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Is Ron Harris Telling the Truth?
By JIMMY MASSEY, CounterPunch
When I'm on my death bed and I have to face God with all the sins I committed throughout my life, when I come to the sin of killing innocent people in Iraq, I know I will only be able to meet my maker if I tell the truth now.
My story has been widely published in mainstream American and international press, as well as widely circulated on right-wing pro-war websites, for more than 1 year and 8 months. In December, 2004, MSNBC interviewed Pentagon Marine Corps spokesman Maj. Douglas Powell about me saying, "We're not saying he's lying, but his perception of what the situation was in relation to the rules of engagement, and what was justified, is different than ours." In a letter written to the editor of the Mountaineer, which was the first newspaper to publish my story in February 2004, Major Dan Schmitt, my former Commanding officer said, "There is no profit for anyone in discrediting his story in any way."
Prior to the Marine Corps' briefing my unit to refuse to make any comment regarding me, my claims were corroborated in interviews with my fellow platoon members conducted by Natasha Saulnier, the co-author of my autobiography "Kill, Kill, Kill." One of my platoon members, speaking from Camp Pendleton, CA, last winter, admitted that "Civilians get in the way Yes, there were civilian casualties, women and children as well we didn't check them up to see if they had weapons yes, that was at the checkpoint where all the stuff happened." Another said, "We were all pissed off [at shooting women and children]. Nobody was doing it on purpose," and another corroborated the incident in which our platoon had fired on and killed unarmed protestors.
Beverley Ann Dexter,the Navy psychiatrist whoperformed my exit examination back home, wrote on record that "the patient initially presented to the mental health dept on 30, May 03 after he was medivaced back from the Iraq war with the diagnosis of major depressive disorder and PTSD, recurrent. He reports that he had become extremely distressed over seeing many dead bodies of individuals in civilian clothes. A particularly disturbing event was an occasion when a man questioned him about why troops had killed his brother whom the man said was a civilian."
Major newspapers and media outlets published my story. Neither the Marine Corps nor any of my platoon members filed any charges against me as a result of my claims in over 20 months. Nor did they attempt any defamation campaign to counteract my allegations that the large numbers of civilians killed in the invasion, as a result of failed strategies, fomented anti-American sentiment, and fueled the insurgency.
Quantico Marine Base Public Affairs Officer Lt. Col. Richard Long, former director of Public Affairs and the embedded reporter program in Iraq, began circulating an article Monday published in the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Saturday, November 5, by former embedded reporter Ron Harris, accusing me of lying. Harris not only was not assigned to my Weapon's Company, (he was with Lima), and was not present for any of the incidents he disputes, but before last week, had not spoken with me once since my return.
On Monday, Harris appeared on CNN's "American Morning," in an unrebutted interview stating, "not only did I not see any protesters, nobody saw any protesters," and "nobody ever interviewed the marines, which I did all of. Nobody ever checked his story. They don't even have another source that says on background or another source who didn't want to be quoted." Apparently, it is more important to Ron Harris to promote fiction than tell the truth. When he finally did call me and my co author two week's ago to prepare his article, I told him I didn't know how he could live with himself by concealing the truth, and told him "he would have to answer to a higher power."
Harris' apparent contempt for me seems to stem from the fact that one and a half years ago, I exposed him for having greatly embellished an incident at Rasheed Military complex in his April 9, 2003, article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch. (Note the caption confirming Harris' assignment to Lima Company). In the article, Harris described a dramatic, daylong battle glorifying heroic deeds and describing guerillas "hiding behind civilians." Speaking at the Boston Veterans for Peace Convention in 2004, I said Harris had greatly exaggerated the combat in what was subsequently hailed as an example of American military prowess. I confessed publicly that"contact that day was thin and sporadic," and that "as my unit entered Iraq it came upon empty Iraqi military bases with weapons lying on the road." I noted that We shot it up with everything we had, and we were laughing and having a good time. The Iraqis let us in the country; we didn't take it.'
It is ironic that Ron Harris should accuse others of bad reporting. It was Ron Harris himself that misquoted me as having mentioned a 4 year old with a bullet in her head, and then conveniently used his own misquote to accuse me of lying. Simply doing a web search for "Jimmy Massey" and "4 year old," you will find that the only source even suggesting that I knew of an incident when Marines had killed the child is Harris' own story. My only related quote had been "Lima Company was involved in a shooting at a checkpoint. 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 been killed."
Most importantly, this incident is not even mentioned by me and my co-author in "Kill, Kill, Kill" because it relied on a second hand account. Harris would know this if he had read the book that he denounced so virulently on CNN and in his article, but he has not and cannot read it because it is only out in French, a language he openly admits he cannot speak. After nearly 2 years of remaining silent despite knowledge of my confessions, why has Harris saved his charade for the publication of a book of which he has absolutely no knowledge?
Fumbling for incriminating evidence, Harris reports that "while touring with Sheehan in Montgomery, Ala., [I] told of seeing the girl's body." Cindy Sheehan and I were never together in Montgomery. In a similar confusion, Harris goes on to claim that I have said I personally killed a 6-year-old.Before numerous interviews and reports frayed its edges, my original statement had been "I brought these series of events up through the chain of command. Each time I was told they were terrorists, or they were insurgents. My question to the marine corps at that point became, how was a 6 year old child with a bullet hole in its head a terrorist or insurgent?"
In the aforementioned April 9, 2003, article, Harris refers to a makeshift morgue and quotes Lt. Col. Belcher, Commander of 3rd Battalion, 7tth Marines without deeming it relevant to make further investigation, "These are apparently Iraqi soldiers that were killed in the attacks. Some people had leg wounds, chest wounds, tears, cuts, shrapnel holes." Why did Ron Harris swallow the command's stories?
Apparently, Harris didn't read any more of the articles in USA Today or Vanity Fair that he cites in his article than he did of "Kill, Kill, Kill." USA Today and Vanity Fair never published my accounts of mounting civilian casualties in Iraq. Both of their stories were about military recruiting practices, and not concerned with Iraq.
If Ron Harris or the Marine Corps Public Affairs office want to mount a smear campaign against me and those who published my story, they could begin by buying a couple copies of the book and reading it. They will be pleased to know that a portion of the profits will go to establishing PTSD treatment centers for US Veterans.
Jimmy Massey is a 12-year veteran of the United States Marine Corps who served as a Staff Sergeant in the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, Weapons Company, during the invasion of Iraq. Since his return, he has confessed to atrocities he witnessed and committed in Iraq. Ron Harris, a former embedded reporter wrote an article entitled "Is Jimmy Massey Telling the Truth About Iraq?" that appeared Saturday, November 5th, in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Harris then appeared on CNN November, 6th claiming that Massey is lying. The following is a response to Mr. Harris' article. He can be reached at: email@example.com
HERE'S AN ATTACK FROM OUR FRIENDS AT INVESTORS BUSINESS DAILY
Media Bias: If American support for the liberation of Iraq is declining, it is in no small measure because of the way the media trumpet the words of liars and distort the words of heroes.
Former Marine Staff Sgt. Jimmy Massey was discharged in December 2003 shortly after returning from Iraq, reportedly suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress, and almost immediately became a media darling with his tales of U.S. soldiers routinely committing war crimes and atrocities.
He claimed that he had shot a 4-year-old in the head. Scores of media outlets ran stories with headlines like, "I killed innocent people for our government." He was a featured guest on National Public Radio, colleges lined up to invite Massey to speak, and he was with Cindy Sheehan's roadshow.
The Washington Post breathlessly reported on Massey's December 2004 sworn testimony at a Canadian asylum hearing for U.S. Army deserter Jeremy Hinzman in which Massey said: "I do know we killed innocent civilians, including the driver of a car who got out with his hands up." Massey is quoted as saying, "But we kept firing. We killed him."
Except none of it ever happened, as St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Ron Harris has documented. Reported Harris: "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 in Massey's unit."
As with Dan Rather's story on President Bush and the National Guard, many in the media and the anti-war crowd ran with it because they wanted it to be true. So intense is their anti-war angst that The New York Times took the words of a dead American hero and selectively edited them until they agreed with the Times' anti-war editorial position.
Marking the 2,000th American soldier killed in Iraq with a story about soldiers killed after multiple tours of duty, the "paper of record" quoted part of a letter written by Cpl. Jeffrey Starr of Snohomish, Wash., before he was killed in a gun battle in Ramadi on his third tour of duty on April 30.
After his death, Starr's family found the letter on his laptop computer written to his girlfriend, Emmylyn Anonical. She decided to make the letter public, saying, "The reason I chose to share that letter was the part about why he was doing this, not the part about him expecting to die."
Yet that part was what The New York Times found "fit to print," because it fit its position that young Americans are being used as cannon fodder in an unjust war. It was the part where Starr said, "I kind of predicted this; this is why I'm writing this. . . . A third time just seemed like I'm pushing my chances."
But Starr was not a pessimist who felt doomed in a war without purpose and without chance of success, as the part the Times chose not to print shows:
"I don't regret going, everybody dies, but few get to do it for something as important as freedom. It may seem confusing why we are in Iraq, it's not to me. I'm here helping these people, so that they can live the way we live. Not have to worry about tyrants or vicious dictators. To do what they want with their lives. To me that is why I died. Others have died for my freedom. Now this is my mark."
We hope Sen. Ted Kennedy and his kindred spirits read Cpl. Starr's letter. It is up to us to stay the course and ensure he has not died in vain. We owe him, and so many others, a huge debt.