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The phrase “ad hominem attack” acquires new meaning… The primary evidence against Beauchamp is, uh… I’m not sure. They think he’s kind of a loser, and since Americans don’t do such things, he must be lying.

Look, I have no idea what Private Beauchamp experienced in Iraq. I would think, however, that the fact that we know he was in Iraq would serve to bolster, rather than detract from, his credibility. That he’s written in various fora in the past would also, I think, serve to bolster his credibility. Not for this bunch of losers, though.

There probably is some subset of the wingnutty stupid enough to believe that American soldiers do not commit atrocities. I doubt that anyone who has ever served in or closely studied the military could believe such a thing, but wingnuts and facts have never mixed well. I suspect that for most of the bloggers involved in this nonsense, however, the point is to rebuild the fantasy of the American soldier. Americans may do awful things, but our job is to pretend that they don’t; on the one hand, revealing the true costs of war makes it harder to argue that we should be in one, and on the other pointing out such atrocities is a betrayal to the troops that are fighting. This last, I think, comes most often from people with actual military service. It’s bad enough that somebody wrote such things, but to find out that the author is actually a soldier is a kick in the gut, a betrayal. This is why there’s so much more rage now that we know who Beauchamp is; he betrayed his comrades, betrayed America, and gave aid and comfort to the enemy by talking frankly about the things that happen in war. Recall that one of the primary wingnut complaints against John Kerry was that he talked about the awful things that happened in Vietnam; no meaningful effort was made to deny the things that he said, because the fact that he had spoken at all was the true disloyalty.

On some level, I can even respect that sentiment. Young men in war suffer incredible pressures, pressures that civilians can’t begin to comprehend. Sometimes they do horrible things, but they probably wouldn’t have done them if they hadn’t been placed in extraordinarily difficult situations. Facing criticism about such actions from people who cannot understand the context can be extremely unsettling. Nevertheless, horrific behavior on the part of soldiers is an inevitable part of war, and as such needs to be taken into account when we think about war. To do that, we need to face facts, and not pretend that awful things never happen.

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