New Republic using my real name.
I am Private Scott Thomas Beauchamp, a member of Alpha Company, 1/18 Infantry, Second Brigade Combat Team, First Infantry Division.
My pieces were always intended to provide my discrete view of the war; they were never intended as a reflection of the entire U.S. Military. I wanted Americans to have one soldier’s view of events in Iraq.
It’s been maddening, to say the least, to see the plausibility of events that I witnessed questioned by people who have never served in Iraq. I was initially reluctant to take the time out of my already insane schedule fighting an actual war in order to play some role in an ideological battle that I never wanted to join. That being said, my character, my experiences, and those of my comrades in arms have been called into question, and I believe that it is important to stand by my writing under my real name.
–Private Scott Thomas Beauchamp”

SusanD
SusanD
14 years ago

George, is that a real quote? If so, when and where did Private Beauchamp say it?

Tim
Tim
14 years ago

Anyone else find it curious that ‘Scott Thomas’ as quoted by George is at the rank of Private? Odd that the New Republic would seek out the lowest man on the military totem pole as their correspondent. Call me a skeptic also.
Pat,
You’re a 30+ yr old and you wear a duck suit. Why do you bother posting? lol

George
George
14 years ago

It is from the TNR website.
http://www.tnr.com/blog/the_plank?pid=128957
If no war atrocities are being committed in Iraq then color me surprised cause this would be the first war ever that occurred in.

smmtheory
smmtheory
14 years ago

That being said, my character, my experiences, and those of my comrades in arms have been called into question,

As if what he wrote didn’t already impinge on the character of his comrades in arms… how come it ended up in this magazine instead of a report on his commander’s desk? I smell agenda.

Anthony
Anthony
14 years ago

I’ll still withhold judgement….until he’s shown to be as credible as Dan Rather..uhh, make that Tom Brokaw

msteven
msteven
14 years ago

George,
I don’t think that anyone is saying that no war atrocities are being committed in Iraq by our troops. (at least I hope that is not what is trying to be portrayed). You are correct, it happens in wars. Atrocities are done by people regardless of whether there is war or not.
The issue here is whether the person writing this is being honest and accurate with regard to the events being described. I think it is safe to say that there is a motive for providing this type of information.
Do you think anyone would – or has ever- lied about war atrocities with an agenda to put down our troops and ultimately, the whole mission?
The reality is that, at the end of the day, the actions of a vast minority of soldiers do not affect the substance of the debate on a) whether we should have gone into Iraq in the first place and b) what we should now give the current circumstances.
I think the reflex to defend the troops is based on a reaction to those anti-war partisans whose agenda it is to portray our troops as the ‘bad guys’ or on a par with the terrorists – while ignoring the minor detail that the terrorists are trained to do horrific things while our troops are disciplined for it. Sort of like comparing a bottle of vodka to a bottle of rat poison. Both can harm you, but only one is made with the specific intent to harm.

George
George
14 years ago

msteven:
I don’t mean this to come off snarky so bare with me but saying
“I think the reflex to defend the troops is based on a reaction to those anti-war partisans whose agenda it is to portray our troops as the ‘bad guys’ or on a par with the terrorists”
is part of the problem here. A very small minority of anti-war people think the troops are evil. The reality of the situation is that the troops were put in to a situation that was hellish to begin with. That being said, we have to take statements like Pvt. Beauchamp seriously. If these things are happening they should be investigated and we have to figure why they are happening. Is it poor training, the type of training, attitudes brought from the command structure? Who knows?
And let us be realistic, these incidents while rare, are far from isolated. The attitudes were set at Abu Graihb and The Nation posted an article a few weeks ago studying the troops that came home. Most can not tell the difference between those who are attacking them and those who innocent. (http://www.thenation.com/doc/20070730/hedges)
In the end the troops are human beings put in a situation I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I respect what they do and appreciate the sacrafice they give our nation. Yet, they are human, most are good, but there are some bad apples that need to be dealt with.

msteven
msteven
14 years ago

Fair enough, I didn’t think that came off as snarky at all.
I actually meant to point out that the reaction was to ONLY those anti-war partisans WHOSE agenda …. In other words, not all anti-war people, but just those with that specific agenda.
I agree that the statements should be taken seriously and investigated for the reasons you stated. Just as any accusation of violent and/or abusive behavior against anyone.
I do believe they are isolated in that there is not a mandate nor a pattern of this type of behavior. There may be numerous incidents but I think when put in proper context, they are isolated.
I don’t think anyone would argue against dealing with the bad apples. But the issue here is whether those bad apples are representative of everything about our military or even just this mission.

George
George
14 years ago

It would help if we knew the Iraqi civilian casualty rate. Unfortunately the President does not allow that information to be released.

smmtheory
smmtheory
14 years ago

President Bush is not in charge of releasing or not releasing that information George. That would be the Iraqi government that would be in charge of that statistic. But aside from that, why does it matter? Are you implying that it is only our military causing it?

Mike
Mike
14 years ago

A very small minority of anti-war people think the troops are evil.
XXX
When you torture people, when you murder innocents because you are “frustrated”, when you rape little girls and kill them and their whole families to cover it up I call that evil.
America has become the world’s bully, the Fourt Reich. Only those in America don’t see it. And this is coming from a native born white Christian who has NEVER voted for a Democrat, even for city council. Evil is evil.
RON PAUL
RESTORE FREEDOM
DISMANTLE THE EMPIRE

smmtheory
smmtheory
14 years ago

And when you project the short-comings of a few over the whole group of their comrades, you’ve gone over the edge. Ron Paul is as corrupt as all the others, maybe even more so, because he pretends he isn’t.

smmtheory
smmtheory
14 years ago

See, I can do it too.

Will
Will
14 years ago

“It would help if we knew the Iraqi civilian casualty rate. Unfortunately the President does not allow that information to be released.”
I don’t seem to recall FDR releasing that either, everytime we bombed Germany or Japan. Why was that? Oh yeah, when you’re trying to win a war, you don’t supply detailed information that is only useful for bolstering enemy propaganda. Tokyo Rose says “hi”.
As for the answer, presuming there was a way to track that sort of thing, which there really isn’t — it doesn’t matter. If I sound callous, too bad. Why? Because we are still trying to win, and we are NOT there trying to kill innocent civilians. THEY ARE. We are there, rightly or wrongly, to keep them from falling back under dictatorship, which is in our interest. We have been going out of our way to avoid them, so that the enemies of America don’t use those incidents selectively against us.
If we used anywhere close to the same standard in regard the kind of information we shared as in World War II, our country would no longer exist, because the Nazis and Imperial Japan would have won.
PS So, any guesses as to when the “private” will be up for court marshal”?

SusanD
SusanD
14 years ago

Thank you for posting that source, George.
Mike, the point of Mac’s article is that, for a variety of reasons, not all of them noble, the press is a bit too gullible when it comes to bad stories about our troops. Don’t make the same mistake they made. Private Beauchamp’s charges should be investigated. In fact, they should have been brought forth for investigation first and then brought to the attention of the press only if a proper investigation was not conducted. In the meantime, as Anthony said, all we have at this point is someone (possibly no longer anonymous) posting a story on the internet. Standing alone, this is singularly unimpressive in the credibility department.
As to empire, it should be noted that the United States has spectacularly flunked Empire 101. If we were building an empire, all that Iraqi oil would have started flowing to the United States three years ago. Instead, through considerable arm twisting, the United States has made it the subject of an oil sharing plan that will be one of the lynchpins of a rebuilt, reasonably cohesive Iraq.

Brendan
Brendan
14 years ago

“If no war atrocities are being committed in Iraq then color me surprised cause this would be the first war ever that occurred in.”
Of course there are atrocities being committed- by insurgents and terrorists. In case you haven’t figured it out, the MSM doesn’t want you to know about those. You only need to know when Americans die or are accused of crimes.
“It would help if we knew the Iraqi civilian casualty rate. Unfortunately the President does not allow that information to be released.”
You really think anybody’s count is accurate at this point? How many “civilians” killed were actually insurgents whose weapon was retrieved by their cohorts as they fled? Just because a body is laying in the street with American bullets in it doesn’t make it collateral damage.

George
George
13 years ago

Army released their findings today and its not looking good for the Pvt.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/07/AR2007080701922.html?hpid=topnews
I am man enough to admit i was wrong on this one.

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