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June 27, 2005
And On The Seventh Day, We Prosecuted 'Em

The Washington Post posts an AP report this afternoon about boot-camp abuse that carries the breathless headline, "Army Recruits Quickly Abused in Training". The opening paragraphs describe the abuse given to recruits at Fort Knox, right from the time they climbed down off the bus -- or in this case, thrown off of it:

The recruits of Echo Company stumbled off the bus for basic training at Fort Knox to the screams of red-faced drill instructors. That much was expected. But it got worse from there.

Echo Company's top drill instructor seized a recruit by the back of the neck and threw him to the ground. Other soldiers were poked, grabbed or cursed.

Once inside the barracks, Pvt. Jason Steenberger says, he was struck in the chest by the top D.I. and kicked "like a football." Andrew Soper, who has since left the Army, says he was slapped and punched in the chest by another drill instructor. Pvt. Adam Roster says he was hit in the back and slammed into a wall locker.

Eventually, four Army drill instructors and the company commander would be brought up on charges. Four have been convicted so far.

Twenty years ago, the armed services decided that the old-school physical abuse and verbal duress that had trained American conscripts for decades was no longer desirable -- and for good reason. The new American military consisted of willing recruits, for one thing, who did not need to have authority established as oppressively as earlier generations of draftees. Even more to the point, numerous studies both within the services and in comparable outside agencies had proven the superiority of lower-stress, more professional basic training. The Pentagon barred physical violence and harassing language not only due to increased sensitivity and co-ed training, but just because it interfered with the best possible training environment.

This account sounds as if the problem has suddenly arisen and represents a growing problem with the American military. It dovetails nicely with the picture being painted by Amnesty International about how the same military treats its prisoners, and with comments from elected officials about detention facilities being transformed into "hellholes" by the Pentagon. What readers don't find out until after the jump -- ten paragraphs into the story -- is when this case took place:

The abuse took place in early February. An Army investigation began the next week, as the company's leaders were removed and the 25 recruits were sent to another command. Six of the trainees have since left the Army, including two who went AWOL.

This story has been known for four months. Within days of the incident, other soldiers reported the abuse, and those involved were relieved of duty. The Army has successfully court-martialed four of the people involved, including the company commander, Captain William Fulton, who got six months of confinement. The recruits were transferred to a different command to complete their training. If the reader gets all the way through the article, he finds out that there were 120 allegations of abuse in all of 2004, resulting in 16 DIs got relieved as a result -- and the rate for 2005 is half of that for last year.

In other words, the Army had the right processes in place to catch this abuse when it occurred and prosecuted the people responsible. That sounds to me as though the Army doesn't tolerate abuse and is willing to punish those who break the rules, in this case with serious jail time.

One has to wonder why the AP decided to run this story now, and why the Washington Post thought it newsworthy more than four months after the fact, and why both pushed the Army's quick reaction to the bottom of the story. It just provides another example of a hostility to the military that appears to run through the Exempt Media.

UPDATE: People have begun to notice this hostility, if this Pew poll gives any indication, as NRO's Media Blog points out:

Beyond the rising criticism of press performance and patriotism, there also has been significant erosion in support for the news media's watchdog role over the military. Nearly half (47%) say that by criticizing the military, news organizations are weakening the nation's defenses; 44% say such criticism keeps the nation militarily prepared. The percentage saying press criticism weakens American defenses has been increasing in recent years and now stands at its highest point in surveys dating to 1985.

Slanted articles like this create the complaints that Pew found in its survey.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 27, 2005 7:02 PM

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» A few "Bad Apples" Doesn't Equal the Whole Bunch from Macmind - Conservative Commentary and Common Sense
(Hat tip Captain's Quarters Blogwhere he covers the aftermath of this incident where the guilty were relieved and punished. Nuff said there. In the Mac'ster's opinion ARMY PAO should call for an immediate corretion of the headline, as it is truly sla... [Read More]

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