14. October 2004 · Comments Off on Memo: Up With This, I Will Not Put · Categories: General, Iraq, Media Matters Not

From: Sgt Mom
Re: Allegations of Iraq Atrocity

1. The journalist Seymour Hersh, who has a long established reputation— although what sort of reputation is a matter of hot debate amongst the cognoscenti—was interviewed himself recently (link here), and among a number of other interesting allegations, made this one:

In the evening’s most emotional moment, Hersh talked about a call he had gotten from a first lieutenant in charge of a unit stationed halfway between Baghdad and the Syrian border. His group was bivouacking outside of town in an agricultural area, and had hired 30 or so Iraqis to guard a local granary. A few weeks passed. They got to know the men they hired, and to like them. Then orders came down from Baghdad that the village would be “cleared.” Another platoon from the soldier’s company came and executed the Iraqi granary guards. All of them. “He said they just shot them one by one. And his people, and he, and the villagers of course, went nuts,” Hersh said quietly. “He was hysterical, totally hysterical. He went to the company captain, who said, ‘No, you don’t understand, that’s a kill. We got 36 insurgents. Don’t you read those stories when the Americans say we had a combat maneuver and 15 insurgents were killed?’

2. Since reputable journalists are generally supposed to loiter meaningfully in the vicinity of independently verifiable facts, I will briefly entertain the supposition that Mr. Hersh is in possession of reliable information, and urge him to inform the responsible military law and judicial authorities immediately. He has been informed of the commission of a crime of particularly heinous nature. His duty is clear as a law-abiding citizen, especially given an alleged crime of this particular gravity, a duty from which status as a journalist should not excuse him. Investigation, courts-martial, conviction; it worked for My Lai, and Abu Graib, with which cases Mr. Hersh should be most familiar.

3. A fair number of people with whom I have shared this story, and discussed via e-mail and weblog comments agree with me that it reeks, with the reek of week-old mackerel steaming in a boxcar parked in on a siding in West Texas on a sultry summer day. (critique here, from commenter #28, “Jarhead”). The points have been made that something like this would be impossible to keep secret for long, given the number of American soldiers or Marines present, all of them presumably cognizant of their responsibilities vis-à-vis war crimes and illegal orders. One must also note the propensity for parties like Al-Jazeera and Human Rights Watch to squeal (at length and in Technicolor) about a supposed incident as this one as if their private parts were in a bench vise. In this age of interconnectedness, of the internet, weblogs and e-mail, this sort of story would have wings. Atrocities do not happen in a vacuum these days.

4. If this is a fabrication, then Mr. Hersh is calumniating our professionalism, our honor and our competence. In going before a credulous audience and representing the American military in Iraq to have committed such a brutally stupid and counter-productive act, he is bearing false witness. He has standing as a journalist, a degree of credibility amongst the great and the good, authoritative contacts in the political and intelligence establishment; what he says may stick, and stick for a long time.

5. This may seem a trivial thing, these days; an aging anti-establishment figure telling an audience at Berkeley what they yearn to hear, but it angers me to know that someone is making a career out of sliming the military. I don’t want to repeat the decade where we had to take care about wearing uniforms in public, of leaving military experience off resumes, of being harassed in airports. These new accusations must be countered, debunked, shown up. This is not 1968, despite so many wishes that it were. We can go toe to toe with those who defame us for their own purposes, or at least urge that justice be done on those whose actions defame us.

I sincerely hope that this story may be comprehensively debunked and Mr. Hersh join Mr. Rather in the corner of irrelevance.

Sgt Mom.

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