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(DV) Petersen: A Higher Standard







A Higher Standard
by Kim Petersen
May 31, 2006

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This writer wrote an article based on a video filmed and edited by Pepperspray Productions and featured on the website of Peacefilms. After a while, the protagonist of the interview, Jesse Macbeth, came under intense scrutiny and was denounced as a fake. Dissident Voice rightly pulled the article and Peacefilms followed by pulling the video.

E-mails came in. One e-mailer asked whether there would be “an apology to our fine [sic] U.S. troops whom you are so quick to slander.” Since it was a typed article, there is obviously no slander for which to apologize. Neither is there any libel in the article.


Another e-mailer wrote, “I’m sure you performed your usual checks before writing up the story.” Readers deserve an explanation.


Upon what did I base my decision to develop the article? First, the video was highly endorsed by respected journalist Dahr Jamail:


Jessie Macbeth, a Former Army Ranger and Iraq War Veteran Tells All


This 20 minute interview will change how you view the U.S. occupation of Iraq forever. I cannot possibly recommend this more highly. An Iraq war veteran tells of atrocities he and other fellow-soldiers committed reguarly [sic] while in Iraq. I have never seen this level of honesty from a U.S. soldier who directly participated in the slaughtering of Iraqis. [1]


Spending eight months on the ground in post-invasion violence-wracked Iraq as an independent journalist confers credibility; hence, a recommendation from Jamail carries much weight. His website provided a link to the Peacefilms website where the Macbeth interview could be seen.


Second, the video featured the logo of the Iraq Veterans Against War (IVAW) front and center in the video, pushing the Pepperspray Productions presence into the lower third titling. Macbeth’s IVAW membership was mentioned at the beginning of the program and the IVAW phone number was presented in the closing credits.


Subsequently, IVAW issued a statement disavowing itself of Macbeth and his accounts involving military service. Moreover, IVAW states that it “was not aware of the creation of the video program featuring MacBeth, and did not authorize use of [its] logo in the program.” [2] Why the Pepperspray Productions editor decided to claim IVAW endorsement without asking is unknown. Pepperspray Productions has since issued a retraction statement at its website.


It has been speculated that Macbeth suffers from Munchausen Syndrome, a psychological disorder where the victim, typically, seeks sympathy and attention through reporting false illness or other deception. The syndrome’s name stems from Baron Munchausen, a fighter in the Russian military infamous for spinning incredible yarns about his purported adventures. 

Holy ends-justify-the-means! After a country was lied into a slaughter, one off-kilter individual invented a story to stop the genocide. Imagine that!

A few e-mailers were critical that a story from a supposedly deranged individual could make it to the pages of the internet. This is unfair given that a deranged man sits as the “democratically elected” president of the mightiest country on the planet and clutters the internet with a vile ideology. It is unfair given the blemished record of the corporate media.


Not so long ago, the flagship of the US print media, the New York Times, was taken in by one of its own writers, who had a checkered history of dubious reporting. The NYT termed the saga of writer Jayson Blair “a low point in the 152-year history of the newspaper.” [3]


NYT Executive Editor Howell Raines, who would lose his job over the affair, defended the enormous lapse in journalistic standard: “Frankly, no newspaper in the world is set up to monitor for cheats and fabricators.” [4]


The NYT would subsequently tumble further into ignominy when it became apparent to most informed people that it had been egregiously publishing disinformation on the existence of weapons-of-mass-destruction (WMD) in Iraq that was fed to it by manipulative White House administration insiders.


Given the vast financial resources at the disposal of the NYT, and given that its main editor confessed that all cheats could not be found, it seems far-fetched that independent writers and progressive websites be held to a higher, or even an equal, standard.


It is quite right for readers to expect that research be done before an article is submitted and published. One thing readers must keep in mind is that the editors and writers at Dissident Voice, and most progressive websites, are unpaid. Now compare the performance of the highly remunerated writers of the corporate media to the writers of progressive media on the existence of WMD in Iraq. Which media has its integrity most intact?


The Macbeth story came with a link to the video. Readers also have a duty to check references when given and apply their own open-minded skepticism to what they read.


Another reader insisted, “In the military code of conduct, insubordination is allowed.” The reader then asserted, “Personal [sic] would not continue to follow orders unlike this supposed Jessie MacBeth because he could and should be criminally prosecuted for following that order.” This is part of what conveyed greater credibility to Macbeth in the video: his confession to the commission of war crimes.


Nevertheless, can one expect the enlisted personnel to adhere to the law when their commander-in-chief refers to the highest law of the land as “just a goddamned piece of paper”? [5] If it is expected that military personnel will be prosecuted for war crimes, then why were US personnel placed outside the scope of Iraqi law by the occupation regime? Why does the US place its citizens beyond the purview of the International Criminal Court?


Moreover, writes the reader: “An order which is unlawful not only does not need to be obeyed, but obeying such an order can result in criminal prosecution of the one who obeys it.” And so it should be. But given that the aggression of Iraq was unlawful, as determined by no less than the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, it would seem that all US and coalition military personnel are guilty of following orders that make them complicit in an aggression. Robert H. Jackson, chief American prosecutor at the Nuremberg Tribunal, held: “To initiate a war of aggression … is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” By international legal standards, US fighters and their commanders find themselves mired in wickedly illegal territory.


To compound this, there have been several reports of US troops committing war crimes. The most recent atrocity to come to widespread horror is the Haditha massacre. Associated Press describes marines as having allegedly “entered” (are the readers expected to believe that the marines knocked on the door and waited for the occupant to invite them in?) two homes and slaughtered 15 people, among them a 3-year-old “insurgent” and a 76-year-old “insurgent.” [6] A Human Rights Watch spokesman, Marc Garlasco, claims it “appears to be outright murder.” But that is how the aggression and occupation of Iraq have been carried out: by murder.


The tendentious Associated Press account, however, was lacking and the covered-up massacre now tallies 24 victims. It comes to light that the 76-year-old “insurgent” Abdul Hamid Hassan Ali was a wheelchair-bound diabetic with an amputated leg. Gunned down along with Ali was his 66-year-old “insurgent” wife, Khamisa Tuma Ali, and 4-year-old “insurgent” Abdullah, 8-year-old “insurgent” Iman, and 5-year-old “insurgent” Abdul Rahman. “Insurgents” Iman and Abdul Rahman managed to survive their bullet wounds. Among the other victims of the massacre were “insurgent” girls aged 14, 10, 5, 3 and 1. [7]


The US war crimes are myriad, and there are several instances of US troops reveling in the debauchery of killing. [8] These crimes are taking place under the auspices of an illegal invasion and occupation -- a violence that encompasses the wickedness of genocide. It is a genocide that is aimed at all aspects of Iraq: history, culture, intra-societal harmony, the economy, the dignity of Iraqis, callous disregard for Iraqi life (and a classist contempt for the lives and well-being of American military personnel), democracy, freedom, etc.


The genocide against Iraq is where the wrath of outraged humanity should be directed, and not at the sad afflicted figure of Jesse Macbeth or the media that reported in good faith what Macbeth said.


For the corporate media, it is another story. Hundreds of thousands have already been murdered through corporate media complicity in genocide. The latest disinformation emanates from the Zionist-owned National Post in Canada, which mendaciously reported that authorities were requiring distinctively colored sartorial to identify Christian, Jewish, and Zoroastrian minorities in Iran. [9] The timing of such Nazism-evoking disinformation coincides suspiciously with chickenhawk saber rattling with Iran.


The wrath of humanity should also be directed at the complicity of the corporate media in genocide. Disinformation -- its creation and propagation -- has been argued to be a crime against humanity and a crime against peace. Further, it is held that the persons “responsible for the creation, propagation, and orchestration of disinformation campaigns should be indicted for crimes against humanity and peace.” [10]


Dissident Voice editor Sunil Sharma cut to the heart of the matter:


We also wish to emphasize that abundant evidence of atrocities against innocent Iraqis carried out by US forces in the course of America’s illegal invasion and ongoing occupation of Iraq -- the Abu Ghraib torture scandal, the use of chemical weapons in Fallujah, the killing of journalists, and many other incidents documented by both alternative and mainstream media -- already exists, regardless of Mr. MacBeth’s claims, and cannot be swept under the rug if it indeed turns out Mr. MacBeth has provided a false account. American imperialism and the criminal conduct of US leaders -- both Democrat and Republican -- is exacting a terrible toll on the Iraqi people, the possibilities for peace tomorrow, and the economy here at home. Outside of a parasitic minority of the rich and privileged, we are all losers in this dreadful war.


Given that the entire corporate media was taken in (or even worse, functioned as a willing part of the disinformation disseminating apparatus) by the Bush administration lies claiming irrefutable knowledge of Iraq having WMD [11], it is hardly fair to expect more of the non-profit progressive media and its non-profit writers. Nevertheless, progressives will strive to meet the highest standard and progressive writers welcome the challenge posed by demanding readers to hold them to the highest standard.


Kim Petersen, Co-Editor of Dissident Voice, lives in the traditional Mi’kmaq homeland colonially designated Nova Scotia, Canada. He can be reached at: kim@dissidentvoice.org.



[1] Dahr Jamail, “Testimony from a former U.S. Army Ranger,” Iraq Dispatches, 21 May 2006.

[2] “Statement on Macbeth,” Iraq Veterans Against War.

[3] Editorial, “Times Reporter Who Resigned Leaves Long Trail of Deception,” New York Times, 11 May 2003.

[4] Howard Kurtz, “More Reporting By Times Writer Called Suspect,” Washington Post, 8 May 2003.

[5] Doug Thompson, “The Rant: Bush: Constitution ‘just a goddamn piece of paper’,” Capitol Hill Blue, 9 December 2005.

[6] Robert H. Reid, “Alleged killing of civilians by Marines threatens support for war, could enflame Iraqis,” SFGate.com, 27 May 2006.

[7] Ellen Knickmeyer, “In Haditha, Memories of a Massacre: Iraqi Townspeople Describe Slaying of 24 Civilians by Marines in Nov. 19 Incident,” Washington Post, 27 May 2006.

[8] B.J. Sabri and myself elaborated on the folly of supporting troops engaged in the savagery incumbent through service to the military arm of imperialism. See “American Violence in Iraq: Necrophilia or Savagery? Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5,” Dissident Voice, 15 August 2005-19 September 2005.

[9] Amir Taheri, “A colour code for Iran’s ‘infidels’,” National Post, 19 May 2006. The Jerusalem Post quickly picked up the story.

[10] Kim Petersen, “Disinformation: A Crime Against Humanity and a Crime Against Peace,” Press Action, 17 February 2005.

[11] Donald Rumsfeld’s disavowal of his own public comments is condemnatory in every respect. If he owed up to his public utterances of claiming to know the location of Iraq’s WMD, then he suffers the indignity of being homicidally wrong. Rumsfeld’s confession of there being no WMD in Iraq is also a confession that the aggression was launched on a pretext. See Ray McGovern, “My Meeting With Rumsfeld,” Uruknet, 8 May 2006.


Other Recent Articles by Kim Petersen


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* American Violence in Iraq: Necrophilia or Savagery? Part Three
* American Violence in Iraq: Necrophilia or Savagery? Part Two
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