Waffles hands him the baton and off he goes. Winter Soldier ’06:

Hersh described video footage depicting U.S. atrocities in Iraq, which he had viewed, but not yet published a story about.

He described one video in which American soldiers massacre a group of people playing soccer.
“Three U.S. armed vehicles, eight soldiers in each, are driving through a village, passing candy out to kids,” he began. “Suddenly the first vehicle explodes, and there are soldiers screaming. Sixteen soldiers come out of the other vehicles, and they do what they’re told to do, which is look for running people.”

“Never mind that the bomb was detonated by remote control,” Hersh continued. “[The soldiers] open up fire; [the] cameras show it was a soccer game.”

“About ten minutes later, [the soldiers] begin dragging bodies together, and they drop weapons there. It was reported as 20 or 30 insurgents killed that day,” he said.

If Americans knew the full extent of U.S. criminal conduct, they would receive returning Iraqi veterans as they did Vietnam veterans, Hersh said.

“In Vietnam, our soldiers came back and they were reviled as baby killers, in shame and humiliation,” he said. “It isn’t happening now, but I will tell you – there has never been an [American] army as violent and murderous as our army has been in Iraq.”

He goes on to speculate that invading Iraq was one of the 12 steps in Bush’s AA program.

Sy Hersh, leftist hero.

So notorious is he for making sensational accusations during his speaking engagements that New York magazine devoted an entire feature to the subject last year. Title: “Sy Hersh Says It’s Okay to Lie (Just Not in Print).” It’s like buying a Happy Meal to get the toy — you buy a ticket to a Sy Hersh lecture, you’re pretty much guaranteed a bombshell about war crimes in Iraq. Because even if it’s not true, it’s True.

On the podium, Sy is willing to tell a story that’s not quite right, in order to convey a Larger Truth. “Sometimes I change events, dates, and places in a certain way to protect people,” Hersh told me. “I can’t fudge what I write. But I can certainly fudge what I say.”

He told the Chris Suellentrop, the author of the New York piece, the same story about the soccer game — except this time, it was a hypothetical. Then there’s this:

Last July, not too long after the Abu Ghraib story broke, Hersh spoke to the annual membership conference of the American Civil Liberties Union. He stood before the crowd and in mid-speech appeared to talk to himself. “Debating about it,” he muttered, then paused. “Um.” Clucked his tongue. “Some of the worst things that happened that you don’t know about. Okay? Videos,” he said. “And basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys, children, in cases that have been recorded, the boys were sodomized, with the cameras rolling, and the worst above all of them is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking. That your government has. They’re in total terror it’s going to come out.”

What Hersh said wasn’t entirely correct. His book Chain of Command would deliver the authoritative Seymour M. version: “An attorney involved in the case told me in July 2004 that one of the witness statements he had read described the rape of a boy by a foreign contract employee who served as an interpreter at Abu Ghraib,” Hersh wrote. “In the statement, which had not been made public, the lawyer told me, a prisoner stated that he was a witness to the rape, and that a woman was taking pictures.”

Horrifying stuff. But key details were different from the impression Hersh gave to the ACLU crowd. And the Sy version raced halfway across the Internet before Seymour M. could get his boots on.

I’ll go out on a limb and predict that the video of the alleged soccer-game massacre will never surface. And also that Hersh won’t suffer one scintilla of backlash from his fanboys for engaging in this slander.

Exit question for our military readers: which type of anti-war protester do you prefer, the “babykiller”-shouting Vietnam version or the “hope you lose but come home safe” handshake-and-a-smile Iraq model? With the latter you save on dry cleaning. But with the former, at least you know where you stand.

Tags: New York