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August 28, 2008

Sgt. Hatley doth protest too much

Guest post by Nell of A Lovely Promise

Remember the right-wing screechfest last summer when soldier Scott Beauchamp wrote a pseudonymous article for The New Republic in which he related incidents of casual brutality by members of his unit, such as running over dogs with a Bradley and disrespecting Iraqi remains? The Army brass, some members of his unit, and eventually TNR hung him out to dry.

Now it turns out that at the very time some of Beauchamp's company members, including one Sgt. John Hatley, were denouncing his account as fabrication, at least seven of them were aware that Hatley and two others under his command had murdered four handcuffed Iraqi prisoners and dumped their bodies in a canal in southwest Baghdad a few months before.

But hey, they'd never kill any dogs, man.

Spencer Ackerman recently released a backgrounder/update he wrote last year on Beauchamp. He notes at his blog that the Army began an investigation into the murders of the prisoners this past January, though they wouldn't confirm at the time that the unit in question was Beauchamp's.

—Nell Lancaster

Posted at August 28, 2008 04:31 PM

That was news to me about Beauchamp--last I vaguely recall the Army was getting people to say they couldn't back up his stories.

Spence Ackerman's claim that 99.99infinity of our troops conduct themselves with honor seems a bit over the top to me. What other group would you say that about?

Posted by: Donald Johnson at August 28, 2008 06:05 PM

Ackerman goes overboard on the benefit-of-the-doubt because he values his cred among troop types (he was in Iraq reporting for a while), and because that's important political cover for his leftish foreign policy views.

I appreciate his having published the Beauchamp backgrounder because it's clear that the Army was actively cooperating with the right-wing screamers and not with TNR (who, for instance, passed those docs they had B. sign to Goldfarb, yet didn't make them available to Beauchamp himself?)

How many other incidents like this are out there, where no one involved is going to talk?

The Fallujah prisoner killing (blogged at my site) only came out because one of the perps went through Secret Service screening. The Mahmoudiyah rape and murders only came out in the counseling aftermath of other platoon members being kidnaped and killed, yet almost everyone in the platoon had known about it for months -- as probably did the brass who discharged Green for psychological reasons within a month of the crime. The Haditha massacre only became known because a resident made a video of the aftermath, and those images eventually spurred Time reporters to look into it. Higher-ups there knew from the beginning that the cover story of a "firefight" was garbage.

So pardon me if I don't take the approach that the only military murders are the ones already documented -- and even those we know about involve more than .000001 of the troops deployed in Iraq.

Posted by: Nell at August 28, 2008 06:48 PM

The item that caught my attention was that one of the three murderous officers mentioned was a medic.

Think about that.

Posted by: artguy at August 28, 2008 07:14 PM

Yeah; queasy-making. Hatley's a piece of work.

Posted by: Nell at August 28, 2008 08:01 PM

Occupation armies always commit atrocities.

They need to cause fear among the indigenes. It's the only lever they've really got.

Probably close to 50% of troops on the ground have committed deeds which would qualify as crimes in civilian spheres.

It'spart of the territory. Being always vulnerable, and always visible in their uniforms, they are always targets. They and their buddies are always taking fire, getting injured and/or killed, in seemingly arbitrary attacks, they therefore shoot first and ask questions later, if at all...

It's not their 'fault,' since they shouldn't be there to begi with. The criminals are the leaders who propel the troops into harm's way: Bush, Cheney, vonRumsfeldt, Gates, Rice, Powell, the lot.

No USer soldier in Iraq will ever get hard time for any deeds done to Iraqis in Iraq. Nagahapun...

Posted by: woody, tokin librul at August 28, 2008 08:06 PM

Can't completely agree, woody.

The greater crime is certainly committed by the men and women who sent the troops there on the basis of lies, and those people won't do the time for their crime.

But a decorated First Sergeant who kills handcuffed, blindfolded prisoners and dumps their bodies in a canal should be on the hook for murder. Period.

Posted by: Nell at August 28, 2008 08:17 PM

Or, alternatively, everyone in the country could shut the f*** up about honor. But that's nagahapun, either. So, given that the blather will go on, I'm for giving it a shred of meaning.

Posted by: Nell at August 28, 2008 08:20 PM

Interesting find, Nell.

Armies at war have an interesting inverted moral logic.

1. The worst crime is to kill a dog;

2. the second worst is to kill a prisoner.

Both are bad and might get you court-martialed (especially the dog).

But if you get to annihilate an entire city, then you get the Medal of Freedom.

That also means that your punishment is inversely proportional to your rank in the army.

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at August 28, 2008 08:20 PM

Credit for the find is due Bernhard at Moon of Alabama and Spencer Ackerman, as well as the NYT reporter Paul Zielbauer (mil atrocity beat) who got hold of the statements by shooters Mayo and Leahy. [All are linked in the post.]

Thanks to Jonathan for the opportunity to post it here rather than only on my justly invisible blog.

Posted by: Nell at August 28, 2008 08:27 PM
That also means that your punishment is inversely proportional to your rank in the army. -- Posted by Bernard Chazelle at August 28, 2008 08:20 PM

It is criminal to steal a purse, daring to steal a fortune, a mark of greatness to steal a crown. The blame diminishes as the guilt increases.
-- Johann Friedrich Von Schiller

Each human is judged alone. Bush, his party and his democratic allies all deserve to burn for Iraq. Soldiers in Iraq, however, have no excuse for atrocities. Keep in mind, the atrocities we have heard about have done nothing for the saftey of those concerned. These rapes and murders are indulgences, nothing more.

It is the generals, the planners, who create "saftey-driven" atrocities -- slaughtering thousands to make the cities safe for a tiny number of their own troops. They are still guilty, though, because they could jockey their own orders and choose a different tack in occupation (as could lower-ranking soldiers whose fellows are about to rape or murder). They could preserve innocent lives, prevent atrocities by low-level soldiers, and protect their troops, if they but rejected the Administration's plan.

Some of you will point out that resistance to atrocity will very likely mean insubordintion, especially for officers, as if this is some sort of defense. It isn't, and throwing it out as such is immoral. If you have a choice between heinous sin and loss of property and respect, you choose to lose the property and respect.

Further, I'd say if your peer is about to rape or murder and the only way to stop it is to kill them, you are morally obligated to kill them without hesitation.

But oh, now I may well hear from those who say that killing, or suicide (as resistance to atrocity would very likely be -- see also, Pat Tillman) is too much to ask.

If you think this, and would post: fuck you in advance. I mean it. I really don't want to share a country with you.

You sign up for the military, you'd better be prepared to die. Those soldiers who ate their guns rather than indulge in shameful acts -- those guys were honorable. They didn't have an impossible choice, they had a hard choice, and they made it. It would have been even more honorable had they taken out some of the assholes perpetrating crimes before they went (and some may well have -- cover-ups of soldier rapes and murders abound, maybe cover-ups of mutiny are common as well), but that's a tremendous amount to ask of anyone. Broken by the evil around them, it may well took all they had to reclaim what honor was left to them by suicide. And any notes about the same that could have explained this to family could well be destroyed by our occupying forces.

To choose prison, torture, or death over committing heinous sins is not an impossibility. It is a mark of high character, one that Empire cannot tolerate. Most of us have been trained to reject this choice by the very Empire that tells us to ignore atrocity.

I know that many enlisted women and men didn't have the wit to think about all this philosophy before joining up. (This is why merely joining the military isn't necessarily the moral choice that some liberals think it is. It depends upon the soldier. A thoughtful soldier is liable for putting on the uniform and going with the flow.) They didn't know all this could happen. Stupid? Yes, tremendously, pathetically stupid. But that's people. Remember who you went to high school with: that's how the bulk of us are. Now that they're there, the only choices they can make are hard. I am most certainly sympathetic: their lives were thrown away by monsters. But that doesn't excuse evil to innocents.

Posted by: No One of Consequence at August 29, 2008 09:56 AM

This reminds me of how Adm. Hoffman started the Shit Boat Veterans to smear Kerry. As it turned out, Hoffman also protested too much: he had ordered one of his junior officers to murder Vietnamese fisherman and punished him when he refused.

By the way, Michael Goldfarb (the creep who slimed Beauchamp) is now a spokesman for Dungeon Master McCain.

Posted by: Jelperman at August 29, 2008 11:54 AM

The problem is our society. Our society does not foster or reward moral courage in the least.

And you whiny motherfuckers sit here and cry when you send your immoral sons and daughters overseas and they act immorally. Meanwhile you all sit here in America rich as hell sending your 40% tithe to feed the war machine. Just as long as it leaves you alone so you can live your lives like decadent tyrants of old. Soaked in luxury and ignorance.

Bottom line: if you are a taxpaying USA citizen, you are the problem. And yes I was there. A younger more ignorant me.

-1 The Truth Hurts

Posted by: tim at August 29, 2008 05:39 PM

And I refuse to put it in nice non threatening, non accusatory tones either.

We don't deserve it.

Posted by: tim at August 29, 2008 05:42 PM