July 26, 2007
Scott Thomas Comes Out of the Closet
A STATEMENT FROM SCOTT THOMAS BEAUCHAMP:
As we've noted in this space, some have questioned details that appeared in the Diarist "Shock Troops," published under the pseudonym Scott Thomas. According to Major Kirk Luedeke, a public affairs officer at Forward Operating Base Falcon, a formal military investigation has also been launched into the incidents described in the piece.
Although the article was rigorously edited and fact-checked before it was published, we have decided to go back and, to the extent possible, re-report every detail. This process takes considerable time, as the primary subjects are on another continent, with intermittent access to phones and email. Thus far we've found nothing to disprove the facts in the article; we will release the full results of our search when it is completed.
In the meantime, the author has requested that we publish the statement below. --The Editors
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 discreet 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
While Private Beauchamp has finally come out of the closet, so to speak, he is still not being honest with readers of the New Republic:
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...
His accounts have been questioned, as the editorial staff has mentioned over the past few days, by a great many people currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan; including several serving right in the same unit at FOB Falcon:
I am a U.S. Army officer and have been stationed at FOB Falcon, Baghdad, Iraq since October of 2006. I am currently still here. The stories that “Scott Thomas” describes are completely fictional. From some of the things he talks about I am led to believe that this individual may possibly be in my unit since we are the only ones with Bradley Fighting Vehicles and I recall the child cemetery that was uncovered in our sector while constructing a Combat Outpost.
The officer in the linked post goes on to address the inconsistencies in Pvt. Beauchamp's stories in detail, from a factual perspective.
But there is another disturbing aspect to both the Private's and Franklin Foer's behavior in this matter. Desecration of a mass grave is a serious matter. What was his motivation in writing about it?
Certainly this is not behavior sanctioned by the U.S. Army. The right course of action for anyone witnessing such a heinous act would be, if indeed it really happened, to report the perpetrators to the command. Someone who would desecrate the grave of a child, who would place a piece of a child's skull under their helmet and wear it for hours, is someone in need of psychological help.
Did Private Beauchamp have no concern for this person's mental health, if not for the welfare of any innocent Iraqis who might be harmed by someone for whom the lines between right and wrong had so clearly been badly blurred? Assuming this account is true, (and considering so far no record of a mass grave has been unearthed in the vicinity of FOB Falcon, this requires a leap of faith) a crime was committed. His obligation was to report it. It is, possibly, understandable that loyalty might have prevented a young man from turning in his comrade, though this doesn't excuse him doing the wrong thing.
What excuses Franklin Foer? He would surely understand that the Army has rules against desecrating the graves of children. Did he think that simply writing an anonymous article satisfied our obligation to the Iraqi people, since he has apparently satisfied himself that Beauchamp's stories are "true"? His conscience is suspiciously easy to salve, especially for one who is so ready to believe ill of our armed forces.
This whole episode smacks of expediency, of an editor who believed a story because it aligned with what he wanted to believe and of a young man who, for whatever reason, wanted the freedom to say ugly things without the responsibility of backing them up.
To this day, he is still ducking that responsibility, as are the editors of The New Republic. But the damage has been done. The grisly images of a soldier dancing insanely with the bits of a child's skull under his helmet, of a Bradley driver swerving to run over helpless dogs, of cruel soldiers mocking a scarred and crying woman, are seared... seared into our national consciousness.
John Kerry could not have done it any better himself.
Posted by Cassandra at July 26, 2007 07:16 AM
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This guy would make John Kerry proud.
Quite an (indictment) endorsement, huh?
Posted by: camojack at July 26, 2007 08:44 AM
Posted by: Cassandra at July 26, 2007 08:51 AM
This guy is so screwed..
If what he says is true then he's a scumbag.
If what he says is false then he's a lying scumbag.
Posted by: Carrie at July 26, 2007 08:58 AM
JD Johannes pegged this guy exactly.
I hope PVT Beauchamp enjoys his 15 minutes of fame. He has just taken B/1-18 INF out of the war for at least a week. He has wrecked his platoon leader's career. Blogging from theater is going to become even harder, thanks to him. He has brought dishonor and discredit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army. This Blue Falcon from FOB Falcon richly deserves what he has coming to him. He is The Surge's Lindi England.
Posted by: Cannoneer No. 4 at July 26, 2007 09:11 AM
I think that was a mean spirited comment that is just divisive as heck.
He is just a brave truth teller, Cannoneer; and your right to free speech does not include the right to question anything he says! Now just shut up and go back desecrating the graves of little Iraqi kids, for Pete's sake.
Everyone knows the First Amendment means you can say anything you want about anyone else without ever having to back it up, or even facing the consequences of your actions.
But above all, it means never having to say you're sorry.
Posted by: Cassandra at July 26, 2007 09:36 AM
Well, I don't think the plt ldr is going to go down, what bothers me is how can a CO be so out of touch with his troops that he can't put two and two together and ID this twit? He posted under two of his names. That can't be that much of a stretch, even for the infantry to do a check on their 'diarist.'
I see a rather interesting trend here; that those who don't want to be there because they don't like war (nothing wrong with that) are going to say whatever it takes to get their sorry butts out of there, when they volunteered.
Cannoneer got it right in regard to honor.
Posted by: Cricket at July 26, 2007 09:59 AM
"That being said, my character, my experiences, and those of my comrades in arms have been called into question..."
Um, wasn't it his whole point in writing these things to "call into question" the "character... of my comerades in arms"? That was the point, right?
Posted by: Grim at July 26, 2007 10:04 AM
According to Major Kirk Luedeke, a public affairs officer at Forward Operating Base Falcon, a formal military investigation has also been launched into the incidents described in the piece.
First, put blame and responsibility on others, Cass, never take anything on yourself. Too burdensome. Next will probably be character assassinations and what not, I predict.
This process takes considerable time, as the primary subjects are on another continent, with intermittent access to phones and email.
oh, they had evade and stall up next. I'm sure they'll get to the point eventually. Daggers can't stab folks in the kidneys without a point after all.
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.
ooo,ooo, Cass! Character assassination, Eureka.
That being said, my character, my experiences, and those of my comrades in arms have been called into question
Obviously, Cass, Tom-Tom is just a victim, he didn't call his own character and his buddies into question. Oh no. That was... um someone else.
But the damage has been done.
There's still damage to be done to people, Cass. They just tend to be the aggressors.
Blogging from theater is going to become even harder, thanks to him.
just another kill score for the domestic insurgency. The foreign insurgency has car bombs blow up in markets with kids there. The domestic one has another kind of bomb. The character assassination type.
He is just a brave truth teller, Cannoneer
Then I'm all glad to hear him tell how much the truth hurt when it crushed him and his buddies, Cass. Plenty glad.
That was the point, right?
Sometimes the point exists in multiple dimensions, Grim.
Posted by: Ymarsakar at July 26, 2007 10:15 AM
Cannoneer makes a good point regarding blogging in theater though.
Any accusation like this has to be responded to. It cannot be ignored.
And as I pointed out a long time ago (and no one liked that point) the widespread acceptance of blogging in theater means commanders have virtually no control over the information space. The more people blog from theater, the more accusations like this will hit the fan.
It is a simple numbers game - it's just a function of whether the military accepts this type of behavior or suppresses it. If they accept/encourage it, it will be used to undermine us. And it is being so used - a fact that milbloggers love to ignore. It can also help us, but are minds really being changed, or are people who are already sympathetic reading?
There are a LOT of blogs out there that damage the war effort too, but they are somehow ignored when making the case for allowing military blogging. They are cited all the time by antiwar articles as 'evidence', and this phenomenon will only increase now that it is gaining acceptance and a few highly publicized incidents have paved the way.
Something to think about - something I was worried about a long time ago when all anyone could talk about was the positive blogs and how they were winning the information war, but overlooking how military blogging could just as easily be used as a weapon.
Posted by: Cassandra at July 26, 2007 10:33 AM
*ding* *ding *ding*
Exactly correct! Johnny, tell Grim what he has won!
Posted by: Yu-ain Gonnano at July 26, 2007 10:37 AM
Except, Cass, that he wasn't blogging from theater -- he was anonymously published in a fairly major journal of opinion.
The blogs' role was to give all the other soldiers at that FOB a voice too, so they could respond to the allegations. That's why the story about TNR publishing false allegations became a national story. When the military PAO wrote in his formal opinion, he was backed up by a chorus of soldiers.
Before blogs, TNR would have said, "Well, sure the PAO -- that professional shill -- says this, but our brave-writer-who'd-be-persecuted-if-he-wasn't-anonymous says the other." Without the chorus of soldiers whose independent opinions echoed and reinforced the PAO, his statement would not have been powerful enough to force TNR's hand, or discredit the story and that magazine in the eyes of the public.
Posted by: Grim at July 26, 2007 01:20 PM
Actually he did blog from in theater though.
And so do others, and that doesn't address what I brought up, which is the general climate or expectation of whether anything is even thinkable, whether, in the main, over a large population of persons, an action will even be contemplated because it is within the realm of things that are understood to be accepted.
Such as publicly writing about your experiences. It's the whole idea of "if the line is drawn here, people will push against it" that no one seems to understand, Grim. Now you have people feeling persecuted when the command DARES to suggest that perhaps it may not be their absolute right to blog in theater, where when my husband started out, such a think was - quite literally - unthinkable.
The question simply would never have arisen. That is how much things have changed.
Posted by: Cassandra at July 26, 2007 01:35 PM
You say "without blogs, we could never have called BS on Thomas".
I am saying, "without blogs, you all would not have to counter army of Thomases who are publishing their accounts in the Nation and TNR".
This is only the beginning.
Posted by: Cassandra at July 26, 2007 01:38 PM
And if you really believe you discredited Thomas, you are wrong, Grim.
Kerry lied about the military in 1971 and to this day, a huge number of people continue to believe him. Was he "discreditied" by the herculean efforts of the blogosphere?
No. How many times have I written about Kerry and his lies?
You, my friend, are dangerously naive. All we are doing is giving these people a megaphone. But we will never discredit them because their audience wants to believe them.
Posted by: Cassandra at July 26, 2007 01:40 PM
I know you're worried about the control issue. The problem is, though, that control over the information flow is already gone -- the DOD can't control the information battlespace through its formal chains. Insurgents bring video cameras and record everything they do; they slip their operatives into media organizations to get Pulitzer prize winning pictures of assassinations in progress. They manipulate media stories with tremendous skill.
DOD, by contrast, has an Industrial Age mode of handling information. By the time they get to a story, it's gone around the world five times. If we left it to the authorities alone, we'd never win any information battles -- by the time the official denial got out, the lie would have been completely accepted by the public, which would have moved on to new stories coming from today's fights.
Blogs at least allow soldiers to challenge these bad stories and get it "out" that the story may not be correct. The public therefore isn't looking at a military denial of a story that they decided last week to believe; they're looking at the answer to a riddle they've been waiting to have solved.
I'm not saying it's perfect. I'm just saying that, given where we are, we need military blogs -- warts and all. There is far more good than bad coming out of them. I mean, like any weapon entrusted to soldiers -- some soldiers are going to take their issued grenades and frag their officers (which, as you probably recall, happened in the early days of the Iraq war by a Muslim soldier in the 101st Airborne). Most soldiers are going to take the grenades they've been entrusted and use them as their oaths and training require.
We've got to trust our fighters. That's not a moral proposition, but a practical one. We can't fight the kind of war we're in without trusting them. Some of them will do wrong, but most of them will do right. We apply appropriate discipline to those who do wrong, and that's about all we can do.
Posted by: Grim at July 26, 2007 01:50 PM
This isn't the first time you've suggested I was dangerously naive, as I recall. I'm always surprised by the charge, since I don't think of myself as being naive.
I do understand that there are people who are going to believe this guy, like Kerry, forever. But again, perfect control over what people believe to be true isn't possible. What you can do, the best you can do, is to get the truth out there in a timely manner, while people are still thinking about it.
The ones with closed minds will remain closed, of course. The competition is for the ones who are thinking and evaluating evidence. Just like an election is decided by the small group of Americans who are swing voters, so too we have to aim our efforts at that small group of Americans who is both paying attention and willing to be convinced on evidence.
That's, again, a practical reality of the world we're in.
Posted by: Grim at July 26, 2007 01:54 PM
The problem, Grim, is that liberals aren't reading conservative blogs looking for anything that contradicts their world view, and if they do manage to stumble onto it, they dismiss it out of hand.
And, I might add, the reverse is often true. So the value of this supposed refutation is limited.
Posted by: Cassandra at July 26, 2007 01:59 PM
What do you want to do about that? I mean, we're not talking about putting restrictions on liberal blogs or on the press -- both of those are protected by First Amendment restrictions. All we can restrict are military blogs.
If we restrict military blogs, we're restricting 90%+ useful data, in order to suppress -10% bad stories. We're largely handicapping our own side, in order to have a very minor effect on the public debate -- there's no reason, for example, that Scott Thomas couldn't have simply slow-mailed his stories to TNR, or that anyone else couldn't either. There's no reason to think they wouldn't have published them. There would just be one fewer tool for refuting them.
That's just to treat with political differences among Americans. There remains the larger problem of al Qaeda manipulating the media and running its own information campaign. Military blogs are one of the resources we have to get the truth, in an era when much of the media isn't willing to embed with combat units, and will take "20 people decapitated" stories off an anonymous source who emailed it in.
Posted by: Grim at July 26, 2007 02:06 PM
59 million people voted for John Kerry in 2004. How many of them actually considered the nature of his comments, statements and actions made 30-plus years ago, and the concommittant consequences?
How many were actually alive in 1971? I actually remember seeing him on the Nightly News clips from his Senate testimony, and the comment on "how attractive he was for elective office".
59 million people. What WERE they thinking about?
What did Mark Twain say? "A lie can make it around the world before the truth gets out of bed to pull it's pants on."
If nothing else, this era in American politics has reminded me of just how petty, vulgar, stupid, prejudiced and generally repellant human beings can be. And frankly, I may have voted in my last election, because I'm just fed up with all of them. I'm obviously too stupid to understand what the "majority" of Americans now 'believe to be the truth' about Iraq and elsewhere, so my vote was probably worthless anyways.
In a few lines of print, 'Scott Thomas Beauchamp' has accomplished more to discredit the military and our efforts in Iraq than 3-1/2 years of blogging by Cassandra (and others) to reason out the issue and promote its worthiness. Go figure.
Posted by: Don Brouhaha at July 26, 2007 02:12 PM
I don't really know what we can do.
My husband doesn't have a personal PC over there. I love being able to exchange email with him, but all that cuts off when he leaves work and goes back to where he sleeps. Are you telling me the military can't control this stuff from at work? Honestly? What if it ever came to a point when we had to, for our own security? For our own survival? Does this not frighten you?
It sort of astounds me, frankly, that blogging is considered 'necessary' in wartime. There are 'needs' and 'wants', Grim.
Call me old fashioned, but I suppose I do wonder how anyone got through the day before we had these things? I mean, how did we all manage? Would the world really grind to a halt? Apparently so.
You all keep arguing that blogs are "propping up public support for the war". If so, we are doing a damned poor job. Look at the polls, Grim.
Honestly. Look at the damned polls If what you say is true, WE ARE DOING A PISS POOR JOB. And I say that as someone who has worked harder than just about anyone else out for since this war started.
I think I deserve to say that. I think I have earned it.
I think, or I used to think, that what I did was important. I thought it was the most important thing in the world. I would not have pretty much ruined my fricking health doing it, if I did not believe it mattered. But at some point, you have to look at the metrics and ask yourself, IS IT WORKING?
The honest answer to that question, Grim, is no. It is not working on any scale that is making a difference in this country. We are not tipping the scale.
Posted by: Cassandra at July 26, 2007 02:19 PM
Damn right, Don.
My husband has been telling me for over 3 years now that I am crazy and I am throwing my life away. He loves me, and he has watched me get thinner and more tired, and burst into tears for no reason at all because I was dashing my head against a brick wall.
I am a woman. I can't fight, so I tried to do this. It wasn't enough. I didn't know what else to do.
Posted by: Cassandra at July 26, 2007 02:23 PM
But you *are* fighting, madame, in the information war; you're just unhappy with your view of the present tide of battle. Don't forget, it takes a great deal of effort to turn a big ship.
I think you should certainly care for yourself more. To give way to unrelieved despair would be worse for your health than the fight.
Buck up, lady, we're not giving up yet and your literate wit and clear reasoning help lead this part of the fight.
Posted by: socialism_is_error at July 26, 2007 03:26 PM
I'm not arguing that personal email and the ability to connect with families is necessary. I'm arguing that it's necessary to trust the soldiers to wage information war, just as you trust them to wage actual war.
I'm not talking about the "nice" elements like the ability to talk to loved ones, though that's good. I'm talking about the fact that al Qaeda has video tape guys and media guys on every mission. They plan their whole operation, many times, on the media event they can create. They're fighting us primarily in the press, and we can't -- from a warfighting point of view -- expect to fight them using the mid-20th century bureaucracy-style of public affairs.
What I'm also saying is that you seem to be lashing out at milblogs, when they're the one part of the issue that isn't skewed against us. The press, the liberal blogs, the actual enemy -- they're either skewed against us or fighting us. You're talking about putting restrictions (of what type and kind, I'm not sure) on the one theater of the information war where we have an advantage, where ninety percent or more of the information is on our side.
That approach seems counterproductive to me. It's like saying, "It's dark in here, so I'm going to turn off this flickering lightbulb." It's true that we have no power over the nighttime (or the liberal blogs, or the press, etc), and we do have the power to affect the status of the lightswitch. It may be that we're frustrated that the lightbulb doesn't just stay on, or glow brighter. But switching it off isn't going to make the darkness lessen.
It may just be that this is as good as it gets. It may be we have to wait for the dawn.
Posted by: Grim at July 26, 2007 03:40 PM
I am just really tied of the idiots in the MSM thinking they can just publish what they want whent fits theie pre-determined paradigm. Ed murrow and his generation are turnng over in their graves. Then we come down to our heros, at FOB Falcon and elsewhere. I hope they meter out what is in their view an appropriate responce to Beauchamp.
Posted by: Redball6 at July 26, 2007 03:48 PM
There is a difference between "lashing out", as you put it, Grim, and noticing that a knife blade has two edges and cuts both ways (which I really think you all don't see).
My family is split down the middle between people who support this war and those who don't, and they quote to me blogs that are undermining the war just as fast as (you claim) the milblogs are shoring it up. Given that the MSM is already killing us, take a good hard look at the public opinion polls and try to tell me that this little counterinformation war you think you're waging is effective?
I don't see any evidence that it is, Grim. And I see plentiful evidence that it is NOT, that for every bit of good news that gets out, 10 lies get out faster. So no, I'm not sure I am at all convinced.
You say we have an 'advantage'. So why isn't it working? Where is this advantage showing itself?
Posted by: Cassandra at July 26, 2007 03:58 PM
I said we have an advantage in one sphere -- the milblogs. We're at a serious disadvantage, to the point of being more or less shut out, in all the others.
I just don't see how closing up the one shop we do have is going to help the situation.
Posted by: Grim at July 26, 2007 04:54 PM
Your command of the English language is remarkable ma'am. I'm afraid I agree mostly with Grim on the proper and unemotional way to respond to these false charges against military servicemembers. He is a very smart young Man. But I definitely agree with you that emotionally, your responses are much more satisfying and closer to how I think.
Do not be so discouraged ma'am. You are still making a difference. While many are not listening to us, our logic and facts are undeniable. Our intentions are honorable, far more so than our opponents in Iraq and in DC and the media can claim. We just have to provide the finer example of what a citizen of the United States is, and how Honor and Integrity mean more to us than to our enemies, foreign and domestic. That is how we will win over those who don't read blogs and understand what is going on in the world. By example.
And in that, ma'am, you are leading the way for so many of us. Do not despair. You are making a difference.
And it will save your country in the end.
Posted by: Subsunk at July 26, 2007 05:23 PM
It is a simple numbers game - it's just a function of whether the military accepts this type of behavior or suppresses it.
The military couldn't even supress an insurgency, Cass, and they had Afghanistan as an example to look at in 2003. They could do it, but it would take years of PAO and propaganda skills that they just dont' have right now. They are trying to pick it up, but the Left is way ahead of the curve concerning this subject of "suppression".
I suggest people look at their strengths and exploit those, rather than take their weaknesses and play catch up.
If they accept/encourage it, it will be used to undermine us.
In propaganda, everything and anything can be used to undermine you. If you can't find some dirt on folks, just make it up.
The question then becomes one of counter-propaganda. How do you counter it, and suppression of information isn't enough. It was never enough.
It can also help us, but are minds really being changed, or are people who are already sympathetic reading?
It takes more than words to convince people, it takes deaths, executions, actions, targets publically denounced, and wars initiated.
That is Presidential level, individual citizens can only do what they can. The United States was never designed for its citizens to carry the load of counter-propaganda and propaganda by themselves, Cass. That is why they gave the President some of his powers.
Something to think about - something I was worried about a long time ago when all anyone could talk about was the positive blogs and how they were winning the information war, but overlooking how military blogging could just as easily be used as a weapon.-Cass
I think it was a threat some people already calculated it into the equation. Meaning, Thomas Jefferson always knew the bad side of the freedom of speech. he was a lawyer after all. Free speech did not guarantee justice or much of anything at all really, perhaps not even itself without the 2nd.
But his principle and I believe the principle behind the 1st Ammendment is that if both sides are equal, then the side with the better argument wins out and convinces more people. Our side is on the Light, Cass, but the Left has us outnumbered if not outorganized. If cut out a piece of information, sure we do damage, but we also damage ourselves. And in this case, attrition favors the Left, not us. The underdog in a debate has to be craftier and better than the top dog. And for that we need information. We can't just stay with the status quo, we have to trump it and achieve a decisive victory, and we can only do that if information is flowing without bureacratic barriers.
You know as well as I do that the Left benefits from oppression of information sources far more than we do, given their grasp on Main Sewer Media apparatuses.
I am saying, "without blogs, you all would not have to counter army of Thomases who are publishing their accounts in the Nation and TNR".-Cass
I am saying as the underdog side in this Info War, we need every weapon we can get, because if we don't get every weapon, the media can sit on us until we all die of their info suffocation techniques.
Was he "discreditied" by the herculean efforts of the blogosphere?-Cass
He won Vietnam for his side. Does anyone really expect the victors to be discredited by the losers?
But we will never discredit them because their audience wants to believe them.
The audience will believe whatever they are made to believe. Do not overestimate the human ability for self-deception. People do not believe in Thomas because they are strong or rock ribbed, they believe in him because they don't know any better.
DOD, by contrast, has an Industrial Age mode of handling information.-Grim
Bureacracies also suck on propaganda. you need hellfire individuals and rogues for such actions. Like lawyers or reporters.
I mean, like any weapon entrusted to soldiers -- some soldiers are going to take their issued grenades and frag their officers (which, as you probably recall, happened in the early days of the Iraq war by a Muslim soldier in the 101st Airborne)
Guy should have had his skull cracked, his brains scooped out with a silver spoon, and his own grenades stuck inside his skull. That would have been great propaganda footage all in all.
Too much Deathstalker reading perhaps?
I'm always surprised by the charge, since I don't think of myself as being naive.-Grim
Perhaps this impression, Grim, is due to your very reasonable tone of writing in the face of dishonorable enemies. Perhaps Cass sees the behavior of the Left and the subversive infiltration of the military as requiring a more proactive and harsh method.
I would agree that harsh measures are called for to stop an insurgency, I just don't agree that DoD level repression would work. There are better methods. Some Presidential, some non-Presidential.
But again, perfect control over what people believe to be true isn't possible.-Grim
I think it is useless to try to control what people believe to be true. It is not necessary. All you have to do is to control people's behaviors, not their beliefs. Who cares what they believe, so long as they are on our side and doing what we want them to do.
Small level control is possible, since the problem always becomes when people get greedy and power hungry and want to control everything and everybody.
The competition is for the ones who are thinking and evaluating evidence.
I tend to think Grim, that there will be several useful idiot populations around. Those people don't matter since their use is very limited. They cannot be used to fight a war, just demoralize their fellows. Thinking and critical evaluators are valuable because they can help you plan for victory and aid you in the cause.
As such, one Grim Beorn is worth more than 500 useful idiot Thomases.
The problem, Grim, is that liberals aren't reading conservative blogs looking for anything that contradicts their world view, and if they do manage to stumble onto it, they dismiss it out of hand.-Cass
Often times propaganda does not require that a person read it, to be affected by it. Through sociological controls, you can get people to do things by converting his neighbors and community. In this case, if everybody is on our side, leaving the "liberals" isolated, the Left will side with the victors.
59 million people. What WERE they thinking about?-Don
Hey, nobody said the IQ of each individual in a group increased everytime the group got a new member.
And frankly, I may have voted in my last election, because I'm just fed up with all of them.-Don
Doesn't this mean that the enemy propaganda has worked even if you didn't read it, because it demoralized you through the actions of your neighbors?
It is not Scott, it is the entire propaganda apparatus left over from the Cold War, both domestically inside the US and foreign wise in Arabia. The Soviets created it and left it in place, but since they disappeared someone else took up the reins.
If so, we are doing a damned poor job. Look at the polls, Grim.
The polls are designed to demoralize people, Cass, and shape opinion. It is not a reflection of opinion. I often say this, because this what they do, Cass. They make you demoralized, they make you stop fighting because that is their only usefullness. Well, counter-propaganda could use it to devise traps and what not I suppose, but still.
Private polls are used to gauge the success of their propaganda operations, by analyzing trends and what not. The questions give it away, so they're made private.
And I say that as someone who has worked harder than just about anyone else out for since this war started.
In a few years, Bush will be out of office and that is where the potential tide change in the propaganda war will occur. Currently you or anyone else can't really convince Bush to do anything proactive, but with a new President comes new opportunities. If the President backs the blogs, Cass, you will see a major difference.
We are not tipping the scale.
Doesn't mean it can not be tipped or that it will not be tipped.
and burst into tears for no reason at all because I was dashing my head against a brick wall.
Maybe you need to take a break or vacation, Cass. Even the toughest amongst us are not immune to propaganda and demoralization campaigns, not when the exposure is this long.
It may just be that this is as good as it gets. It may be we have to wait for the dawn.
I think we're holding the shield wall until reinforcements come, Grim. That or we get hit from behind by a traitor. More traitors that is.
There is a difference between "lashing out", as you put it, Grim, and noticing that a knife blade has two edges and cuts both ways (which I really think you all don't see).
Grim sees it, Cass, I think he just believes we can take the hit and quadruple reflect the damage back.
I think if the President wanted to, he could inflict 1000 times as much psychological damage on the enemy as the enemy inflicted on us.
Given that the MSM is already killing us, take a good hard look at the public opinion polls and try to tell me that this little counterinformation war you think you're waging is effective?
The polls don't matter, all that matters is that Bush stay in Iraq until another Republican gains the White House. People can take a break I suppose, if Hillary gains the House, because then the real crackdowns on blogs will begin regardless of what the military or us think.
We're at a serious disadvantage, to the point of being more or less shut out, in all the others.
Essentially we're like guerrilas. The MSM is the occupying force, we do hit and run attacks trying to convince people that think we're scum, criminals, and rebels. They don't like us because we cause chaos and cause insecurity. They believe in the MSM occupation because people want security. I'm describing general attitudes of a population towards an insurgency, not anything specific.
This is the exact opposite of the military situation in Iraq, where we are the counter-insurgency force with the superior firepower against the AQ insurgency.
Often times good morale and propaganda is all that keeps a guerrila force active. The guerrila must hold out until the occupying forces are stretched logistically beyond their capacity to sustain and thus retreat. We are trying to do that to AQ in Iraq, and the media and their terrorist allies are trying to do that to the American people at home. Their only defense is the blogs, because the Presidential First Line defense went offline a long time ago. Until that defense line goes up, we can only try to hold on. Or until Iraq is won and something else starts like Iran. Even though, same problems.
Posted by: Ymarsakar at July 26, 2007 06:01 PM
I hope people don't miss the underlying purpose behind propaganda, psychological warfare, and information warfare. They are typically used to create a specific set of behavior, actions, events.
So long as that action, withdrawing from Iraq, does not occur, we're still in the fight.
That's the only meter of success that matters, not polls.
As for "convincing" people, if we win the war, Cass, everyone will be convinced. Defeat makes the beliefs and folks that were defeated mighty unpopular.
Vietnam was lost, and that is why Kerry got off. The only way to make sure that such folks as Thomas are treated as the Nazis and concentration guards were treated after their defeat at the hands of Americans in WWII, is to win the war. Win the war that they want us to lose. I don't care what people call the war or what parts of there is, it is still a war. And war has decided many things, beliefs and causes, that propaganda could never touch.
Posted by: Ymarsakar at July 26, 2007 06:13 PM
I like the milblogs and I would hate to see them go. I also estimate that the left now likes them too so if the military did anything about them it would be a huge PR negative.
Having said that, Cass makes an excellent point, one negative lefty blog is worth a thousand blogs that support the effort in Iraq.
Posted by: Pile On® at July 26, 2007 06:50 PM
The problem, Pile, is that you get the lefty negative blog either way. When Matty O'BlackFive was defending milblogs at the First MilBlogs Conference a year and a half ago, he didn't say, "Why regulate blogs? Soldiers can be trusted to use them correctly."
What he said was, "If you regulate blogs, the only military blogs will be the malcontents who defy regulations to spread hate."
I think that's right. If you crack down on milblogs, you don't get rid of Scott Thomas. He still writes to TNR, and he still blogs under a pseudonymn if he wants to. Or he mails stuff to a like-minded friend who blogs it for him.
What you get rid of is all the positive voices. The regulations won't stop Scott Thomas, but they will stop all the guys who do right, believe in the mission, and want to tell their story.
Posted by: Grim at July 26, 2007 07:00 PM
I think that is a bit of a weak argument Grim.
It is a lot easier to ride herd on the one or two people who are doing something almost no one else is doing than a proverbial needle in a haystack. What I have been arguing is that the positive voices aren't having a net positive effect, so my argument is that the gain ain't worth the pain. I happen to like milblogs too. I'm not really even sure they can be shut off now - I think we have screwed the pooch. But I am putting up the argument anyway because I see a fear of making an argument I happen to know a LOT of people do believe.
They are just afraid of being shouted down, and quite frankly there is truth to that fear. I'm not afraid of standing up and saying it, so if I'm the only one, so be it. Someone ought to be bringing these things up and challenging you guys. I still think you are wrong. And I have not liked the tone sometimes when this is discussed. Not yours, Grim, but I have seen other people get treated very badly.
Posted by: Princess Leia in a Cheese Danish Bikini at July 26, 2007 07:23 PM
I still don't see how you propose to stop people like "Scott Thomas" with regulations. I mean, he was writing under a false name, with no better identifier than he was a soldier at a certain FOB. You say it's easier to regulate him b/c blogging now isn't just lawful; but his damaging writings were to TNR, not what he posted on his blog. So sitebanning Blogger.com and Typepad won't affect him.
You could cut soldiers off from communication with the outside world altogether, or nearly so: let them write one letter home every so often, subject to reading by censor (which I think is how they did it in WWII). In that way, if you also stopped email and phonecalls and so forth, you could pretty much lock down the information flow.
But where's your "net positive effect" from this? The MSM runs a bad story, or TNR does, and who responds to it? The PAO when he has time, to be sure; that's part of his job. PAOs have gotten a lot better in the last few years. But they're still responding only to written requests (made by bloggers in this case), days after the fact.
Does the fact that we now have no milblogs mean that the bad MSM stories go away? No, reporters will still gleefully take leaks from people -- most of the damaging stories coming out of DOD haven't been from soldiers in theater, but from upper-rank guys back in DC. They are not going to be subject to the communications blackout.
Al Qaeda is still manipulating the press every chance it gets. But now reporters who did want to do some checking have one less positive resource they could check if they wanted to do so.
In other words, I don't think there's a "net positive effect" from restricting the data flow either. It looks to me like we end up in a slightly worse place than where we are.
What we need to do (but are far less likely to do) is punish activity like Scott Thomas' according to its real effect on the war effort. I expect he'll get off with a BCD or something similar; but in fact he should be shot. He betrayed his country, his comrades, and did serious damage to his country's war efforts by inventing lies and performing enemy porpaganda for them.
That's treason, and he should be shot for it.
If we did that a few times, we'll get a lot farther than we will by cracking down on milbloggers -- almost all of whom are on our side anyway.
Posted by: Grim at July 26, 2007 07:56 PM
Grim, you are reasoning from the general to the specific case.
You are never going to stop all the Scott Thomases in the world, and that was not my argument. And you are arguing a whole lot of things that I really don't think I advanced as things we should do.
"He should be shot".
But he won't be.
Why? Because it is UNTHINKABLE in this day and age that anyone would be shot for "exercising his God-given right to free speech" no matter how badly he chose to use it, or for what purposes.
That is what you do not understand. By completely abrogating any form of control, or even the appearance of exercising control, over communications, the military has made it UNTHINKABLE that anyone would be shot, or even harshly punished under EXISTING LAW for doing what we all pretty much realize is clearly wrong.
Just as our federal government by completely abrogating any form of control, or even the appearance of exercising control, over communications, has made it UNTHINKABLE that anyone would be jailed, or even harshly punished under EXISTING LAW for doing what we all pretty much realize is clearly wrong - leaking classified information.
This is an old legal concept - if you do not assert and vigorously defend a right, you are understood to have waved it. And I am amazed that you do not understand this.
Posted by: Princess Leia in a Cheese Danish Bikini at July 26, 2007 08:13 PM
You can't just up and "shoot" someone after not asserting any control over these areas.
You'd have a rebellion on your hands. And if you don't believe that, you weren't paying attention when DoD tried to 'crack down" on Milbloggers. Didn't you listen to any of the inflammatory rhetoric, much of it coming from officers, about how they would openly flout the system and encourage disobedience to lawful orders? Honestly Grim, you were there.
It was unbelievable. I couldn't believe what I was reading. People emailed me, asking me to help them do this.
Posted by: Princess Leia in a Cheese Danish Bikini at July 26, 2007 08:16 PM
I understand what you're saying. I said it was far less likely than that we would regulate military blogs.
The problem is that "regulating military blogs" isn't actually going to address the problem, which isn't arising from military blogs. It's like turning off the flickering lightbulb because you're mad at the dark -- it's the only thing that's really in your power to do.
The real problems we're facing aren't arising from military bloggers at all, but from the MSM, the liberal blogs, Hollywood, and so on. None of these are amenable to a government-power solution. The one thing we can control is milbloggers; but they're also the one thing that is at least occasionally (indeed, usually) going right.
The change the government needs to make is to start asserting the concept of treason properly. There really is a thing called treason, and the government really does have the power to prosecute for it. That it hasn't done so in a long time makes it harder, as you rightly note; but it doesn't make it impossible.
Unlike regulations of the sort we're discussing here, this thing is already illegal -- and it also is the real problem. Regulating milbloggers won't really touch the issue of traitors. The only way to deal with traitors is to start dealing with the issue of treason.
If they find it impossible to discover the will, though, then we'll lose this war and others to come. I think that's an absolute truth, regardless of any other changes that are or are not made. It's not a question of what you do or what I do or what the officers' corps does with regard to milblogs; they can do anything or nothing on those questions without having a large effect on the problem.
The real problem is treason, and it has to be dealt with. The real problem is the death of the idea that you owe some basic loyalty to the country that bore you. That is what has to be reasserted. Nothing else, no stopgap and no alternative idea, will replace it or repair the damage caused by its loss.
Posted by: Grim at July 26, 2007 09:10 PM
Maybe you need to take a break or vacation, Cass...
Yeah. Probably. I have not been making very much sense lately.
Thank you, Subsunk, for your comments, too. I did read them earlier, and they meant a lot to me :) I just did not know what to say at the time.
I am a lot better now. I just got very, very tired and there were a lot of bad things going on in my life that did not help at the time. I am sleeping now. Sleep is good :)
And on that note...
Posted by: Cassandra at July 26, 2007 10:26 PM
We may be over-looking one fact. Who in the hell reads The New Republic anyway?
Posted by: Pile On® at July 26, 2007 10:26 PM
WE WILL FIGHT THEM ON THE BEACHES!
WE WILL FIGHT THEM ON THE MILBLOGS!
WE WILL... ERR.... UMMM... [MUMBLING] FIGHT THEM IN THE NEW REPUBLIC!
OH, BLOODY HELL....
Posted by: Cassandra at July 26, 2007 10:31 PM
"Who in the hell reads The New Republic anyway?"
Apparently, Michael Goldfarb. :)
Posted by: Grim at July 26, 2007 10:46 PM
Grim, Hollywood IS amenable to a government solution; the Fairness Doctrine. Scott Thomas is an idiot. So...like Cass said, we should let the investigation proceed. As an active duty
member, I think he is more subject to the provisions of the UCMJ...heh heh heh and the fact that he has OUTED himself, EVEN IN GERMANY means that he has alienated just about anyone who speaks English in Eurabia.
heh heh heh.
Oh, I don't think his unit over there is gonna like him...and they have ways of dealing with troublemakers.
Posted by: Cricket at July 26, 2007 10:59 PM
I think he is subject to the UCMJ, yes. For example, this section:
899. ART. 99. MISBEHAVIOR BEFORE THE ENEMY
Any person subject to this chapter who before or in the presence of the enemy--
(1) runs away;
(2) shamefully abandons, surrenders, or delivers up any command, unit, place, or military property which it is his duty to defend;
(3) through disobedience, neglect, or intentional misconduct endangers the safety of any such command, unit, place, or military property;
(4) casts away his arms or ammunition;
(5) is guilty of cowardly conduct;
(6) quits his place of duty to plunder or pillage;
(7) causes false alarms in any command, unit, or place under control of the armed forces;
(8) willfully fails to do his utmost to encounter, engage, capture, or destroy any enemy troops, combatants, vessels, aircraft, or any other thing, which it is his duty so to encounter, engage, capture, or destroy; or
(9) does not afford all practicable relief and assistance to any troops, combatants, vessels, or aircraft of the armed forces belonging to the United States or their allies when engaged in battle;
shall be punished by death or such punishment as a court- martial may direct.Just a thought.
Posted by: Grim at July 26, 2007 11:58 PM
We do agree, after all, that his misbehavior was intentional; that it endangers the safety of his unit by propigating what appear to be false stories that the unit was engaged in war crimes; that the unit was 'in the presence of the enemy' at the time; and that he has raised several false alarms that will require his unit be distracted from the business of fighting the enemy.
That would appear to me to violate this section several different ways.
Posted by: Grim at July 27, 2007 12:01 AM
Essentially we're like guerrilas.
Ymarsakar, you have hit upon what I see as the next stage in the evolution of milblogs.
As the noose tightens on the bloggers in theater and on active-duty bloggers everywhere, those who do not quit will find plausibly deniable conduits to get their messages out. They will find auxiliaries to assist them who are beyond the reach of the UCMJ and the Smith-Mundt Act.
Remember The Resister?
Posted by: Cannoneer No. 4 at July 27, 2007 03:48 AM
Just a thought.
Discipline in the war time and the punishment of mutiny and cowardice in the face of the enemy in war time, are both crucial pillars for the military. Without them, they will fragment.
These things I see as tests. They are testing to see how far they can push the military; how far they can disrupt its operations and core strengths. Just as Iran pushes at the US and Britain via hostages and what not. Future enemy actions will depend wholly on what actually happens to hostages and folks like Thomas.
The change the government needs to make is to start asserting the concept of treason properly.
So long as treason prospers it will continue to multiply. It must be shut down, hard, because counter-insurgencies are supposed to instill law and order as well as discipline and obedience to the duly constituted government. It cannot do so by being happy sappy with the likes of Berger and Plame. Or Sadr.
Eventually treason, if unchecked, will prosper so much that none dare call it treason, because the traitors are now in charge of the execution-enforcement branches.
they can do anything or nothing on those questions without having a large effect on the problem.
Agreed, the Constitution designed the President and the Executive branch to ensure domestic tranquility as well as defense from foreign invasions.
The President is a focus for the powers of every individual inside the US. He is given powers of enforcement, executive writs, and pardon powers because his role is to enforce the law when no others will or can.
I still don't see how you propose to stop people like "Scott Thomas" with regulations.
Making an example out of him is a good idea. There is no real reason to use regulation and bureacracy to do something like that.
Ymarsakar, you have hit upon what I see as the next stage in the evolution of milblogs.
I just don't want people to forget something. Guerrila wars are never won through guerrila tactics. Not even Vietnam was won solely through the media and such, it still required Tet as a battle. A conventional battle. Guerrilas eventually have to come out and face the government forces and defeat them decisively. They don't have to play fair concerning "defeat" either. A victory is a victory, no matter how it was achieved. But the guerrilas still have to come out and meet face to face. This was true for the Revolutionary War as well. Wasn't just sharp shooters, there were open field battles that must have been won as well. I'm thinking of that one battle that was won through deception (fake rout) by an American commander against British regulars.
In this case, the power of the President can change the tide of the war, both in its information aspect as well as its conventional one.
Individuals can do much, but the President has the power that came from every individual in the US.
Posted by: Ymarsakar at July 27, 2007 11:37 AM
Late to the thread… story of my life. Since I are linguistically challenged, or is that linguini, and would not dream of distracting from the great discussion that you and Grim had above, all I will say (at least while I get started =8^} ) is that I will second what Subsunk said... specifically the part about
Do not despair. You are making a difference.
In any event, *gazing over the top of my glasses in my most elderly, curmudgeon demeanor* you must prioritize the need to care for your health in order to continue and I'm not talking about doing so just for the sake of writing.
As far as the net effect of the Milblogs? Well this is one old buzzard (outta uniform >30 years and last worked with DOD 18+ years ago, so if I’m not pretty far afield from our young folks now serving, I don’t know what is) who has a pretty short list of news and commentary sources I peruse each day (at least when Walkin’ Boss does not have me farmed out to other *cough* *cough* activities). That list has narrowed over time to just a few regular reads, and yours is one of my sources for news and views. So you are helping me live up to my civic duty to stay informed. =8^} Thanks.
I would have a hard time imagining that I’m unique to your readership, or the Milblogs for that matter. I suspect that you might be in the same situation as good old George Bailey, not knowing how many lives you touch.
My opinion... FWIW.
Wait, did you hear that? It sounded like a bell... =;^}
Posted by: bthun at July 28, 2007 01:26 AM
For whatever it may be worth, you don't have to worry too much about me in the long run. I always right myself.
I may have a small problem *cough* with being overly conscientious. But I also have a very healthy sense of humor and of my proper place in the scheme of things. Whenever I'm tempted to think that the world is going to fall apart if I'm not around to do whatever it is that I've decided is earthshakingly important at the moment, I'm usually able to see that there are at least 10,000 other people around who do it far better than I will ever be able to.
That is a good anodyne to thinking you are more important than you really are. I just have a tendency to drive myself a bit too hard sometimes. It keeps my inner bohemian from heading for the beach with a Corona and a sackful of limes. I am trying to balance things out a bit more. That's why I've let some things slide a bit around here lately, like judging caption contests, etc. I am doing what is most important, but trying to focus a bit more energy on things in my personal life than matter to me. Like sleeping.
And having fun on the weekends. And taking care of things that need to be taken care of instead of worrying about problems I am not going to solve.
Posted by: Al Gore at July 28, 2007 07:24 AM
Here's an interesting point gotten from Op-For:
'I’m active Army & an Iraq vet.
I just pulled up “Scott Thomas Beauchamp” on the secure “Army Knowledge Online” website. It lists his current rank as “PV2″. (That data is kept accurate via pay records on that website.)
In his Sep 06 blog post he listed his rank as “Private First Class”. That indicates that without a doubt he was busted at least one rank as part of Article 15 proceedings under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and he likely has a strong ax to grind with his chain of command.'
[Michael Sheehan says: I personally felt it strange that the title Beauchamp used to describe himself was 'Private' and NOT 'Private First Class' or 'PFC'; which would seem to confirm the above statement.}
Posted by: Michael Sheehan at July 29, 2007 07:33 PM