Beaucoup de Beauchamp

by John Quiggin on August 19, 2007

A bunch of rightwing blogs are getting excited yet again about Scott Beauchamp. For those who haven’t followed the story, Beauchamp is a US soldier in Iraq who wrote some pieces for The New Republic which, among other things, described bad behaviour by US troops, such as deliberately running over stray dogs and taunting a woman disfigured by burns. The pro-war lobby has worn out dozens of keyboards seeking to discredit Beauchamp, his story and the very possibility of running over dogs in an armoured vehicle. Now it appears the US Army has denied Beauchamp’s claims. (To reiterate, I don’t care about or intend to debate, or even to link to, the details of this case).

Some might suggest that the truth or falsity of these stories doesn’t matter much in the light of this. or this or this or this, to list just a few of the disasters have taken place while the wingnutosphere has been defending the US Army’s commitment to animal welfare.

But that would miss the point. What matters, in the world of rightwing postmodernism, is not reality but the way the media reports it. One bogus memo is enough to turn George W. Bush from a scrimshank who used his family connections to line up a cushy billet to avoid war service, and then shirked even that, into a war hero.

So, lets stick to media criticism. Not long after Beauchamp’s piece ran in a single magazine of modest circulation, all the major MSM outlets ran a story by well known critics of the war, Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack whose intrepid journey through recently pacified parts of Iraq had convinced them that the surge was working. Here, for example, is their piece in the NY Times.

Oddly enough, rightwing scepticism about the MSM was suspended for this piece. The fact that Pollack (author of The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq) and O’Hanlon had consistently supported the war, the occupation and the surge was not seen as anything to worry about. And none of the armchair experts worried at all about the logistical and technical issues on which they are usually so keen to display their expertise. It was left to Glenn Greenwald to point out that Pollack and O’Hanlon went on a guided tour organised by the US military, spent every night in the Green Zone, and formed many of their most striking impressions on the basis of two-hour visits to places like Mosul. Meanwhile, a third report from Anthony Cordesman was much less optimistic.

Surely by now the wingnutosphere could have come up with evidence that two hours is more than enough time for a comprehensive helicopter tour of Mosul, avoiding the main street bias that they spent so much time on in relation to the Lancet study. And surely they could discredit the memos that appeared to show O’Hanlon and Pollack supporting the war when everyone knows they are not only consistent war critics but (shudder!) Democrats.

So where are the defences of O’Hanlon and Pollack? Technorati finds a few sites still trumpeting the initial report, and some pushing a similar one from Der Spiegel, but that’s about it. Apparently it’s more important to prove that an obscure private is telling tall tales than to offer a serious defence of the latest claims of imminent victory.

Update It really is a parallel universe. A string of rightwing blogs have commented on this and without exception they’re horrified by the suggestion that Scott Beauchamp’s veracity, and the credibility of The New Republic (!) as a news source are trivial issues compared to the question of whether there is any chance to salvage the current mess in Iraq. If anyone can follow Megan McArdle’s explanation of why Pollack and O’Hanlon’s account of the surge (which she does not attempt to defend) is in a category that renders it immune from refutation, please explain it to me. Moe Lane at RedState gets very upset at my failure to follow “blogging etiquette” and link to the nonsense on this topic, so here’s his link. Interestingly this guy offers, as his post title notes*, a “fake but accurate” defence of Pollack and O’Hanlon against Greenwald’s evidence that they could not have genuinely observed what they claimed, namely that “he [Greenwald] cannot account for Petraus, who has spent much longer in Iraq than O’Hanlon, seems to broadly agree with O’Hanlon’s optimism. That optimism appears to be largely shared by officers and senior NCOs with multiple tours in Iraq.” Well, not all of them, it seems. As for Petraeus

  • (A joke of course. He doesn’t realise he is adopting the very style of argument he claims to repudiate).

{ 116 comments }

1

Quo Vadis 08.19.07 at 11:15 am

I’m not sure what point you are trying to make with this post, but the Beauchamp affair seems to be less about Beauchamp himself than it is about standards of accuracy in MSM reporting. It appears that you have concerns about this as well, so what’s your beef?

2

bi 08.19.07 at 11:16 am

As Rumsfeld said, “As we know, there are known knowns”, and all that.

I think that’s the key: we _know_ that O’Hanlon and Pollack spent every night in the Green Zone. We _don’t_ _know_ whether Beauchamp’s stories are actually true, and it’s hard to find out and prove it one way or the other, try as we might. And given a choice between discussing what’s known and what’s not known, the obvious choice is to focus on the latter — because only by doing so can the ideologues move the rhetorical war away from the real world into their own parallel universe.

3

Brett Bellmore 08.19.07 at 11:26 am

“What matters, in the world of rightwing postmodernism, is not reality but the way the media reports it. One bogus memo is enough to turn George W. Bush from a scrimshank who used his family connections to line up a cushy billet to avoid war service, and then shirked even that, into a war hero.”

I don’t think that somebody who is asserting that we shouldn’t care if evidence is falsified or not is in any position to accuse somebody else of “postmodernism”.

4

bi 08.19.07 at 11:35 am

Brett Bellmore, so are you saying that it’s indeed true that “one bogus memo is enough to turn George W. Bush from a scrimshank who used his family connections to line up a cushy billet to avoid war service, and then shirked even that, into a war hero”?

That one bogus memo is enough to turn all the disasters in Iraq, all the killings, into a happy utopia?

(By the way, “it doesn’t matter” doesn’t mean “we shouldn’t care”.)

5

John Emerson 08.19.07 at 11:36 am

I don’t know why you bother to write this kind of post at all, given that loonies like Bellmore and Quo Vadis are the only ones who will be interested. As George Bush himself has said, why should we spend our time swatting flies?

Yay Truth! Yay Bellmore! Yay Quo! Brett, the purity of your intentions is a wonder to behold. Quo, I’m not too familiar with your corpus, fortunately, but I’m confident that you’re very pure also.

6

bi 08.19.07 at 11:38 am

To spell it out for Brett Bellmore: there’s a difference between this chain of argument:

*If A is true, B will be true.
*If A is false, then B will still be true.
*Ergo, B is true.

and this:

*A is false.
*I like A.
*Therefore, I pretend that A doesn’t exist.

But wait, this smacks of Ivory-Tower intellectualism doesn’t it…

7

John Quiggin 08.19.07 at 11:41 am

You’re probably right, John, but the loonies are running the asylum after all.

8

Brett Bellmore 08.19.07 at 12:37 pm

Nope, the bogus memo merely proved something about Dan Rather that anybody familiar with 60 Minutes already suspected.

Look, the knowing, or uncaring use of fraudulent evidence by journalists is a big hairy deal, and shouldn’t be dismissed with this casual “fake but true” defense. You really think it’s restricted to cases where the underlying story is somehow true anyway, or exclusively to bolster causes YOU happen to like?

It isn’t, it’s endemic. It’s something we should all be concerned about, and go ballistic whenever it’s uncovered.

9

Karl Steel 08.19.07 at 12:49 pm

It’s something we should all be concerned about, and go ballistic whenever it’s uncovered.

Well, sure, whatever. But the people going ballistic about Beauchamp are somehow ballistic only when the story contradicts what they want to believe. That’s the (to my eyes obvious) point of this post.

10

Brett Bellmore 08.19.07 at 1:01 pm

Yeah, and since when have people ever been in a hurry to uncover abuses that further their own ends, or bolster their own views? That’s how it works, each side is kept honest by the other side uncovering their abuses. I don’t expect liberals to be in a hurry to uncover frauds that advance liberalism, any more than I expect conservatives to do the digging to expose frauds committed to further conservatism.

What I expect is for you to both at least give a damn when the other side does expose ‘em.

11

bi 08.19.07 at 1:06 pm

Brett Bellmore is still failing to recognize the difference between “fake but true” and “fake but doesn’t change the conclusion”. But this distinction is of course only useful to college-indoctrinated pedants who are overly concerned with not misrepresenting arguments.

But of course we can’t expect Bellmore to be concerned with misrepresenting arguments when it’s he himself who does the misrepresentation.

And when, after all that, he comes back to assume the posture of an even-handed, dispassionate onlooker.

12

Steve LaBonne 08.19.07 at 1:26 pm

Who cares about Beauchamp, particularly? Because there’s lots more testimony to the serious abuse of civilians here. Not to mention that anybody with half a brain and a little imagination and sympathy would not even need to be told that such things will inevitably happen if you plunk young, frightened soldiers down in the midst of a civil war in a country whose language and culture are completely alien to them.

13

jet 08.19.07 at 1:57 pm

(To reiterate, I don’t care about or intend to debate, or even to link to, the details of this case).

Some might suggest that the truth or falsity of these stories doesn’t matter much in the light of…

So not only do you not care about the MSM reporting lies as fact as long as they carry your point of view (“narrative” to coin a word used by the MSM do defend themselves). But then you’ll attack the right for doing anything similar. I see your point though. The details don’t matter as long as you win the argument, because you’re a big picture guy and little facts just slow you down ;) If you went mainstream perhaps your ratings could joint the MSM as well below Bush’s.

14

John Emerson 08.19.07 at 2:14 pm

George Bush blew off his military duty and was not called on it before the election. I disliked Rather before the memo episode and am not defending him. I suspect (by the speed with which it was debunked) that the fake memo was a Republican plant — just like the fake yellowcake documents, no one really knows where it came from.

The upshot is that the truth about Bush’s military service, like the truth about Kerry’s military service, was obscured during the election.

As far as I know at this point, Beauchamp’s report was mostly accurate, and as far as I know, none of the wingers (including Jet, Quo, and Bellmore) care about that. I suppose I shouldn’t say this, but I don’t care much either, because the stories were trivial. But the uproar over the Beauchamp story was typical winger fraud, trying to conceal the truth by blowing smoke and screaming. And I do care about that.

Sometimes I enjoy swatting flies. Sometimes I’m just bored. Th lame motherfuckers at Unfogged are sleeping off their hangovers at the moment, God damn them.

15

Fraggle Rock 08.19.07 at 2:15 pm

If it is so true, why do you need the fakes?

16

abb1 08.19.07 at 2:17 pm

It just that these stories don’t seem very important. Someone ran over a dog. Someone made fun of a disfigured woman. Someone picked up a skull and put it on his hat, or whatever.

You’ll see a dead dog on a highway any time you drive to work and you can probably find a scene of kids making fun of a cripple without breaking a sweat.

It just doesn’t seem particularly interesting or important.

It’s like if I printed a story about, say, drivers running a stop sign in my neighborhood (which is, say, a well known fact) and mentioned one incident at 3:15am and you then went thru many surveillance tapes and calculated that it’s unlikely (though not impossible) that it in fact did happen at this particular time. So what?

17

abb1 08.19.07 at 2:19 pm

Or, I see John already said it. Yeah, ‘trivial’ is the right word here.

18

John Protevi 08.19.07 at 2:23 pm

Not long after Beauchamp’s piece ran in a single magazine of modest circulation, all the major MSM outlets ran a story by well known critics of the war, Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack whose intrepid journey through recently pacified parts of Iraq had convinced them that the surge was working.

Brett Bellmore, jet, and quo vadis, would any of you care to address this part of the post? It seems John Quiggin is making three important points:

1. the difference in distribution of Beauchamp vs O’Hanlon and Pollack (one article in TNR vs very wide distribution in very important outlets, e.g., NYT)

2. the difference in importance of the authors (unknown private vs big shot commentators)

3. the importance in topic (gratuitous cruelty on the part of grunts vs the major policy initiative of the Bush administration in the past 12 months)

To me, these are very important distinctions, and undercut your attempt to equate the reaction to the two stories.

19

Mike G 08.19.07 at 2:30 pm

The point of the Beauchamp deception isn’t that one story was wrong.

It was that this kid understood exactly what kind of wrong story would lead to a sale at The New Republic.

That suggests, to put it mildly, that a lot more stories are wrong…

20

Seth Finkelstein 08.19.07 at 2:31 pm

As many of the commentators make evident, it’s about the “stab in the back” narrative against The Media.

Very clear. They make no bones about it.

21

abb1 08.19.07 at 2:46 pm

The New Republic is a worthless piece of shit, I’m glad finally we all can agree on that.

22

John Protevi 08.19.07 at 2:50 pm

That suggests, to put it mildly, that a lot more stories are wrong…

Finish the though, mike g. Those stories that say the surge isn’t working, or those stories that say the surge is working?

23

John Protevi 08.19.07 at 2:50 pm

Finish the thought, rather!

24

sherlock 08.19.07 at 3:01 pm

When I hear people telling me that the truth of something doesn’t really matter a lot because there is a real truth that matters more, it makes me wonder who gets to pick which truths are more and which are less, and whether having those selected by folks who told the lesser truths that were not true is really such a good idea.

25

robertdfeinman 08.19.07 at 3:05 pm

This can be looked at as another example of media bias or the effects of consolidation of the media or even that the media is now part of large industrial firms with the interests this implies.

I’d like to make a psychological argument. The US has some fundamental myths about our founding and the type of people we are. When these myths get examined in the light of contrary evidence the reaction is to suppress or deny the unpleasant information.

There is a nice book which goes into these myths and which uses historical examples to show the discrepancies.

Here’s a link to the blurb:
Myths America Lives By

And a quote from the site:

Myths America Lives By identifies five key myths that lie at the heart of the American experience–the myths of the Chosen Nation, of Nature’s Nation, of the Christian Nation, of the Millennial Nation, and of the Innocent Nation.Drawing on a range of dissenting voices, Hughes shows that by canonizing these seemingly harmless myths of national identity as absolute truths, America risks undermining the sweepingly egalitarian promise of the Declaration of Independence.

Especially among those who are unquestioning followers of ideologues the uncovering of such information can present psychological difficulties which make denial a necessity for them to continue to function in the world they have made for themselves.

26

roger 08.19.07 at 3:20 pm

Actually, one should say a little bit more about the content of the O’Hanlon and Pollack piece, since one particular and outrageous part of it has seemed to go under the radar. In the light of the greatest act of terrorism since 9/11, the destruction of Qahtaniya, (unmentioned, of course, by the incorrigible President Bush in his weekend radio address on Iraq) this passage stands out as almost supinely stupid:

“We traveled to the northern cities of Tal Afar and Mosul. This is an ethnically rich area, with large numbers of Sunni Arabs, Kurds and Turkmens. American troop levels in both cities now number only in the hundreds because the Iraqis have stepped up to the plate. Reliable police officers man the checkpoints in the cities, while Iraqi Army troops cover the countryside. A local mayor told us his greatest fear was an overly rapid American departure from Iraq.”

Even two weeks ago, when the piece was written, this should have raised questions by some NYT editor. How could one possibly talk about the reliable policemen of Tal Afer? Didn’t the Shi’ite policemen in that city recently massacre around 70 Sunnis in retaliation for an attack on a Shi’ite quarter? And why was the mayor of Mosul himself not quoted? Could it be because there wasn’t one? Could it be because the provincial council had recently deposed him because he hadn’t censored a newspaper that published a ‘slanderous’ cartoon of Maliki? Yeah, something like that. Just ignore the mayor issue was also fine with the NYT.

The attack on Qahtaniya is in the area that Pollack and O’hanlon supposedly toured, although we now know the tour took two hours. It is about 60 miles from Mosul. And it is just the kind of attack that couldn’t happen if there were a real police structure in place, or that would be very difficult to bring about. After all, to accomplish it, four trucks carrying petroleum had to be hijacked. And none of the news from the area even touches on whether the hijackings were reported – partly because we know that hijacked petroleum constitutes almost as much of the economy as licit petroleum in Iraq. Even so, it is hard to see how a relatively remote place could be targetted by a practical convoy of oil tankers without complicity on the part of the police.

All of which goes to poke not just a small hole in O’hanlon and Pollack’s report, but a major hole. If two ‘experts’ had toured NYC in August, 2001, and written a report saying the place was terrorist proof, they wouldn’t, to say the least, be quoted any more as the source of any news analysis. Yet these two have gotten and will get a pass. Beauchamp, whose sin seems to have been simply telling stories that he heard, will be ridiculously punished. The rightwing zombies still rule in the U.S., no matter how few there are of them.

27

Mike G 08.19.07 at 3:30 pm

Draw your own conclusions about which way the bias runs in New York City editorial offices, John P.

“This can be looked at as another example of media bias or the effects of consolidation of the media or even that the media is now part of large industrial firms with the interests this implies.”

It can be, but it would be foolish, since The New Republic is pretty much the antithesis of what you’re talking about, as a moneylosing journal of political thought.

28

rea 08.19.07 at 3:45 pm

The point of the Beauchamp deception isn’t that one story was wrong.

It was that this kid understood exactly what kind of wrong story would lead to a sale at The New Republic.

The New Republic ain’t exactly the New York Times of the Washington Post. It’s a rightwing, hysterically pro-war opinion magazine of limited circulation, with a dubious reputation for being factual (Glass, The Bell Curve).

But of course, if our rightwing friends above can show that Beauchamp’s rather innocuous stories were fiction, they’ll feel justified in disregarding overwhelmingly documented atrocities, just as picking a couple of holes in Dan Rather’s story let them feel justified in disregarding the overwhelming evidence that Bush went AWOL from the cushy Guard gig his familiy connections got him.

29

Seth Finkelstein 08.19.07 at 4:13 pm

Observe, The Narrative in action in #19:

“… kid understood exactly what kind of wrong story would lead to a sale at The New Republic.”

That suggests, to put it mildly, that a lot more stories are wrong…”

You can just chart it out: The [LIBERAL! LIBERAL! LIBERAL!] Media is biased (“what kind of wrong story”) and it’s everywhere (“a lot more …”).

The fact that the New Republic has been a war supporter, and Scott Beauchamp’s wrote earlier about a cute kids who got his tongue cut out, doesn’t fit The Narrative, so it will be discarded.

30

Leonard 08.19.07 at 4:23 pm

From HuffingtonPost:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-fiderer/proof-that-the-debunking_b_60647.html

The trumped-up cause celebre over Beauchamp’s articles is a fraudulent scheme, executed through a series of tricks, designed to create one big distraction. The essence of the scheme is to compel a debate about a trivial subject — the details of Beauchamp’s dog-bites-man stories — in order to sow confusion that distracts us from the bad news in Iraq. To analogize, it would be as if Fox News forced the Red Cross to debate the quality of food at Thereisenstadt, in order to distract everyone from the packed trains moving eastward.

31

John Emerson 08.19.07 at 4:39 pm

If it is so true, why do you need the fakes?

We don’t as I said. We ignored the story.

It was that this kid understood exactly what kind of wrong story would lead to a sale at The New Republic.

The story is uncharacteristic of the New Republic, which has been almost entirely pro-war.

That suggests, to put it mildly, that a lot more stories are wrong…

Exactly Quiggin’s point. The reason why lying hack motherfuckers like you nitpick things is that you want to discredit everything the media reports, so that the false Bush version will go unchallenged.

Flies! Flies! Flies! Flies. Fun swatting flies!

32

Justin 08.19.07 at 4:40 pm

Ummm, why are we assuming the Beauchamp piece is fake? Because the Army denied it and he got one minor fact wrong?

33

John Emerson 08.19.07 at 4:44 pm

Per argumentum, even if the story is fake it’s no big deal. But it does seem to be mostly true.

Flies! Flies!

34

Steve LaBonne 08.19.07 at 4:48 pm

If bad stuff WASN’T going on in the circumstances that prevail in Iraq, it would be a unique event in the history of warfare. If there are any wingers who genuinely don’t understand this, as opposed to just pretending not to understand it, that’s because all their ideas about war come from comic books and airport novels.

35

Curtis 08.19.07 at 4:49 pm

John Quiggin, I’m beginning to think it doesn’t matter what YOU write.

36

freshlysqueezedcynic 08.19.07 at 4:56 pm

#29

Because it doesn’t really matter. No matter what happens now, even if Beauchamp is proven definitively 100% correct on everything, once his name is mentioned to the wingnuts they shall go “HA! But he was discredited!” What matters is the discrediting, not whether the Beauchamp story is factual or not.

Which goes to John Quiggin’s larger point: For the wingnuts, what matters is the larger media narrative. Like our willing contributors above show, the whole point of the discrediting is to fog the narrative, to suggest “maybe the whole damn thing’s a lie, and there are puppies and kittens living in harmony in Iraq under a big rainbow!”. It also makes sliming anyone vaguely lefty much easier when you can claim they’re talking about things being “fake but true”, rather than “true, but we found something which is mildly dubious so it’s all false!”

As John Emerson says, flies. The buzz is what’s important.

37

Tim Worstall 08.19.07 at 6:02 pm

“One bogus memo is enough to turn George W. Bush from a scrimshank who used his family connections to line up a cushy billet to avoid war service, and then shirked even that, into a war hero.”

I certainly don’t think he’s a war hero (nor competent come to that) but one small point. The death rate amongst those who learned to fly those sort of fighter jets (that’s in peacetime) was of the same order as the death rate amongst all troops who served in Vietnam.
If you’re looking for a “cushy billet to avoid war service” then learning to fly 1960’s interceptors really isn’t it.

38

Ben Alpers 08.19.07 at 6:08 pm

39

patrick 08.19.07 at 6:22 pm

I appreciate your use of “wingnuts,” and “wingnutosphere.” I makes your argument so much stronger. Without the perjoratives, you don’t really have much, do you?

It really doesn’t matter what TNR prints, as long as if follows your worldview, is that about it?

40

John Protevi 08.19.07 at 6:38 pm

Mike G @ 27: Draw your own conclusions about which way the bias runs in New York City editorial offices, John P.

What you do here is what we used to call back in the day “punking out.” You brought it up; at least have the courage to tell us *your* conclusions.

41

bi 08.19.07 at 7:02 pm

Leonard: I think this sentence sums it up:

“Actually, getting caught up in a debate over Scott Thomas Beauchamp’s veracity is the essence of the trick.”

Then again, that’s because it’s pretty much what I said.

= = =

freshlysqueezedcynic:

“No matter what happens now, even if Beauchamp is proven definitively 100% correct on everything, once his name is mentioned to the wingnuts they shall go ‘HA! But he was discredited!'”

Or more likely, if my Totally Scientific Theory on Wingnut Behaviour As Outlined Above is any guide, they’ll just try to change the topic, and try their darnedest to pretend that this whole Beauchamp hoo-ha never happened.

In a way, you can already see it in their treatment of O’Hanlon and Pollack. Once it’s pointed out that they spend all their nights in the Green Zone, they claim that areas which just underwent massacres are perfectly safe, etc. etc. etc… Hey, Pollack? What Pollack? What?

42

robertdfeinman 08.19.07 at 7:32 pm

It is pointless to argue with true believers, but for those who still thing they wish to try, good luck.

I tried pointing out above that such people have certain psychological characteristics which make it impossible for them to acknowledge things which contradict their belief system.

There is a good study on this by psychologist Robert Altemeyer. He has put his 40+ years of research into the form of a popular book which is available for free online. Here’s the link:
The Authoritarians

As to the issue at hand. The real question is “have US troops committed acts which are violations of military regulations, international law and/or the Geneva convention”? The answer, of course, is yes. It is yes in every war. It is yes by every side in every war. War dehumanizes the troops and makes them do things that they would never do otherwise. Just the fact of handing them a gun and telling them to kill people that they have no relationship with causes psychological damage.

For anyone to deny this is ridiculous. Arguing with people with this viewpoint is like arguing with people who believe the world is flat. Save your breath.

In this war we have photographs from Abu Ghraib, we have documented statements from people released from Gitmo as to having been tortured, we have soldiers already convicted of killing bystanders in Iraq. How much more do you need?

Perhaps some need to go back and read some US history and see that this in not unique to this conflict. Try My Lai during the Vietnam war. Try the cases of US killing Japanese POW’s in WWII because they didn’t want to have to attend to them, or try the story of our capture of the Philippines where we killed thousands of people as we took over the country.

These people don’t know history, and don’t even believe what is right before their eyes. Hopeless.

43

John Emerson 08.19.07 at 9:15 pm

The death rate amongst those who learned to fly those sort of fighter jets (that’s in peacetime) was of the same order as the death rate amongst all troops who served in Vietnam.

Link?

44

aaron 08.19.07 at 10:48 pm

Thanks for the laugh JQ.

45

John Emerson 08.19.07 at 10:59 pm

38: People misunderstand that quote. It’s Marx on Feuerbach: “The point is not to interpret the world but to change it…” The Republicans are right on that one, and I wish that the Democrats would learn the lesson. The future isn’t real until it’s made real.

46

jcasey 08.19.07 at 11:26 pm

This is brilliant:

But that would miss the point. What matters, in the world of rightwing postmodernism, is not reality but the way the media reports it. One bogus memo is enough to turn George W. Bush from a scrimshank who used his family connections to line up a cushy billet to avoid war service, and then shirked even that, into a war hero.

As annoying as the obsession with the details such claims as Beauchamp’s is the insistence on a priori debunking. As we ivory tower types often claim, things are true or false in virtue of their relation to the world. If what B says is false is false, it’s false. It’s falsity doesn’t extend beyond that. Besides that, no one to my knowledge claimed that Beauchamp’s reports were evidence against the overall justice of our cause.

So what you point out is this: the types who obsess over this kind of stuff are really engaging in a kind of meta analysis of reality. Every story is true, or plausible, or deplorable, not for reasons of its own, but for how it is told or who tells it.

47

bert 08.19.07 at 11:38 pm

I always assumed “Rathergate” was a smartly executed piece of ratfucking, along the lines of the Canuck letter or similar entries in the list of dirty tricks greatest hits.

In 2004 the Democrats, for obvious reasons, nominated a war hero. The Republican ticket unavoidably consisted of two incumbents, both of whom dodged service. From the point of view of a GOP strategist, there are two obvious ways to counter this, the first being to undermine your opponent’s strength, the second being to undercut those attacking your own weakness. The first was achieved through the Swift Boat campaign. The second through Rathergate.

Each as of now remains plausibly deniable. How plausible you find the denials depends heavily on your politics of course. Previous smears against John McCain and Ann Richards – each well documented – offer convincing supporting evidence for the prosecution.

So it seems to me that, in his ostentatious concern for accuracy in media, Brett Bellmore isn’t wrong so much as utterly beside the point. What is at issue is not at bottom a particular controversy. That’s incidental. Driving these controversies is a political goal: to assert and reinforce a larger narrative. In 2004 the narrative was of a strong, clear-eyed leader to whom we must cleave in a time of war. Now the narrative is that the troops, who are beyond criticism, are engaged in a campaign that must also be beyond criticism, and that to criticize the campaign is to undermine the troops.

We don’t need to get trapped in relativism, like Sherlock@24. Bellmore’s too-narrow focus on media accuracy seems a clear instance of intentional deceit. Jet@13 is playing a similar game, although on the kiddies playground.

48

Mike G 08.20.07 at 1:07 am

“What you do here is what we used to call back in the day “punking out.” You brought it up; at least have the courage to tell us your conclusions.”

John P., if you’d reread what I said you’d realize I did tell you my conclusion, quite unambiguously.

49

John Protevi 08.20.07 at 1:21 am

John P., if you’d reread what I said you’d realize I did tell you my conclusion, quite unambiguously.

Nonsense in defense of cowardice. Your clever use of ellipses did nothing of the sort, but precisely left it ambiguous. Now in all probability, you’re playing on the dreary “liberal bias” side of the game, and if you weren’t afraid of the derision it would rightfully entail, you would spell it out.

50

John Emerson 08.20.07 at 1:22 am

Yeah, Mike, you hideous waste of time, your post is bone dumb every way but that one.

51

Barry 08.20.07 at 1:41 am

Brett:
“Yeah, and since when have people ever been in a hurry to uncover abuses that further their own ends, or bolster their own views? That’s how it works, each side is kept honest by the other side uncovering their abuses. I don’t expect liberals to be in a hurry to uncover frauds that advance liberalism, any more than I expect conservatives to do the digging to expose frauds committed to further conservatism.”

Brett, we’re talking about lies which led the country into a war, and then botched the war. Any American who cares about his country at all should be very, very concerned about such things.

You’ve admitted that conservatives don’t care about the US, just about their own partisan politics. Thanks for the confesison.

“What I expect is for you to both at least give a damn when the other side does expose ‘em.”

Brett, if you gave a damn about the sort of things which the Bush administration has been exposed doing, you’d be dead by now. It’s no surprise to any regular reader of CT that your damn-giving rate is near zero, for offenses against Truth, Justice and the American Way.

52

Johan W 08.20.07 at 2:14 am

Most of what needs to be known about John Quiggin’s good faith when talking about larger truths and smaller and trivial falsehoods can be gleaned from the fact that the article he makes a throwaway and dismissive reference to in Der Speigel is unlinked, and in a paragraph whose point appears to be that the self evident falsity of the Pollack O’Hanlon report has sunk into well deserved obscurity.

And no, the falsity of Beauchamp’s fabulism , is not irrelevant. And, no I don’t think that it does conceal a larger truth that US soldiers in Iraq are in the main callow, cruel and out of control.

53

jet 08.20.07 at 2:16 am

One bogus memo is enough to turn George W. Bush from a scrimshank who used his family connections to line up a cushy billet to avoid war service, and then shirked even that, into a war hero.

Psychologists refer to this as Reality Distortion. Historians will refer to this as Bush Derangement Syndrome.

54

Walt 08.20.07 at 2:36 am

Oh, look, it’s jet! I guess the humiliation of being wrong about every single major aspect of foreign policy for the last six years is wearing off.

55

Guest 08.20.07 at 2:50 am

I’m blown away by how mainstream trolling has become. There are at least 3 rightwing trolls on this one single thread, making retarded non-arguments they obviously don’t even believe themselves, just to blow smoke up the Lefties’ asses. Somewhere deep in the heartland there is a School of Trolling turning out graduates at an alarming rate.

56

James Mabry 08.20.07 at 4:58 am

I read every bleepin word of your post…..
Do you support printing falsehoods as truth, or not?

57

Greg 08.20.07 at 5:33 am

Speaking of that, guest, I have a friend who used to get paid for posting comments linking to various commercial sites, so it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that some of these trolls get paid.

In this specific case, it may have been the post on RedState.com that attracted them.

In my view, though, it should matter to us whether Beauchamp told the truth or not–because, with the exception of the Kuwait/Iraq mislocation of one event, most of what he wrote probably *is* true. We probably won’t get confirmation until the other people in his unit leave the Army, but it will be worth noting, then, if only to expose yet another right-wing lie (Jamil Hussain doesn’t exist! The mosque is fine despite the big smoking hole in it! The Mel Martinez staffer’s memo was a fake planted by Democrats!) It’s like these people live in a conspiracy-addled, backstabbing world, sort of like a film noir written by Thomas Pynchon.

58

Ben Alpers 08.20.07 at 6:15 am

45: Very interesting thought, JE! As an 11th Thesis fan, I do see some of that in the quotation in question. And, I agree, it’s a lesson that the “left” has to (re)learn.

However, I don’t think that’s all that’s in that quotation, which was immediately preceded by the now-infamous “reality based community” comment.

There’s a slippage in that quotation between the notion that reality can be changed and the rightwing postmodernism that John is blogging about here (i.e, reality is whatever we say it is).

And certainly it’s this latter view that infects the wingnutosphere. See, for example, #10 above, in which politics is understood as a matter of simply insisting on one’s own ideologically driven narrative.

Of course, the other great difference between the quote in 38 and Marx is who is imagined to be a viable (world) historical actor. “We’re an empire now, and when we act we create our own reality.” That bit certainly doesn’t sound like Marx.

59

Tim Worstall 08.20.07 at 6:22 am

43: It’s my own calculation so take it with a pinch (or shovelful) of salt.
http://timworstall.typepad.com/timworstall/2004/08/bush_and_the_f1.html
Anyone who wants to (or can) improve on it please do.

60

Wire 08.20.07 at 6:34 am

If there are any wingers who genuinely don’t understand this, as opposed to just pretending not to understand it, that’s because all their ideas about war come from comic books and airport novels.

61

SG 08.20.07 at 8:02 am

Tim

In Aliens, when Carter Burke locked the marines into the control centre and ran away, we all thought he was being a coward, right? We didn’t suddenly decide he was a brave and noble man because there was an alien waiting for him around the corner.

The issue is that Bush arranged somewhere *he* thought was safer – not that he somehow ended up somewhere really dangerous. By your logic all the artillery men in Vietnam were cowards. I think you should go tell them that.

(I think your calculations are wrong for a variety of reasons, btw)

62

Robert 08.20.07 at 9:05 am

I object to the dismissive “single magazine of modest circulation”. Marty may be driving TNR‘s proud tradition into the ground, but one should not deny its existence.

63

Ben Alpers 08.20.07 at 9:18 am

59: How does that comment deny the existence of the TNR‘s proud tradition?

What the comment was (correctly, IMO) meant to deny was that TNR is in any sense representative of the MSM (or anything much beyond itself).

Even during the heyday of its proud tradition TNR was an unconventional journal of modest circulation. Under Peretz, it’s still unconventional, but now it is even less read and much less interesting or thoughtful.

“A single journal of modest circulation” seems entirely apt in the context of this discussion.

64

MFB 08.20.07 at 9:19 am

Is it really so surprising that the press tells lies in support of political crooks and vicious crooked policies? That is what they are paid to do, after all.

Is it really so surprising that conservative web-loggers tell lies about the press in support of political crooks and vicious crooked policies? Some of them are paid to do it, and some of them enjoy doing it and therefore do it for free.

Flies are hard to swat and then you are left with icky gook on your newspaper. Mind you, it’s often the best thing to do with said newspaper.

65

John Emerson 08.20.07 at 10:25 am

Tim, Bush signed up for reserve (NG) part-time status outside the war zone. He then failed to satisfy the part-time obligation he had signed up for, but he was allowed to slide on that. It is perhaps true that if he had signed up for something quite different, and if he had satisfied that obligation, he would have been in a bit more than half as much danger as the typical US soldier in Vietnam (most of whom were not combat soldiers.)

I’m still not clear about how much service you were talking about in your stats. After the training period (6 months?) NG service amounts to something like two weeks a year, plus several weekends. Not all that time is spent flying — the actual flying requirement seems to have been pretty small, and IIRC there was one year when Bush did not meet it. You seem to be saying that there’s one hypothetical circumstance when Bush’s NG service might possibly have put him in real danger.

66

Alex 08.20.07 at 10:35 am

Timmeh, you need to compare apples and apples. The risk of going into combat is additional to the accident rate (probably higher in theatre, mark); you’d want to compare the rate in the only F102 squadron in Vietnam to the continental US accident rate. (BTW, if as per your comments 15 of them were lost in Vietnam, from one squadron, that’s a pretty gnarly loss rate.)

Further, you’d want to compare the accident rate with the casualty rate of combat troops; specifically, the infantry. Otherwise you’d be comparing noncombat units in the US and Vietnam, which would rather contaminate your figures.

But then, thanks for reminding us that far from being a reasonably innocuous British Tory who claims (now) to oppose the war with Iraq, back in 2004 you were carrying a full load of water for the Bush-Cheney presidential campaign.

67

Alex 08.20.07 at 10:37 am

..and, as per 61, you have since been well rewarded with your TCS/CEI gig, ad revenues from all the Malkin fans, and such.

68

ajay 08.20.07 at 10:49 am

Tim Worstall is a silly man who has got his statistics confused again. (Man, I should just set that sentence up as a macro.)

First of all, he’s assuming that accidents just happened at random. They did not. Accident rates are always higher in war zones, because operational tempos are higher and pilots and crew are under more pressure.

Second, he’s assuming that all F-102 pilots flew the same number of hours and thus were equally exposed to risk – manifestly not true in Bush’s case, especially as he wasn’t even full-time! In fact, a few seconds of googling find that “Bush had over 600 flight hours when he left the Guard, and 278 of these were aboard the F-102 and TF-102.”
http://www.aerospaceweb.org/question/history/q0185.shtml

A career total of 278 hours in F-102s. Most F-102 pilots would have had far more – the minimum in fact for IPs was 1,000 hours. (see link)

Third, he’s assuming that all F-102s were equally at risk in the US – flight conditions in Texas are far more friendly (better weather, better visibility) than elsewhere in the US or the rest of the world.

69

Brett Bellmore 08.20.07 at 10:52 am

“because, with the exception of the Kuwait/Iraq mislocation of one event, most of what he wrote probably is true.”

That’s the most imbecilic defense of this story I’ve heard yet: “Sure, what he actually said turns out to have been false, but now that he’s changed his story it’d doubtless true, even if I have no evidence of that.”

I’m not saying that it’s impossible the story is true, or some part of it, now that he’s changed the time and location. But the dude LIED. When a guy gets caught in a lie, and changes his story, without providing any independent evidence of his new story, just his unsupported word, what makes the unsupported word of a liar “probably true”?

70

Tim Worstall 08.20.07 at 10:55 am

“Accident rates are always higher in war zones,”

Err, no. Accident rates are always higher in training. Because people are being trained to do things they haven’t done before.

As above, if anyone wants to come up with a better calculation, please, be my guest.

71

John Emerson 08.20.07 at 11:03 am

Brett, you’re the imbecile.

Flies! Flies!

We don’t know if the story was even inaccurate, but to you it’s a LIE, making Beauchamp a LIAR and everyone who doesn’t call him a LIAR is a LIAR too. You are STUPID and SILLY and and EGREGIOUS HACK.

72

John Emerson 08.20.07 at 11:16 am

My calculation is that, for the reasons I gave, Bush’s real risk factor was enough smaller than the one you calculated to make your calculation a waste of time.

I also doubt that pilots in training are at greater risk than combat pilots, though this depends on the kind of combat and perhaps in Vietnam it was true, since Vietnam didn’t have much of an air force.

I am of the Vietnam generation, and at that time the NG was generally regarded as a way of minimizing combat risk. Two Guards I knew personally thought of it that way themselves.

73

Barry 08.20.07 at 11:16 am

Brett, I’m still waiting for your several hundred pages of condemnation of the lies of Bush et al.

Greg: “…so it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that some of these trolls get paid.”

I think that Tim is one of those guys, who gets paid for being a ‘libertarian’ expert on whatever various corporations need. He’s also a global warming denialist.

74

bi 08.20.07 at 11:55 am

I’ll say it again:

Pollack? What Pollack?

75

abb1 08.20.07 at 12:26 pm

More rage. More rage. Keep building it on.
— Eric Harris

76

Barry 08.20.07 at 12:30 pm

“Third, he’s assuming that all F-102s were equally at risk in the US – flight conditions in Texas are far more friendly (better weather, better visibility) than elsewhere in the US or the rest of the world.”

Posted by ajay

Plus the TANG might not be flying in same bad weather that the USAF does. They probably had more slack in their schedule.

77

stostosto 08.20.07 at 12:52 pm

Quiggin says:

Some might suggest that the truth or falsity of these stories doesn’t matter much in the light of this. or this or this or this

More pertinent as to twisted behaviour in Iraq by Americans is this:

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20070730/hedges.

And of course this classic:

78

Alex 08.20.07 at 1:54 pm

Of course, accident rates are LOWER flying from airfields you don’t know (built of aluminium mat, dontcherknow) in tropical storms and low cloudbase than on 10,000x100ft concrete runways under the blue skies of Texas…

In fact, Timmeh, why not call the CAA and explain how we could get rid of all that instrument landing stuff and rely on Worstallnomics instead…deregulation, no?

79

Hogan 08.20.07 at 2:04 pm

Draw your own conclusions about which way the bias runs in New York City editorial offices, John P.

Since TNR’s editorial offices are actually in Washington, DC, it’s fair to conclude that every word Mike G writes is a lie. Lie lie lie.

80

roger 08.20.07 at 2:39 pm

This is a funny thread. Quiggins point is that Beauchamp’s story is trivial. It is trivial if it is true. It is trivial if it is false. Now, there is a dimension that is missing in this analysis, perhaps. The importance of a story can accrue a symbolic importance that nothing intrinsic to the story would seem to justify. It would be nice to know from the right why this story has such symbolic resonance for them. Although perhaps there is nobody on the right who possesses that level of self consciousness.

On the other hand, Quiggins makes a case that the deceptiveness of the O’Hanlon/Pollack report is non-trivial. It is non-trivial because it has played a major role in the recent administration campaign to make it seem like the surge is working. Here, a number of elements were important. First, O and P had to present themselves as war critics, countenancing the false impression that they were somehow opposed to the war. Of course, they were ardent supporters of the invasion and both supported the surge. Even George Bush has ‘accepted’ the fact that the war strategy was not working – he did so in the speech in which he announced the surge. According to the O’Hanlon and Pollack standard, this would make him a critic of the war. Suffice it to say that this is absurd.

More than that, the two gave a misleading sense of their visit. The visit was wholly designed by the military, so much so that they apparently did not ‘talk’ to Iraqis who were not vetted by the military. I put talk in quotes – O’Hanlon is manifestly unable to talk to Iraqis except in English. In any case, their credibility is truly hurt by omitting this fact.

And again, one wants to single out the small number of specific examples they give for why the surge is working on a national scale. This was the importance of the paragraph dedicated to Mosul, which was a particularly poor assessment of the configuration of forces in the Mosul region. It was almost ridiculously bad.

To mislead doesn’t alway mean to positively state false things. It can also mean leaving out pertinent matters of fact. This summer has seen a collapse of the Iraqi electric power system that is unprecedented, even compared to the last three years. Now, obviously, one of the tactics of the Sunni insurgency, one of the ways they are making the Shi’ite militias pay for the ethnic cleansing in Baghdad – which the American surge in Baghdad merely made official – is to ‘besiege’ the city by destroying the energy that goes to it, as cities used to be besieged by blocking food. They’ve succeeded. This is, I should point out, a military success story. The American surrender to the Sunni militias in Anbar province (on the rightwing sites, comically, this is treated as though the Sunnis were “flipped”, with one rightwing pyjamas media journalist, Michael Totten, even naively talking about how the Sunni paramilitaries are America’s ‘friends’) hasn’t solved this problem. Rather, it is getting wider and wider, as other Iraqi cities are getting off the grid. The idea that there is a neat split between the military and the political in Iraq is one of the many stupidities that come out of the mouth of the supposed foreign policy elite who manage to get their screeds posted on the Washington Post op ed page. It isn’t true. It has never been true for any insurgency. It is not true now.

The surge, far from working, merely highlights a fact that was laid down, in the most banal fashion, by General Shinseki before the invasion. You can’t occupy a country like Iraq with less than 400,000 soldiers. You couldn’t do it in 2003. You couldn’t do it in 2004. You couldn’t do it in 2005 or 2006. And you can’t do it now. Period. The game has long been over.

that a post concerned with comparing a story that is, if true, completely trivial, and if false, completely trivial

81

roger 08.20.07 at 2:41 pm

Sorry for the floater lines at the end, which I should have erased.

82

Fronts NYC 08.20.07 at 3:23 pm

Put me down as someone who couldn’t care less whether Beauchamp’s stories are true or not, but is inclined to believe them anyway. What amazes me is how banal the behavior described in them really is. In a country where a few thousand drill-ridden, executed corpses show up on the streets every month, does anyone really give a shit whether our troops kill a few stray dogs? Or make fun of someone with a burned face?

I’m inclined to believe his stories, simply because of the litany of other accounts, memoirs, etc. of life, and degradation thereof in combat. This is hardly shocking stuff, and I could just as easily see the wingers defending this behavior if some gung-ho slack-jaw made a song out of it like “Hadj Girl”–a big hit among right-wing blogs that gleefully describes “blowing away” small children–in light of this and many other real examples of the utter dehumanization of both soldiers and civilians alike in a war zones, can anyone really be all that skeptical about these anecdotes?

I think the heart of the matter is simply how people view war. If you read any major memoir or account of life in combat from “All Quiet on the Western Front” to “A Rumor of War” to “Jarhead” to “The Short Timers” you will get a depiction of the alternate reality of war, the total dehumanization of those involved, and the subsequent madness–which is really the only rational response the brain can muster to deal with ceaseless horror and death–that follows.

However, if you see war and combat as first and foremost a glorious character building exercise, then you probably would be offended when a narrative emerges that challenges the accepted wisdom that all US soldiers are unimpeachable saints. You’d also be a child.

83

K T Cat 08.20.07 at 3:47 pm

Right on, John Q! Facts are totally overrated. I’m behind you all the way. I even made a YouTube video for the occasion and embedded it on my blog.

Enjoy.

84

Tim Worstall 08.20.07 at 4:01 pm

“I think that Tim is one of those guys, who gets paid for being a ‘libertarian’ expert on whatever various corporations need. He’s also a global warming denialist.”

Like other freelance writers, I get paid by those I write for. That includes (and has included) TCS Daily (clearly, that infects whatever I write or say anywhere, ever), the Adam Smith Institute, the Murdoch press, the Barclay brothers, Quinstreet Inc and others. So, yes, I have indeed been paid by corporations for whatever they need. As are all such freelance writers.

As to “global warming denialist” you’ll have to look long and hard to find me being anything so damn stupid. My view is, and has been for years, similar to that of Lomborg. Yes, it’s happening, yes, we’re causing it, through a combination of fossil fuel usage and changes in land use. The important and interesting questions are what do we do now? Yes, I’ve even said that in pieces at TCS.

Alex, are you seriously trying to suggest that accident rates are not high in the early stages of pilot training?

85

John Emerson 08.20.07 at 4:27 pm

I’ve read that novice pilots lead a charmed life, and that there are never, ever, fatal accidents during the early training period. Only fully trained pilots ever crash their planes.

Atheists give ridiculous naturalist explanations for this, but that doesn’t make any sense at all. God does it.

86

ajay 08.20.07 at 4:51 pm

Err, no. Accident rates are always higher in training. Because people are being trained to do things they haven’t done before.

You’re not in the aviation safety business, Tim. Please don’t try to tell those of us who are (or at least used to be) how to do our jobs.

Proof that student pilots have fewer accidents than operational pilots: http://www.soa.org/library/research/transactions-reports-of-mortality-moribidity-and-experience/1949-59/1957/january/TSR573.pdf
(scroll to table 8)

Death rate is three times as high for full-time fighter pilots as for full-time primary flight school students.

Though training does indeed involve learning to do things, it’s normally done under controlled conditions. To make it clearer, who do you think has a higher risk of death – a 19-year-old taking driving lessons, or a 19-year-old who’s passed his test? Even though one of them is “training”? Apart from anything else, a student will often have an IP in the aircraft with him.

87

jcasey 08.20.07 at 4:59 pm

More loopy a priori analysis attempting to establish a straightforward factual question: Did Bush volunteer to fight in Viet Nam (in a war he supported). Answer: No.

Wasn’t the topic of this post the significance of Beauchamp’s “dispatches” from the front?

88

John Emerson 08.20.07 at 5:13 pm

No, the topic of this post was swatting flies.

89

bi 08.20.07 at 7:44 pm

Pollack? What Pollack? What?

90

Jean Camp 08.20.07 at 9:27 pm

However, if you see war and combat as first and foremost a glorious character building exercise, then you probably would be offended when a narrative emerges that challenges the accepted wisdom that all US soldiers are unimpeachable saints. You’d also be a child.

This is a lovely idea. It ignores all the Iraqi children who have died. It ignores that many soldiers who have died are too close to children to be allowed a beer in the US under penalty of law.

Those under 12, 16, or 18 are not under a magic blanket during war.

I think you meant:
You would also be a fool.

91

lakerg 08.20.07 at 10:19 pm

So your argument is that it does not matter if a story is true, as long as it advances the anti-war cause?

At least you’re honest about it.

92

Barry 08.20.07 at 10:20 pm

Tim Worstall: “My view is, and has been for years, similar to that of Lomborg.”

Confession accepted, Tim. Usually one wishes to compare oneself with somebody who’s *not* so full of it his eyeballs are brown.

93

aaron 08.20.07 at 11:16 pm

You need to spell out for me what your critisism of the Pollak and O’Hanlon piece is.

I stopped reading it because I didn’t find it worth reading past the first page. Perhaps that’s why it hasn’t been critiqued? I don’t see what your concern is, they didn’t misrepresent their trip. The closest they come to that is the line, “As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq,” might lead the most zealous to think they were anti-war.

John Q, keep writing. You make me laugh.

94

Robert 08.21.07 at 6:53 am

I don’t think Tim Worstall understands much about anything he writes about. But he does have enviable skills of promotion and marketing.

95

Tim Worstall 08.21.07 at 7:33 am

“Death rate is three times as high for full-time fighter pilots as for full-time primary flight school students.”

Indeed it is, thanks for the correction. “Primary flight scool” is what, the single engined prop trainers? Or does that include the jet training? The figures also show much higher accident death rates for 2 nd Lts than higher ranks: arguable at least that such are still “training” in some sense?

But with those figures available, anyone want to (obviously, with my command of statistics, it’s not going to be me) offer what is the risk of death in training and early flight experience on jet fighters?

96

MFB 08.21.07 at 9:06 am

I fancy the subtext of Mr. Worstall’s posts are “My beloved President’s penis looked really impressive in that flight-suit!”.

Well, he’s entitled to his opinion.

97

SG 08.21.07 at 9:08 am

I sense another David Kane in the making…

98

Tim Worstall 08.21.07 at 10:17 am

Given that I’m English he’s not “my president”…

99

ajay 08.21.07 at 10:22 am

You supported him in ’04, you own him now.

100

aaron 08.21.07 at 10:39 am

Tim, Tim. You should know better than to point out when someone is wrong. That’s not pollite. Stick to the narrative, lest you be called names.

101

alphie 08.21.07 at 10:42 am

I think the lower-class American right-wingers don’t really care that the swells lied us into a war…but Beauchamp is a class traitor, an unforgivable sin.

With the unions in decline, the military is all they got.

102

Barry 08.21.07 at 10:52 am

93, aaron:”You need to spell out for me what your critisism of the Pollak and O’Hanlon piece is.”

Perhaps reading the article up top there, before the comments, would be useful.

103

Barry 08.21.07 at 10:54 am

Tim Worstall: “Given that I’m English he’s not “my president”…”

Tim, the man has the power to order you imprisoned forever and tortured, purely at his will.

104

Barry 08.21.07 at 10:57 am

“I think the lower-class American right-wingers don’t really care that the swells lied us into a war…but Beauchamp is a class traitor, an unforgivable sin.

With the unions in decline, the military is all they got.”

Posted by alphi

That’s the whole theme of the posts – the people parsing every word of Beauchamp’s are, probably without exception, people who’ve eagerly swallowed vast lies from the administration.

105

roger 08.21.07 at 8:38 pm

Tim, throughout this thread I wasn’t clear about your point. But then it dawned on me. You saw what Bush was up to! The young George Bush was turning up his nose at the mild dangers offered by Vietnam, a pitiful shirking of the extreme risk he craved. To get that buzz, to get that something that would help him live at the edge of his teeth, he looked around and saw – with that great sense for the central fact we all adore in our commander and chief – that defending the state of Alabama was just the ticket, and learning how to pilot an jet would calm his too macho and daring heart. I see what you are talking about now! Are great leaders just like this? Even in their youth, when you look at it, they are always out there on the hazardous frontier. I myself would quail before the very thought – in 1971, who knew what dangers lurked around the corner for Bama? But I, and I daresay you, are lesser mortals. Not made of the right stuff.

I like this story! In a sense, it is true for Cheney too. He saw that the real battles, where the blood means something and a man can prove himself, was as a paper pusher in D.C. Not many people are even aware of the cuts you can get from some of that paper. Oh, it is sharp, let nobody tell you different. The loungers and slackers at Danang were getting free beer and bong hits, while Dick was risking forefinger and thumb for his country – cause he has always been about being all out.

George and Dick, brave then, and even braver now.

106

aaron 08.21.07 at 10:11 pm

Barry, read the whole thing. Now I think John Q is an even bigger idiot.

The trip was clearly about visiting officials, not meandering the streets on Anbar to write a tourist book on how to haggle in the markets.

107

aaron 08.21.07 at 10:15 pm

(Though, to John’s credit, he did get me to read what turned out to be a good article. And I also found the article from the sargents interesting. I would have missed both otherwise.)

108

John Quiggin 08.21.07 at 10:21 pm

Aaron at #106 “read the whole thing”

Aaron at #93 “I stopped reading it because I didn’t find it worth reading past the first page. “

If you want to explain the persistence of the parallel universe you couldn’t do much better than this.

109

aaron 08.22.07 at 1:18 am

Huh? There’s something wrong with changing moods? (I read the full post before barry’s comment.)

110

aaron 08.22.07 at 1:34 am

(You’re post and thread were both the motivation to start the article and eventually finish it. Again, thanks.)

111

aaron 08.22.07 at 1:39 am

Sorry about the lysdexic typing: “You’re” should be “Your”.

112

Tim Worstall 08.22.07 at 7:57 am

“Tim, throughout this thread I wasn’t clear about your point. But then it dawned on me.”

Glad it got across. That learning to fly jet fighters is not risk free (as, say, joining the bureaucracy is).

113

SG 08.22.07 at 8:19 am

So your point Tim, is that Bush is not a coward because rather than do a boring, high risk and dirty job for a war he supported, he would rather have joined the ANG and done some high-risk, high-adrenaline activities more suited to his youthful exuberance? And all of this stateside, in the comfort of decent digs?

Does this mean that he also would not be a coward if he had decided to pike on the Vietnam war in favour of say, being a racing car driver? Or a bungee jumper? But that some honest, sensible American worker who volunteered and got assigned to cooking duties in a US base in Korea is a coward?

I don’t think you’ve proved much here, even if your calculations were not completely wrong.

114

Craig 08.23.07 at 1:55 pm

What was the Big Story that Rather was pursuing? That GW Bush had family connections that kept him stateside? Only 98% of the country already believed that.

Kerry’s purported war hero status was sandbagged by his over-the-top Senate hearing testimony in ’71.

Does everyone have to be so invested in their side’s narrative – we’re winning, we’re losing – that they can’t grasp the complexity that the surge is working AND the Iraqis under Maliki are hopelessly incapable losers? That we need NSA wiretap surveillance AND Bush is incompetent?

The concept of “AND” appears to be fading from public discourse as the partisan lines are drawn.

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engels 08.24.07 at 3:05 am

learning to fly jet fighters is not risk free

Neither is bungee jumping.

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engels 08.24.07 at 5:32 pm

More pointedly, neither is drunk driving. But the more important issue here is what could possibly drive a relatively reasonable guy like Tim Worstall, whose politics had appeared to begin and end with innocuously batty enthusiams for the Stockmarket, killing furry animals and Keeping The Pound, to try to portray Chimpy McTwat’s Vietnam war record as anything other than a desperate scramble to keep his sorry ass as far from the firing line as possible?

Perhaps that is a question an economist could answer.

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