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).