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Former Marine Staff Sgt. Jimmy Massey was the liberal media’s dream come true: An anti-war Iraq veteran who came forward to publicly lambaste the Bush administration and accuse American troops of murdering innocent civilians.

Jimmy Massey was Michael Moore, Cindy Sheehan and John Kerry all wrapped up into one tidy, soundbite-friendly package – a poster boy for peace topped off by a military uniform and tattoos to boot. But like a lot of the agitators who pose as well-meaning, good-faith peace activists, Jimmy Massey was something else: A complete fraud.

Massey, who was discharged from the Marines after being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome, told harrowing, graphic tales of American troops committing “genocide” against Iraqis. In an interview published in the Sacramento Bee last year, Massey claimed he and his fellow Marines used “M-16s [and] 50-cal. machine guns” to shoot at children and peaceful demonstrators. The Washington Post reported (in the loosest sense of the word) on Massey’s December 2004 sworn testimony at a Canadian asylum hearing for U.S. Army deserter Jeremy Hinzman:

During one 48-hour period, Massey said under oath, his platoon set up roadblocks and killed “30-plus” civilians …

“I don’t know if the Iraqi people thought we were celebrating their newfound freedom. But I do know we killed innocent civilians,” Massey said. In one case, the driver of a car leaped out with his hands up. “But we kept firing. We killed him,” Massey said. In another case, he and other Marines shot and killed four protesters near a checkpoint after a single incoming gunshot from an unknown source, he said. None of the protesters was found with arms.

Just last month, the Associated Press published an article on Massey’s new book, “Kill, Kill, Kill,” published in France, which recycled these anti-American smears. The sympathetic AP piece included a perfunctory denial of Massey’s charges by the Pentagon and no independent corroboration:

Marines who heard a gunshot fired upon 10 Iraqi demonstrators shouting anti-U.S. slogans and wielding banners saying “Go Home” near the sprawling Al-Rashid military complex southeast of the city center. All but one of the demonstrators were killed, said Massey, who estimated he himself fired about 12 shots …

Last spring, skeptical bloggers first questioned Massey’s hyperbolic, Winter Soldier-esque tales. Justin Katz, a Rhode Island writer and publisher of Dust in the Light, wrote in May 2004 after examining Massey’s incredulous claims of being ordered to massacre children and use “ICBMs” (sic):

This is how the anti-war forces seek to defeat the U.S. military. Seeping from conspiratorial websites and foreign anti-American rags into the mainstream consciousness like leech-filled swamp water rising through the floor boards, the level of conceivability for accusations notches up as time goes on … [T]hose who enable, promote, and lend credibility to this propaganda assault must be faced and stared down this time around the historical cycle.

Miraculously, a lone member of the mainstream media answered the call. Last weekend, St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Ron Harris, who was embedded with Massey’s unit in Iraq, published a devastating debunking of the crackpot legends of Jimmy Massey. Harris detailed how Massey misled reporters, backtracked from allegations about witnessing a tractor-trailer filled with dead Iraqi civilians he claimed were killed by American artillery, and habitually embellished and altered his uncorroborated accounts of alleged military atrocities in the press and in public speeches.

The response of Harris’ colleagues who were duped by Massey? Mostly, a collective shrug. I e-mailed a reporter from the Washington Post asking if he would follow up. No response. A USA Today reporter told me he had no plans to do so. And I spoke with David Holwerk, editorial page editor of the Sacramento Bee, which ran a lengthy freelance interview of Massey by an anti-war activist. “I don’t know what we’re planning to do,” Holwerk said.

Harris noted in a TV interview that Massey continues to sell books and DVDs that smear our troops. “[I]t’s been profitable for Jimmy Massey to keep telling this lie,” he said.

Apparently, despite the newspaper industry’s plunging circulation figures and credibility, Massey’s media enablers believe the same thing.

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