A Few Good Men — or Not

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 1 month ago

It seems as if half of the blog-0-sphere has spilled ink on the issue of young Private Scott Thomas Beauchamp and his ugly charges: mass graves in Baghdad (in my city we call these ‘cemeteries’), mental abuse of IED victims, and other such things (see here, here, here, here and here).  I have resisted as long as I can, and feel that I should have shared my thoughts long ago.  So now, TCJ weighs in on the young Private.

I think we should have an investigation.  The PAOs and lawyers could lead it.  Perhaps we should transfer Beauchamp.  Yes I suppose that’s right.  I suppose that’s the thing to do.  Wait.  Wait.  I’ve got a better idea.  Let’s transfer the whole squad off the base.  Let’s — on second thought, the whole division … let’s transfer ‘em off the base.  Go on out there and get those boys down off the fence, they’re packing their bags.

Get me the President on the phone; tell him we’re surrendering our position in Baghdad.  Wait a minute.  We won’t call the President just yet.  Perhaps we ought to consider this a second.  Maybe we have a responsibility to this country to see that the men and women charged with its security are trained professionals.  Yes.  I’m certain I once read that somewhere.  And now I’m thinking that our idea of investigations and hand wringing and surrender, while expeditious, and certainly painless, might not be in a manner of speaking, the American way.

Young Private Beauchamp has had a lot of extra time on his hands.  He has had time to send e-mail, make telephone calls, and perhaps even eat ice cream.  After all, they have a dining hall, a place to actually sit and eat chow.  After considering surrender, I have changed my mind and I advocate training young Beauchamp.  Yes, that’s it!  There are Marines in Combat Outposts in Fallujah who have no chance to eat ice cream in dining halls.  They take showers by using baby wipes, and they have to burn their human waste in pits of stinking fire.  They have no electrical power, and no amenities.  They certainly don’t write e-mails home to use as articles for or against anything.  They are busy 20 hours out of the day, and sometimes 24 hours out of the day.

Young Beauchamp needs to be trained.  He badly needs to stay busy.  Young Beauchamp needs to be on patrol, picking up a rifle and standing a post, and contributing to Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Let’s send him out to the Combat Outposts where he will learn to work.  His unit badly needs discipline and motivation.  The United States of America has an obligation to instill these things and train young Private Beauchamp.  I am certain that I read that somewhere.

  • Dominique R. Poirier

    I’m not surprised at all; to the point that the contrary would surprise me. Not that I personally experienced or witnessed such behavior in times and places of war, but because I read some books and accounts detailing similar misbehavior, and which explain why such things happen during wartime. In particular, I remember some things I learned from a psychiatry study published by the French ministry of defense whose title, I still remember it, is Psychiatrie Militaire en Situation Operationnelle (Military Psychiatry during Operational Situation)—sorry to those who would like to read this book, but I have unable to find it on Amazon.
    This interesting study describes the psychological troubles experienced by soldiers during wartime and after, and other post traumatic effects. Cases relating to different wars were introduced to and analyzed and explained.

    For very obvious reasons, soldiers may succumb to psychological troubles. A soldier is not a cold and insensible machine. He is a human being who, before he enlisted, has been taught to be polite, respectful towards others human beings, and to be careful toward domestic animals, and law abiding, etc. Also, he has been taught that he could expect similar behavior from other human beings.

    But all those values collapse when one put one’s feet on a battlefield and is confronted to wartime in general. To some ones the omnipresence of violence may even get overwhelming and it overwhelms their mind, indeed. They just get no longer able to clearly make difference between good and bad behavior; what is normal and what is not. To some of them a a less or more conscious need to escape the situation installs; a need to psychologically escape, I mean. A need to escape the feeling of insecurity which arises when one sees his fellows wounded, mutilated, burned; smells the unbearable staunch of burned meat; sees burned and half burned cadavers still stuck in their last motion as if stultified; experiences the repeated sight of people crying and weeping, etc. There is an obvious and perfectly normal need to escape all this, because it is a sign of immediat danger and because it is just unbearable for anyone is psychologically well balanced and has been raised with care in a normal middle and in peacetime and in a civilized country.

    This is at this point that a particular psychological phenomenon happens, which psychiatrist name “compensation.?
    Those who do not compensate may get authentically mad or experience serious traumas.
    In the case of soldiers experiencing wartime compensation sometimes manifests itself under the form of violent behavior; violence toward others, or just toward animals if not possible against other human beings. And, to the surprise of many observers, this violence allows a return toward…well being and mental balance. This reaction of active violence done in order to escape passive violence takes root in our Reptilian brain. I previously explained how and why in one of my previous comments on this same weblog (see http://www.captainsjournal.com/2007/05/13/religion-and-insurgency-a-response-to-dave-kilcullen/ comment number 18).

    Those who would like to know more about compensation can find more at this link:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compensation_%28psychology%29

    The symptoms of compensation through violence are very similar to those of psychopathy, a mental disorder more commonly known and thus referenced in the DSM IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition) under the name of “antisocial disorder.?

    U.S. psychiatrists have previously well identified those troubles and learned how to detect them. For example, they noticed that some soldiers seemed to have unusually good mental balance when they came back from Vietnam where they had been affected to units and area in which and where daily life couldn’t but be particularly difficult. It was surprising since most of their comrades were experiencing post traumatic troubles such as repeated nightmare, angst crisis, etc, in revenge. While investigating their cases military psychiatrists discovered that those particularly resilient soldiers had compensated all along. How? In behaving violently, toward locals, and even toward their comrades (some popularly known war movies about the Vietnam War drag people’s attention on this phenomenon).

    Some of those soldiers thus got used to compensate and they resumed their behavior once back in the United States. They were just no longer able to go back to normal life. In many cases those troubled people got members of violent motorbike gangs; some became criminals or arms or drug traffickers in third world countries, some became soldiers of fortune.

    Similar behaviors were noticed in France in the aftermath of WWII and many former French resistants and Nazi collaborators who had joined the Gamma Militia or the Gestapo found a new way of life, a “refuge,” in criminality. Some of those criminals regularly made newspaper frontpages during the two decades following WWII. The French intelligence service even recruited some of them as hired guns. Thus was the case, notoriously known nowadays, of Jo Attia (and of his sinister friends Abel Danos, George Boucheseiche, and Pierre Loutrel, aka Pierrot le Fou), who was hired to abduct and assassinate, in 1965, Medhi Ben Barka, the political opponent to the Moroccan king Hassan II.

    In conclusion of all this I do not say that the misbehavior of certain U.S. soldiers in Iraq is normal, but that it is unavoidable and predictable.

  • Catharsis

    Why PAOs?

  • http://www.captainsjournal.com/ Herschel Smith

    The second formal communication I saw (one of the links I gave) was from a PAO. Nothing intended about PAOs or anyone else. Just in case the sarcasm doesn’t come through loud and clear, I don’t really want an investigation conducted by lawyers and PAOs, or anyone else for that matter. Pvt. Beauchamp’s fantastical tales bore me. I believe we should train young Beauchamp and get back to the business of OIF.


You are currently reading "A Few Good Men — or Not", entry #560 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Iraq,Military Blogging and was published July 27th, 2007 by Herschel Smith.

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