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6 Sept 2006

Also known as simply Pvt Scott Thomas in news releases, Beauchamp reported extensive sadistic behavior on the part of three soldiers in his battalion in Iraq.


  • Yes, given the backdrop of Abu Ghraib and the Haditha massacre (Marines killed 24 civilians).
  • No, if you want to hang tough on the idea that Americans are all good guys--because they are American.

Beauchamp may well have exaggerated. He may well have retracted his story under army pressure. But that could simply be a case of the lowest-ranked soldier not being able to stand up to the SYSTEM that Phillip Zimbardo identified so poignantly. After all, the cruelty Beauchamp reported was not extreme compared with Abu Ghraib or Haditha. His story also fits well with the "natural" violence in America today. We choose to believe there is at least something to it. Some of Beauchamp's fellow soldiers agree, according the The New Republic.

We also believe that the heartbeat for peace is powerful. So powerful that many of us are in denial, the US Army especially. Form obviously comes ahead of substance when a sergeant on night shift at Abu Ghraib is given the maximum sentence while his supervising Colonel is acquitted of serious crime. The evidence implicates the SYSTEM.

There is something wrong, when denial is recognized, as it was after Abu Ghraib, yet nothing is done. That recognition was common on the street: enlisted personnel would be convicted, their officers would not. It goes without saying.

Are we all really happy with a system that denies reality for the sake of appearances?

It is well known in psychotherapy circles that a client in emotional distress will not improve until s/he really wants to.

Are we as a nation not in a similar boat?

Those of us who care certainly have our work cut out for us.


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