More Beauchamp

[It's not often that the contributors around here disagree on something, but this seems to be one of those rare cases. While Kathy was writing her piece below, it seems, I was writing this one about something that just isn't sitting well with me. Anyway, I just wanted to mention this wasn't written in response to Kathy, because it's more interesting, IMO, that we both read the same thing and came to different conclusions. Even though we ultimately probably agree more than not.]

The New Republic has completed their investigation, and, aside from one error—an incident purported to have taken place in Iraq actually took place in Kuwait—everything written by Scott Thomas Beauchamp has been corroborated by current and former soldiers, including five other members of Beauchamp's company, forensic experts, and other war journalists, with assistance from Army Public Affairs officers.

So…all good, right?

Well, I'm about to say something that I expect will be deeply unpopular with a lot of Lefties. I'm not sure that error noted above is No Big Deal.

The incident in question was from the piece "Shock Troops," which was about the effects of war on soldiers, how "the things we soldiers found funny were not, in fact, funny." Beauchamp was recounting "how he and a fellow soldier mocked a disfigured woman seated near them in a dining hall," and the clear implication was that the horror of war had made them this callous, that Beauchamp had become the sort of person who cruelly mocks a disfigured woman, detailing her "severely scarred" face and "half-melted mouth," because he'd been in the shit.

But—if the incident really took place in Kuwait, "prior to the unit's arrival in Iraq," then can he honestly attribute it to war? Is there a qualitative difference between being in a war and on its edge? Knowing soldiers consider some assignments better than others even in the war theater itself, I have to imagine there is indeed a distinct difference between being in the war and, well, not.

Obviously, I have no experience on which I can draw here. I'm not a soldier, and maybe my impressions are just. plain. wrong. I absolutely don't doubt that even heading off to war is frightening as fuck, nor that sitting on a border waiting to be sent across it into war itself seriously alters one's psyche and emotions. So maybe I'm being unfair. Really. Maybe I am.

But, if I'm honest, it seems like an important difference to me, at least important enough that it can't just be glossed over like nothing, even if it wasn't a deliberate lie, not when it was the centerpiece of an article about what this war can do to soldiers. And not when the woman in question is herself either a solider or contractor who damn well did see the horrors of war, and damn well had been indisputably changed by them for real. Doesn't that matter, too? Shouldn't it?

Ugh, I feel a bit like Lieberman giving bipartisan cover to some heinous administration policy, because I know there are a lot of rightwingers who are still going after this with gusto. And I really don't agree with a lot of their complaints; I don't think that Beauchamp's "ideological agenda," whatever it may be, makes him any more or less representative a soldier than any other—soldiers' politics span the spectrum—and it's a sad little bit of mendaciousness to suggest that TNR meant to suggest he was emblematic of "the troops." The piece was labeled a "diary," for goodness' sake; it doesn't get any more my-voiced than that. And I don't give a rat's ass if Beauchamp is married to someone who works at TNR. Wev.

But I don't think the Iraq-Kuwait discrepancy is nothing, either. That is, in the context of this one blogospheric kerfuffle over one article written by one soldier about the war in which he's fighting.

Of course, in the scheme of the war as a whole, it's pretty much as close to nothing as it gets. That's another place where my opinion appears to diverge from my rightwing colleagues.

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