The U.S. Army says it has no record of a man who claimed to have “slaughtered” hundreds of civilians while serving with the Army Rangers in Iraq.
Jesse MacBeth, appearing in a 20-minute video produced by Randy Rowland, a 1970s antiwar activist, claimed to have personally killed 200 people, many of them at close range, while on patrols with the Army Rangers during his 16 months in Iraq before being discharged due to wounds he received.
Wearing a green camouflage overshirt, MacBeth said he was telling his story to atone for killing innocent civilians. The tape, titled “Jesse Macbeth: An Iraq Veteran Speaks Out,” first aired in April on Seattle public access television on the show “Indymedia Presents” and has since been posted online.
“Do whatever it takes to make them fear you,” he claimed commanders told him and his fellow soldiers in the 3rd Ranger Battalion. “You won’t be charged.”
According to MacBeth’s claims, Rangers would lie in wait in mosques to slaughter hundreds who came to pray, and children were regularly executed in front of their parents in order to extract information.
“We would go into people’s houses and plow down entire families,” he said. “We would interrogate people. If we didn’t like the answers that they gave, then we would kill the youngest child. If they gave more answers that we didn’t like, then we’d move on to the rest of the family. They could’ve been innocent people.
“They would actually feel the hot muzzle of my rifle on their forehead,” MacBeth said.
Now the Army is saying there is no record of MacBeth or his service with the Rangers or Special Forces.
Army spokesman Paul Boyce noted several red flags in the videotape.
“There are also numerous wear and appearance issues with the soldier’s uniform – a mix of foreign uniforms with the sleeves rolled up like a Marine and a badly floppy tan beret worn like a pastry chef,” Boyce told Stars and Stripes.
A phototograph of MacBeth appearing in the video shows him wearing his beret with the insignia centered over the wrong eye, said Boyce.
MacBeth defended the picture, saying he purposely donned the beret backwards in the video interview because of military regulations prohibiting veterans from wearing their uniforms at protests.
“They did the same thing to John Kerry,” MacBeth said, when asked why the Army found no record of his service as a Ranger.
Sen. John Kerry came to national attention in 1971 when he spoke before Congress as a Vietnam veteran claiming to have participated in massacres of civilians while serving aboard a U.S. Navy swift boat. Kerry’s testimony gave credibility to anti-war groups like Vietnam Veterans Against the War by confessing to actions classified as war crimes.
MacBeth, following a similar path, spoke at a March 19 anti-war rally in Tacoma, Wash., sponsored by Iraq Veterans Against the War and other organizations.
In the interview, MacBeth claimed to be a member of IVAW, a claim the organization denied shortly after the video appeared online. Since that denial, IVAW has reputiated MacBeth in a statement on its website:
“Questions have been raised about Jesse MacBeth and his claims of service in Iraq. MacBeth came to Iraq Veterans Against the War in January 2006 asking for help, and the organization and its members extended itself to help him in various ways. Assisting veterans is one of the founding principles of IVAW and it is a mission that we take seriously. After looking into his recent claims, we have learned that Jesse is not what he represented himself to be. Accordingly, IVAW does not in any way endorse Jesse MacBeth or any of his accounts involving military service. He – and he alone – is responsible for them. IVAW was not aware of the creation of the video program featuring MacBeth, and did not authorize use of our logo in the program.”
IVAW member Garett Reppenhagen called MacBeth a “troubled kid.”
“I’m not sure why he would want to be fraudulent to IVAW,” Reppenhagen said.
According to United Press International, MacBeth told Socialistalternative.org in an April interview he currently works for Wendy’s fast food restaurant.
“When I was growing up, everyone thought I’d be a criminal, but they were wrong. I’m gonna be one of the leaders of the revolution,” Macbeth told the leftist website.
Questions and Observations, a blog that has covered the story closely, today claimed to have posted a copy of MacBeth’s official DD214 military discharge document.
“It shows that he lasted all of one month and 13 days in the Army. It also shows he that he never had a primary specialty nor any awards and decorations. None. It also shows he was an E1 when discharged,” wrote Bruce “McQ” McQuain.
“The bottom half of the form is just as revealing. Block 19 says ‘Service Member has not completed first full term of service.’ Block 24, as noted earlier, shows his service as ‘Uncharacterized’ which is only given to those who are discharged as trainees. Block 25 is key. It shows he was discharged under the authority of AR 635-200 Chapter 11. That means he was found to be unfit to remain in the Army and was dicharged for the good of the service. Or as many have said, a boot camp washout. We’ve been through the code for discharge in the next block, but the narrative reason for his discharge is found in block 28, which says ‘Entry level performance and conduct,’ or, he couldn’t cut it.”
Despite the rejection of his story by the Army and the IVAW – and it’s relentless dissection by many in the blogosphere – MacBeth insisted he served in Iraq with the Rangers and believed he had been betrayed by IVAW.
“When the heat gets on them they stab me in the back,” he said, adding he would no longer defend his credibility.
“I’m not going to follow this battle no more. The right wing won,” he said.
Randy Rowland’s PepperSpray Productions, makers of the MacBeth video, has removed the video from its website. A posted message reads: “A formal statement from Pepperspray on the Jesse Macbeth situation is pending.”
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