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by Burt Prelutsky
by Mark Steyn
||Time Magazine Massacres the Truth
Time magazine's story of an alleged Marine massacre in Haditha,
Iraq, has been falling apart.
Thanks to Time and Rep. John Murtha, the name "Haditha" has gained signature
status as an American atrocity, even though the facts are not in. Haditha has
even been compared to the My Lai massacre, in which U.S. forces killed a group
of Vietnamese, during the Vietnam War. But as a media story, "Haditha" is beginning
to look more like Operation
Tailwind, a story that sounded sensational and damaging to U.S. forces
before it was exposed as a fraud. The Haditha massacre story could turn out
to be as phony as the Bush National Guard documents that scandalized CBS News.
Tailwind was primarily a CNN fiasco, one thing both stories
have in common is Time magazine, CNN's partner in the Tailwind
story. Another is that
they are both stories that make extremely serious allegations against the U.S.
military, based on highly questionable sources, presented in a deceitful manner.
Haditha is a town in Iraq that had remained a haven for Sunni insurgents and
foreign jihadists. On the morning of November 19, 2005, according to Time,
U.S. forces were involved in deliberately killing Iraqi civilians. But Time has already had to correct and amend its coverage on several occasions, and
on issues that are very substantive, and that raise serious questions about
the likely truth of the charges. There are also serious questions about the
motives behind the reporting.
What everyone agrees on is that at 7:15 a.m. that morning, a powerful improvised
explosive device (IED) exploded as a convoy of Marine Humvees was passing by,
killing Lance Corporal Miguel Terrazas, said to be the most popular member
of the squad of Kilo Company. What happened next is that in a series of combat
actions, 24 Iraqis were killed. According to the lawyer for Staff Sgt. Frank
D. Wuterich, an eight-year Marine who led the squad, 23 died at a traffic stop,
and in three nearby houses. A 24th was killed while fleeing from a house. This
is where the stories diverge.
According to alleged eyewitnesses who spoke to Time magazine reporters, the
killings were in cold blood, sometimes point blank, and included women, children
and the elderly. But according to Wuterich and other Marines, the deaths resulted
from a firefight with terrorists. Following the IED explosion, he says, they
set up a defensive perimeter. A car drove by with five Iraqi men inside, and
when ordered, in Arabic, to halt, they got out of the car and began to run.
The Marines shot and killed them all. They had considered their running to
indicate hostile intent.
Then a shot came from one of the houses. They then decided to clear the houses
along that block. They used grenades to "prep" the first house, before going
in. They acknowledged killing the Iraqis over a period of several hours, but
deny charges that civilians were lined up and executed. They reported the incident
up the chain of command, and said there had been collateral damage, meaning
civilian deaths. The next day, the 2nd Marine Division issued a statement saying
that 15 Iraqis had been killed by an IED and firefight. That story, based on
apparent miscommunication, wasn't true. Wuterich insists that he never said
the Iraqis had been killed as a result of an IED.
Time broke the story in March, some four months after the incident.
One of their sources was described as a "journalism student" and "a young local
said he shot video of the aftermath of the incident and at the morgue. Time originally
reported that "The video was obtained by the Hammurabi Human Rights
Group, which cooperates with the internationally respected Human Rights Watch,
and has been shared with Time." They later amended the story, and
said in note at the end of the article that "In fact, Human Rights Watch has
no ties or association with the Hammurabi Human Rights Group."
It turns out that the "young" journalist is 43-year-old Taher Thabet al Hadithi,
and a co-founder of the Hammurabi Human Rights Group. At the time, he was also
one of its only two members. Many have questioned the timing—why the charges
were made much later. In an editorial,
the Washington Times noted that although Hadithi claims to have witnessed the
Marines killing civilians, and that he videotaped the aftermath on the following
day, he waited at least two months before bringing his tape to the attention
of the media. The Times noted that Hammurabi's other founder, Abdul-Rahman
al Mashhadani, failed to mention the alleged massacre during an interview with
the Institute for War and Peace in December.
A Reuters article quoted a lawyer for one of the Marines being investigated
as saying that that the two "employees" of Hammurabi have family members "in
local prisons for insurgent activities." They deny this but questions remain
about the nature of this "human rights" organization. At this point, it would
not be beyond the pale to suggest that it could be a terrorist front organization.
But all the facts are not in.
Was Time lied to by the Hammurabi boys, or did they embellish the story on
their own? How well did Time vet the source of the tape they were shown before
going forth with the story?
Making the initial charges sound extremely damaging, Time had reported that "one
of the most damning pieces of evidence investigators have in their possession,
John Sifton of Human Rights Watch told Time's Tim McGirk, is a photo, taken
by a Marine with his cell phone that shows Iraqis kneeling—and thus posing
no threat—before they were shot." Sifton later said that he has no first-hand
knowledge of that photo, and that it appears to him that "Time Magazine mixed
up their reporting, possibly conflating and then confusing what I said with
what others had reported."
When Time showed the video to military officials in January, it set in motion
a series of investigations. One reportedly concluded that Marine officers failed
to ask the right questions, but that nothing in the report indicated a "knowing
cover-up." Instead, it said, that the officers involved up the chain-of-command
had not demanded "a thorough investigation" of the events that took place.
As to what took place and how this happened, it has been turned over to the
Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), which will determine whether or
not the troops broke any laws, or acted within the parameters of their duty
It has become clear that the terrorists don't hesitate to use women and children
as human shields, and that they have learned how to manipulate the media to
gain sympathy in a campaign to break the will of the U.S. and its allies. Clearly,
such a campaign could utilize fake videos and bribing or threatening people
to tell lies about the Americans.
If the Time account completely collapses, much credit will have to go to the
blog Sweetness & Light,
which has been analyzing every twist and turn, noting how Time has been forced
to repeatedly correct aspects of the story. It has focused some critical attention
on the curious performance of Time reporter Tim McGirk, who "broke" the Haditha
Thinker website has gone so far as to ask, "Is Tim McGirk the new Mary
Mapes?" Mapes, of course, is the former CBS News producer who fell for the
bogus Bush National Guard document and put it on the air. She left the network
in disgrace, and her accomplice, Dan Rather, who narrated the Mapes report
for the CBS 60 Minutes II program, is leaving under a cloud as well.
Time magazine insists that it engages in professional journalism, but Accuracy
in Media recently caught its top reporters fabricating part
of an interview conducted with National Intelligence Director John Negroponte.
No apology was offered in that case. CRO
2006 Accuracy in Media www.aim.org