Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Army says...

For those unaware of the brouhaha surrounding the Beauchamp stories publish in The New Republic, a then little noted dairy of a soldier reporting on daily behaviours of he and his comrades, the controversy, like many things that appear in The Weekly Standard, was completely manufactured by Bill Kristol's neocon trolls. The Weekly Standard was shocked, shocked! by the details related -- running over dogs, wearing skulls on heads -- and declaimed, first the author and, when Beauchamp turned out to a) exist and b) be a soldier in Iraq, then his stories fell under the scrutinies of the keyboard kommandos determined, once again, to prove the mendacity of the liberal press. Exigency required Beauchamp the defamer to be held to account.

Perhaps the one tale that enraged further the already enraged was one that describe how fellow soldiers had mocked a disfigured female soldier. Oh! that can't be true! American soldiers would never do that! Impossible! came the cries from right field. Lies! despicable lies! Yes, making fun of a disfigured soldier was simply beyond belief. Free from knowledge about how male soldiers have actually treated their female comrades, the right jumped on this tale as proof that everything Beauchamp said was untrue.

How to reconcile, then, the refusal to believe that male soldiers could be so cavalier and cruel, with the fact that female soldiers in Iraq have been subjected to rape in various FOBs operating in Iraq? Women soldiers, in fact, have died of dehydration because they refused to drink liquids late in the day for fear of being raped going to the latrine at night. The latrine at FOB Victory was separated from main barracks and was the rape ground of choice for male soldiers, soldiers the Weekly Standard and their acolytes cannot imagine taunting a woman in uniform.
Col. Janis Karpinski told a panel of judges at the Commission of Inquiry for Crimes against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration in New York that several women had died of dehydration because they refused to drink liquids late in the day. They were afraid of being assaulted or even raped by male soldiers if they had to use the women's latrine after dark.

The latrine for female soldiers at Camp Victory wasn't located near their barracks, so they had to go outside if they needed to use the bathroom. "There were no lights near any of their facilities, so women were doubly easy targets in the dark of the night," Karpinski told retired US Army Col. David Hackworth in a September 2004 interview. It was there that male soldiers assaulted and raped women soldiers. So the women took matters into their own hands. They didn't drink in the late afternoon so they wouldn't have to urinate at night. They didn't get raped. But some died of dehydration in the desert heat, Karpinski said.

Karpinski testified that a surgeon for the coalition's joint task force said in a briefing that "women in fear of getting up in the hours of darkness to go out to the port-a-lets or the latrines were not drinking liquids after 3 or 4 in the afternoon, and in 120 degree heat or warmer, because there was no air-conditioning at most of the facilities, they were dying from dehydration in their sleep."
The Army covered this up. Good news, though: female soldiers were offered an 800 number state-side to make reports of this behaviour. 83 reports were called in, all of which were greeted by an answering machine. The problem, finally acknowledge at least internally, led to some halting "action" and female soldiers can now visit the Army's sexual assault website. This has hardly solved the problem and, in 2005, some 2300 cases of sexual assaults were reported, a number that is likely "vastly underreported." But, we are not to believe that male soldiers would make fun of a disfigured female soldier.

Given the trove of documented atrocities already at hand, hardly anyone had paid attention to the Beauchamp stories -- hardly revelatory -- outside the restricted confines of the right wing nut-machine. Until now. Now, it is "news" in the New York Times, which, once again, offers itself up as a Pentagon press release distributor. The tell comes in the easily identifiable headline,
Army Says Soldier’s Articles for Magazine Were False
We are to believe this, of course, just as we were to believe the Army when it said Pat Tillman was killed by enemy fire ... until they admitted he wasn't; the Haditha massacre was fiction ... until soldiers were convicted of it; they never used white phosphorous ... until they admitted they had. And while reasonable thinking adults have great cause to doubt any words issued by the US military, the right wing grind house continues to exercise its credulity in defense of any and every incredible thing the US military offers up when covering its own ass.

Whether Beauchamp's anecdotes are true is, while not entirely beside the point, certainly not the large issue here. They hardly describe behaviour that is unbelievable, despite right wing protests to the contrary. Known and documented behaviour, from conspiracy to rape a 14 Iraqi girl and kill her family, to raping female comrades, to executing an entire Iraqi family at Haditha, have proved to be far, far worse than the slights that Beauchamp related and things which The Weekly Standard has been notably silent about.

Since the The Weekly Standard is not a news outlet so much as a blatant neoconservative propaganda sheet, the true purpose of the Weekly outrage is to paint "the media" as a source of lies against America. While this is generally true, it is certainly not so in the way The Weekly Standard would have the public believe. Because here is the New York Times telling us what the Army says....


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