Think of how vicious the attacks from Fox News and right-wing commentators were on Sen. Dick Durbin for citing FBI criticism of detainee abuse at Guantanamo, or the smears against Dan Rather and other journalists who helped expose the scandal at Abu Ghraib, or the ugly campaign to boycott the Dixie Chicks for criticizing George W. Bush.
If one of those usual liberal suspects had said something one-tenth as offensive as OReillys remarks, Fox News surely would have offered up one of its loaded questions, like Is (fill in the blank) Anti-American or Just Blinded by Hatred of Our Troops?
But its hard to imagine any comments as outrageous as OReillys loose talk about war crimes supposedly committed by U.S. Army forces fighting in Belgium and by U.S. Marines in the bloody battle at Iwo Jima.
In Iwo Jima, in the Battle of the Bulge, Malmedy, all these things, OReilly lectured his guest, retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark. Youre a military historian. You know these happened. It happened in every war. Its happened in every army.
When Clark protested youll have to show me and prove to me that there were ever any American soldiers in Belgium and Normandy or in Iwo Jima who murdered civilians OReilly countered with a smirk and a shake of the head.
But OReillys historical certainty was astonishingly misplaced. First, at Malmedy, the atrocity on Dec. 17, 1944, was the other way around: about 86 surrendering U.S. soldiers were massacred by German SS panzer forces in one of the most notorious war crimes on the Western Front.
OReilly had turned the U.S. soldiers from victims into war criminals, while transforming their SS murderers from war criminals to victims.
As MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann noted on his Countdown program on June 1, OReilly made the same mistake last year in using the alleged U.S. atrocity at Malmedy the supposed killing of unarmed SS troops by American troops to blunt concerns about the Abu Ghraib scandal.
Despite encountering demands then for a correction, OReilly was back abusing the facts of Malmedy on May 30, this time to dilute outrage over the alleged murders of civilians at Haditha.
When challenged about his error after his May 30 program, OReilly didnt exactly apologize but instead insisted he was referring to supposed U.S. revenge killings after the Malmedy atrocity. But that wasnt what he actually said. (Olbermann reported that Fox News later doctored the May 30 transcript to substitute Normandy for Malmedy.)
Odder still, OReilly apparently was familiar with the actual facts about the Malmedy massacre, having cited the case in a newspaper column on June 27, 2005. That version correctly had the SS murdering U.S. troops, but OReilly mentioned the massacre only to set up a moral equivalence between U.S. troops and the SS and then went on to suggest that U.S. Marines murdered helpless Japanese.
After German SS troops massacred 86 American soldiers at Malmedy in Belgium on Dec. 17, 1944, some units like the U.S. 11th Armored Division took revenge on captured German soldiers, OReilly wrote, adding: In the Pacific, relatively few Japanese prisoners were taken in the brutal island fights.
Yet, OReilly provides no specifics or documentary citations to support these war-crimes charges against Americans. While it certainly is likely that some individual American soldiers killed surrendering enemy troops, OReilly seems bizarrely sympathetic to the fascist forces of Germany and Japan, responsible for tens of millions of deaths.
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