at The Democracy Project, with special thanks to Bruce Kesler.
Will Jimmy Massey be MIA at Winter Soldier?
On March 13-16 the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) will be holding an event they are calling “Winter Soldier Investigation – Iraq and Afghanistan (WSI)”, patterned after its namesake conducted by the radical Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) in 1971. The earlier WSI formed the basis of young John Kerry’s testimony before Senator Fulbright’s Foreign Relations Committee about alleged widespread war crimes and atrocities committed by American forces in Vietnam. That event was instrumental in the longstanding defamation of the Vietnam veterans.
Senator Kerry’s candidacy for President in 2004 triggered renewed interest in the 1971 event. The passage of time, however, has not been favorable to its veracity. Most recently, the long unavailable summaries of the Army’s CID (Criminal Investigation Detachment) attempts to investigate the 1971 charges were located and they have devastated any pretense of the credibility of the first WSI’s allegations.
For months the IVAW and its supporters have been advertising the upcoming WSI as an investigation of war crimes and atrocities committed as policy by Americans forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. The IVAW home page currently displays the front page of a March 2nd London Sunday Times Magazine that speaks of the coming WSI. The headline reads:
“We Came, We Saw, We Murdered”
However, neither event was or will be an investigation. They are political theatre and propaganda. Critical elements of serious investigation will not be present: sworn testimony, depositions, affidavits, cross examination of witnesses, rebuttal, legal liability for making false statements and so forth. There will be the more theatrical trimmings though, like streaming video, tapes and DVDs, audio recording for radio and so forth.
The IVAW understands that unlike 1971, this WSI will come under greater scrutiny, very much so by the blogosphere. They also know that the IVAW organization has had serious credibility problems before with members leveling false atrocity charges.
The most notorious such IVAW credibility disaster was the Jesse MacBeth video from May 2006. The video presented IVAW member MacBeth as an Army Ranger who had engaged in and witnessed horrific American atrocities in Fallujah in 2004. MacBeth was a fraud who had been kicked out of the Army before completing boot camp. Almost as quickly as it spread on the internet the fraud was convincingly declared to be such by veteran and active duty milbloggers. The IVAW issued a statement within days distancing itself from the video and MacBeth. However, IVAW never saw fit to offer any kind of apology or even recognition that it was IVAW that had been providing MacBeth with the visibility, credibility and platform that brought him to the attention of the independent producers of the video. IVAW was well aware that MacBeth had been telling atrocity stories and acknowledging IVAW membership well before the video was released. The organization never saw fit to verify MacBeth’s claim of service with anything like due diligence until after the controversy erupted.
Jonathan DeWald, until recently president of the Milwaukee chapter of IVAW and ten year Army veteran (although of neither OEF or OIF) acknowledged the credibility issue as it related to MacBeth at his blog. However, DeWald wrote this enigmatic statement in doing so:
“Have we had problems with credibility before? Oh, hell yes! But that [MacBeth] incident (and the possibility that there exists another former IVAW member who can be proven to be a fraud)…”
There are grounds to believe that DeWald was obliquely referring to Jimmy Massey as that other former member. Massey was a Marine for 12 years who participated in the invasion of Iraq in the spring of 2003. By December he had been discharged with a diagnosis of PTSD. Massey became one of the co-founders of IVAW in July 2004. By 2005 Massey had been telling lurid atrocity stories to several media organs, including the Associated Press (AP). However, Ron Harris of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch exposed Massey's allegations as false, based upon statements from other Marines and five journalists embedded with Massey’s unit. Harris also pointed out conflicts in Massey’s own accounts. The Modesto Bee and Sacramento Bee retracted the Massey claims they had published. Eventually the AP also did so, after having used Massey as a source for several stories. AP admitted they had not even sought to verify Massey's claims with their own reporter who had been embedded with Massey’s unit, writing:
"‘Clearly our stories should have included the firsthand observations of our own embedded reporter…”
While Massey’s value fell in the U.S. media market, his career in atrocity stories has become an export business because, as Ron Harris noted it has “been profitable for Jimmy Massey to keep telling this lie.”
"I do a lot of work for IVAW so I'm heavily engaged in that and lining up different speaking engagements with various organizations throughout the U.S. and the rest of the world. I recently went to Kuala Lumpur. The prime minister of Malaysia was hosting a peace conference, and wanted a representative from IVAW…"
A year later in March 2007, Massey represented IVAW in Athens, Greece. At about the same time Massey had a new atrocity book launched at the 2007 Caracas Book Fair and was interviewed for the Cuban News Agency:
Massey attended the most recent Caracas Book Fair, where he presented his book "Cowboys of Hell," a crude testimony about the genocide being committed every day by the United States against the Iraqi people. The ex-marine gave an interview to Cuban journalist Rosa Mirian Elizalde.
"I'm 32 and I am a trained psychopathic murderer…"
Massey is unquestionably the preeminent veteran peddler of the widespread and routine American atrocity theme in the world and he is also widely known as a founder and member of IVAW. Yet, there is some indication, none of it coming up to the standard of reliable sourcing, that IVAW and Massey may have parted ways and that Massey has resigned or been removed from IVAW. There has been a dearth of press association between IVAW and Massey for the last several months. If that is the case, and it has been done quietly, that is to the discredit of IVAW.
Credibility lost, if it is to be or even can be regained, must be earned. IVAW’s distancing itself from MacBeth was insufficient at the time to allow the organization to maintain credibility. What was called for was an admission that in their eagerness to build their activist base they had given a fraud a platform to launch false and inflammatory charges. IVAW granted credibility to MacBeth because of the presumption by others that the organization had verified, at the very least, his status as a veteran of Iraq.
Even so, MacBeth was a fringe character who was a member of IVAW for only a few months. His rocket launched and was shot down almost immediately. Massey is altogether different. He was a co-founder of the organization. His allegations had been carried in several U.S. papers and distributed by the AP. He was representing IVAW in foreign countries long after he was exposed as a liar. On the IVAW’s web page speaking of its founders it had said of Massey:
“After a hard fight he was discharged and has since been telling people the truth about the war in Iraq.”
I have publicly asked two IVAW members if Jimmy Massey will be attending Winter Soldier. One, asked a month ago seemed to want very much to change the subject. Within a day of asking again a few days ago and receiving no answer, the IVAW founders page was quietly changed. The line about Massey “telling people the truth about the war in Iraq” has been deleted. The Internet archive for the page confirms this as do the copies on my hard drive (and an earlier post).
How could it be that IVAW has been planning for months to bring together its member veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan to “testify” to war crimes and atrocities and Jimmy Massey not be there? That is a reasonable question.
If Jimmy Massey, a very public figure, is no longer a member of IVAW, in the interest of full disclosure and for the sake of its credibility, IVAW must say so. If that is so because of Massey’s demonstrated credibility problems, IVAW must explain why its site still claimed that Massey “has...been telling people the truth about the war in Iraq” for years after Massey was exposed. If they have parted company for any reason having nothing to do with Massey’s credibility problems, IVAW must still explain why they had been making that claim that Massey has been telling the truth about Iraq and whether they supported or still support the allegations he has made that have been challenged. If Massey is still a member of IVAW, the organization should explain why their most internationally well known and most published activist and dissembler of atrocity stories will not be at the single biggest and potentially most important event in the organization’s history.
Credibility requires transparency and honesty, not just the quiet disassociation from or keeping a low profile about what has been exposed as fraud in one’s own organization. In the case of Massey, IVAW has to decide where they stand on their co-founder’s allegations and make that public. If IVAW does not think that allegations by a prominent member long proven false are worthy of addressing, they have no more credibility now than when they gave Jesse MacBeth a platform.