Is Jimmy Massey telling the truth about Iraq?

Discussion in 'Middle East - General' started by Lefty Wilbury, Nov 8, 2005.

  1. Lefty Wilbury
    Offline

    Lefty Wilbury Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 4, 2003
    Messages:
    1,109
    Thanks Received:
    36
    Trophy Points:
    36
    Ratings:
    +36
    http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/ne...51DC19D72A063D2F862570B00067A5B7?OpenDocument

    Is Jimmy Massey telling the truth about Iraq?
    By Ron Harris
    POST-DISPATCH WASHINGTON BUREAU
    11/05/2005

    Jimmy Massey former marine staff sergeant says Marines intentionally are killing innocent Iraqi civilians.



    WASHINGTON

    For more than a year, former Marine Staff Sgt. Jimmy Massey has been telling anybody who will listen about the atrocities that he and other Marines committed in Iraq.

    In scores of newspaper, magazine and broadcast stories, at a Canadian immigration hearing and in numerous speeches across the country, Massey has told how he and other Marines recklessly, sometimes intentionally, killed dozens of innocent Iraqi civilians.

    Among his claims:

    Marines fired on and killed peaceful Iraqi protesters.

    Americans shot a 4-year-old Iraqi girl in the head.

    A tractor-trailer was filled with the bodies of civilian men, women and children killed by American artillery.

    Massey's claims have gained him celebrity. Last month, Massey's book, "Kill, Kill, Kill," was released in France. His allegations have been reported in nationwide publications such as Vanity Fair and USA Today, as well as numerous broadcast reports. Earlier this year, he joined the anti-war bus tour of Cindy Sheehan, and he's spoken at Cornell and Syracuse universities, among others.

    News organizations worldwide published or broadcast Massey's claims without any corroboration and in most cases without investigation. Outside of the Marines, almost no one has seriously questioned whether Massey, a 12-year veteran who was honorably discharged, was telling the truth.

    He wasn't.

    Each of his claims is either demonstrably false or exaggerated - according to his fellow Marines, Massey's own admissions, and the five journalists who were embedded with Massey's unit, including a reporter and photographer from the Post-Dispatch and reporters from The Associated Press and The Wall Street Journal.

    "Psychopathic killers"

    Massey, 34, of Waynesville, N.C., was with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines based out of Twentynine Palms, Calif. The unit went to the Middle East in January 2003 and participated in the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March of that year.

    Massey was discharged in December 2003, shortly after returning from Iraq due to depression and post-traumatic stress syndrome.

    He began turning up in the press and on broadcasts last spring with stories about military atrocities. Massey's primary thrust has been that Marines from his battalion - some of whom, he told a Minneapolis audience, were "psychopathic killers" - recklessly shot and killed Iraqi civilians, sometimes, he said, upon orders from their commanders. During a hearing in Canada, Massey said, "We deliberately gunned down people who were civilians."

    The Marine Corps investigated Massey's claims and said they were "unsubstantiated."

    From the beginning, Massey misled reporters.

    In early interviews, he told how he had lost his job at a furniture store because of his anti-war activities. But when asked about the incident in an interview Oct. 19 with the Post-Dispatch, Massey said he had quit his job but never had felt pressure to leave.

    "I left on good terms," he said.

    He also backtracked from allegations he made in a May 2004 radio interview and elsewhere that he had seen a tractor-trailer filled with the bodies of Iraqi civilians when Marines entered an Iraqi military prison outside Baghdad. He said the Iraqis had been killed by American artillery.

    He told listeners that the scene was so bad "that the plasma from the body and skin was decomposing and literally oozing out of the crevices of the tractor-trailer bed."

    He repeated the story in the Post-Dispatch interview. But when told that the newspaper's photographs and eyewitness reports had identified the trailer contents as all men, mostly in uniform, Massey admitted that he had never seen the bodies.

    Instead, he said, he received his information from "intelligence reports." When asked if those reports were official documents, he answered, "No, that's what the other Marines told me."

    Changing stories

    The details of Massey's stories changed repeatedly.

    For example, he almost always told his audiences and interviewers of an event he said he'd never forget: Marines in his unit shooting four civilian Iraqis in red Kia automobile.

    In some accounts, Massey said Marines fired at the vehicle after it failed to stop at a checkpoint. In another version, he said the Marines stormed the car.

    Sometimes he said three of the men were killed immediately while the fourth was wounded and covered in blood; sometimes he said the fourth man was "miraculously unscathed."

    Sometimes he said the Marines left the three men on the side of the road to die without medical treatment while the fourth man exclaimed: "Why did you shoot my brother?" In other versions, he said the man made the statement as medical personnel were attempting to treat the three other men, or as the survivor sat near the car, or to Massey personally.

    There is no evidence that any of the versions occurred.

    In another story that Massey often tells, he and other Marines in his platoon fired upon a group of innocent demonstrators shortly after they arrived in Baghdad. Massey said that the demonstrators were protesting the Marines' presence, holding signs in English and Arabic.

    The Marines heard a shot, Massey said, and in panic began firing into the demonstrators.

    In some versions, the demonstrators were near a checkpoint. In other versions, they were outside a prison on a road about 200 meters away, or anywhere from 5 to 15 miles from Baghdad International Airport.

    Massey told a version of the story before an immigration hearing in December in support of an American soldier trying to flee to Canada. Then, Massey said he and the Marines killed four of the demonstrators. In other interviews, he said the Marines shot at 10 demonstrators and killed all of them but one, whom he let crawl away.

    In interviews with more than a dozen Marines and journalists who were in the military complex that morning, none can recall such an incident.

    They say that during the first week to two weeks inside Baghdad, they never saw any protesters.

    Ron Haviv, an independent photographer embedded with the unit, said he never saw any protesters or demonstrators, with or without signs.

    "Basically, the only people who were on the streets in the first week were there to loot," said Haviv, who has covered conflicts across the globe, including the first Gulf War, Haiti, Yugoslavia and Russia.

    Lt. Kevin Shea, the commander of Massey's platoon, recalls that on the morning after they arrived, about 20 Iraqis from a nearby community did approach the Marines to ask what was happening. Shea said that he had explained what the Marines were doing and that the Iraqis had gone back to their homes.

    Civilians shot

    The Marine Corps readily admits that some of its men shot civilians, but not intentionally, they said. The Post-Dispatch reported on the second day of the war that Marines in one battalion had mistakenly shot and killed members of a British-based television network while shooting at Iraqi attackers.

    When Marines moved into Baghdad a month later, the Post-Dispatch reported two separate automobile-related incidents in which Marines from Massey's battalion inadvertently shot and wounded 12 civilians. All of the passengers survived after treatment by medical personnel.

    In a fourth incident, Maj. Dan Schmitt said, Marines shot "what we believe to be a non-combatant" because when the Marines raised their arms in a signal to stop, the vehicle continued moving quickly at them.

    An Iraqi doctor who helped treat the wounded passengers told them that they needed to use another hand signal because they one they were using indicated solidarity, not stop.

    But none of the five journalists who covered the battalion said they saw reckless or indiscriminate shooting of civilians by Marines, as Massey has claimed. Nor did any of the Marines or Navy corpsmen who served with Massey and were interviewed for this story.

    One of the checkpoint shootings is apparently the basis for one of most poignant recollections claimed by Massey in numerous speeches and interviews: The shooting of a 4-year-old girl in the head.

    While touring with Sheehan in Montgomery, Ala., he told of seeing the girl's body. "You can't take it back," he said, according to the local newspaper.

    But in the interview with the Post-Dispatch, Massey admitted that he never had seen the girl.

    "Lima Company was involved in a shooting at a checkpoint," he said. "My platoon was ordered to another area before the victims were removed from the car. The other Marines told me that a 4-year-old girl had killed."

    Girls unharmed

    No 4-year-old died in the incident or was even wounded, according to witnesses including a Post-Dispatch photographer at the scene who filed photos of the incident that were published in the newspaper.

    Two women and two girls were in the car that the Marines shot when it failed to stop at a checkpoint and continued to approach the Marines at high speed, said Maj. George Schreffler, then the commanding officer of Lima Company. Schreffler was there at the time.

    Petty Officer Justin Purviance, who treated them, said the two women were wounded but survived. The girls were unharmed, he said.

    In other speeches, Massey has said he personally shot a 6-year-old child. In some versions, the child was a boy; at other times, a girl.

    "How is a 6-year-old child with a bullet in his head a terrorist, because that is the youngest I killed," Massey told a Cornell University audience in March. In a speech in April in Springfield, Vt., he said: "That's war: a 6-year-old girl with a bullet hole in her head at an American checkpoint."

    In a speech in Syracuse in March, the Post Standard newspaper quoted him as saying, "The reason the Marines teach you discipline . . . is so that you can confront the enemy and kill him. . . . Or so you can put a bullet into a 6-year-old, which is what I did. "

    In the interview with the Post-Dispatch, Massey said he never personally had shot a child.

    "I meant that's what my unit did," he said.

    He could not provide details.

    Nor could he name any Marine who could corroborate any of his stories.

    "Admitting guilt is a hard thing to do," he said.
     
  2. Lefty Wilbury
    Offline

    Lefty Wilbury Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 4, 2003
    Messages:
    1,109
    Thanks Received:
    36
    Trophy Points:
    36
    Ratings:
    +36
    http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/ne...?OpenDocument&highlight=2,"jack"+AND+"stokes"

    Why did the press swallow Massey's stories?
    By Ron Harris
    POST-DISPATCH WASHINGTON BUREAU
    11/05/2005

    WASHINGTON

    Media outlets throughout the world have reported Jimmy Massey's claims of war crimes, frequently without ever seeking to verify them.

    For instance, no one ever called any of the five journalists who were embedded with Massey's battalion to ask him or her about his claims.

    The Associated Press, which serves more than 8,500 newspaper, radio and television stations worldwide, wrote three stories about Massey, including an interview with him in October about his new book.

    But none of the AP reporters ever called Ravi Nessman, an Associated Press reporter who was embedded with Massey's unit. Nessman wrote more than 30 stories about the unit from the beginning of the war until April 15, after Baghdad had fallen.

    Jack Stokes, a spokesman for the AP, said he didn't know why the reporters didn't talk to Nessman, nor could he explain why the AP ran stories without seeking a response from the Marine Corps. The organization also refused to allow Nessman to be interviewed for this story.

    Some media did seek out comment from the Marine Corps and were told that an investigation of Massey's accusations had found them baseless. Still, those news outlets printed Massey's claims without any evidence other than the word of Massey, who had been released from service because of depression and post traumatic stress disorder.

    "Why would we have run this?"

    That Massey wasn't telling the truth should have become obvious the more he told his stories, said Phillip Dixon, former managing editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer and currently chairman of the Howard University Department of Journalism.

    Dixon examined dozens of newspaper articles in which Massey told of the atrocities that Marines allegedly committed in Iraq.

    "He couldn't keep his story straight," said Dixon, who has also been an editor at The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. "First it was a 4-year-old girl with a bullet hole in her head, then it was a 6-year-old girl."

    Editors at some papers look back at the Massey articles and are surprised that they ran them without examining whether the claims were true or without ever asking the Marine Corps about them.

    "I'm looking at the story and going, 'Why, why would we have run this without getting another side of the story?'" said Lois Wilson, managing editor of the Star Gazette in Elmira, N.Y.

    David Holwerk, editorial page editor for The Sacramento Bee, said he thought the newspaper handled its story, a question and answer interview with Massey, poorly.

    "I feel fairly confident that we did not subject this to the rigorous scrutiny that we should have or to which we would subject it today," he said.

    Rex Smith, editor of the Albany (N.Y.) Times Union, said he thought the newspaper's story about Massey could have "benefited from some additional reporting." But he didn't necessarily see anything particularly at odds with standard journalism practices.

    The paper printed a story in which Massey reportedly told an audience how he and other Marines killed peaceful demonstrators. There was no response from the Marine Corps or any other evidence to back Massey's claims.

    Smith said that, unfortunately, that is the nature of the newspaper business.

    "You could take any day's newspaper and probably pick out a half dozen or more stories that ought to be subjected to a more rigorous truth test," he said.

    "Yes, it would have been much better if we had the other side. But all I'm saying is that this is unfortunately something that happens every day in our newspapers and with practically every story on television."

    "The truth suffers"

    Michael Parks sees it differently. He is the director of the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Journalism and formerly the editor of the Los Angeles Times. Parks also reviewed stories written about Massey.

    "A reporter's obligation is to check the allegation, to seek comment from the organization that's accused," said Parks, a Pulitzer Prize winner who covered the Vietnam War as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun. "They can't let allegations lie on the table, unchecked or unchallenged. When they don't do that, it's a clear disservice to the reader."

    In many cases, journalists covered Massey as he was speaking at public gatherings. Some reporters said that because he was making public statements, they didn't feel an obligation to check his claims. Some editors worried they could be accused of covering up his claims if they didn't report on his speech.

    Dixon and Parks disagree.

    "We're not stenographers, we're journalists," Dixon said. "What separates journalism from other forms of writing is that we practice the craft of verification. By not doing that, that's saying they're abdicating any responsibility from exercising news judgment."

    Parks said the journalist's responsibilities when covering someone who makes allegations while speaking in a public forum can be different from those when seeking an interview with an accuser.

    "Still, if the person making the allegation has spoken at a public forum, and the audience has heard it, the obligation of the reporter remains to get the other side."

    Dixon said: "As a journalist, you want to put accurate information before the public so they can make opinions and decisions based on accurate information. When something like this happens, harm is done, the truth suffers. "
     
  3. Annie
    Offline

    Annie Diamond Member

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2003
    Messages:
    50,847
    Thanks Received:
    4,644
    Trophy Points:
    1,790
    Ratings:
    +4,770
  4. Lefty Wilbury
    Offline

    Lefty Wilbury Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 4, 2003
    Messages:
    1,109
    Thanks Received:
    36
    Trophy Points:
    36
    Ratings:
    +36
    missed that. my bad
     
  5. Annie
    Offline

    Annie Diamond Member

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2003
    Messages:
    50,847
    Thanks Received:
    4,644
    Trophy Points:
    1,790
    Ratings:
    +4,770
    Nah I do it way too much. Great minds and all that!
     

Share This Page