Clarice Feldman thinks we’re looking at Rathergate raised to the tenth power.

I think she overstates the case. Something’s definitely up with the Iraqi accusers — read (or re-read) Dan Riehl’s post from the other night and tally up the discrepancies — but sources inside the military have been saying for weeks how bad this looks. Members of Congress who have been briefed and whose last names aren’t “Murtha” sound uniformly grim. Gen. Hagee, who’s been doing some of the briefing, was himself sufficiently troubled by what he heard that he flew to Iraq to remind the Marines about the importance of human life. And commanders recently ordered re-training in “core values” for all 130,000 service members in the field.

The point is this: CBS got hoaxed on Rathergate because it wanted to believe the memos were real. The story, as Feldman says, was too good to check. But it’s not just the media that’s driving this one; it’s also the military, to the tune of two separate investigations. They have every reason not to want to believe there’s something to it — but, judging from outward appearances, they do.

Clarice also overlooks a few things. She’s right that Lance Cpl. Crossan was unconscious during the alleged massacre, but she fails to note that he hasn’t tried to defend the suspects despite having spoken to them recently (or so he claims). On the contrary, he told KING5 in Seattle that they might well have been “blinded by hate” and that, if he had been there, he might have been able to stop them. She also gets something flatly wrong about Lance Cpl. Briones — I think:

And then there is Lance Cpl. Ryan Briones. He helped evacuate Crossnan and took bodies to the morgue. He was not an eyewitness. He claims he took pictures of the bodies at the morgue and has made various statements about what happened to the pictures and his camera.

There’s no source provided for this. Feldman makes it sound like Briones was never in the houses where the shootings allegedly took place, but according to the AP, that’s simply not true:

Lance Cpl. Andrew Wright, 20, and Lance Cpl. Roel Ryan Briones, 21, were ordered to photograph the scene with personal cameras they happened to be carrying the day of the attack, the families said. Briones’ mother, Susie, said her son told her that he saw the bodies of 23 dead Iraqis that day.

She then goes on to say of Briones:

(His report of taking the bodies to the morgue, moreover, seems inconsistent with the first Reuters report that there were 15 bodies left lying in the street the day after the incident.)

But the first Reuters report doesn’t say that. It says:

A roadside bomb that killed a US Marine in the restive town of Haditha on Saturday also killed 15 Iraqi civilians and led to intense clashes with insurgents…

US and Iraqi soldiers returned fire, killing eight insurgents and wounding another in a firefight.

A cameraman working for Reuters in Haditha says bodies had been left lying in the street for hours after the attack.

I.e., fifteen bodies total, one or more of which had been left lying in the street.

Anyway. I’m not trying to discredit her post, which makes plenty of good points. Do check it out. Whatever else happens, she and I can both rejoice in the fact that Americans aren’t drinking the Kool-Aid.

Update: SFPH puts it well:

There is a danger here that, while the MSM may be accepting this story in a knee-jerk, Rather-like fashion because like the TANG story, it’s “too good to check,” but we on the “support the troops” side can be equally guilty of accepting the discrepancies as proof that nothing untoward happened in Haditha that day.

Update: Clarice e-mails to say she got the stuff on Briones from the Hawaii Reporter‘s article on Haditha, which does note that Briones claims to have photographed the aftermath (i.e., not just the bodies at the morgue).

Bryan, who’s an Air Force vet, writes below to say that we shouldn’t place too much emphasis on the military putting on a dog-and-pony show about core values. Meanwhile, reader Jim A. e-mails with a link to a Freeper thread posing still more questions about Time magazine’s account of Haditha.

All I’ll say is this: if it turns out Time was hoaxed, if this ends up being little more than a smear job on the Marines, the backlash will be ferocious like nothing blogs have ever seen. Rathergate will pale by comparison.

Update: Murtha decides to put all that exposure he’s been getting lately to good use. Get a load of this lede:

Rep. John Murtha, a 16-term Democrat known for his close ties to the military and his outspoken opposition to the war in Iraq, said Friday he will run for House majority leader if Democrats win control in November.

Go run a search on Murtha at MilBlogs and bask in the love.

Tags: Democrats