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
If one of those “usual liberal suspects” had said
something one-tenth as offensive as O’Reilly’s 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 it’s hard to imagine any comments as outrageous
as O’Reilly’s 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.
On “The O’Reilly Factor” on May 30, O’Reilly
floated the argument that the alleged murder by U.S. Marines of 24
unarmed men, women and children in the Iraqi town of Haditha in November
2005 was just par for the course in wartime.
“In Iwo Jima, in the Battle of the Bulge, Malmedy,
all these things,” O’Reilly lectured his guest, retired Army Gen. Wesley
Clark. “You’re a military historian. You know these happened. It
happened in every war. It’s happened in every army. …”
When Clark protested – “you’ll 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” – O’Reilly countered
with a smirk and a shake of the head.
“In Malmedy, as you know, U.S. forces captured SS
forces who had their hands in the air, and they were unarmed, and they
shot them down,” O’Reilly said referring to the Belgian town of Malmedy,
which was fought over during the Battle of the Bulge. “You know that.
That’s on the record, been documented. In Iwo Jima, the same thing
occurred. Japanese attempted to surrender, and they were burned in their
But O’Reilly’s 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.
O’Reilly 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, O’Reilly 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
Despite encountering demands then for a correction,
O’Reilly 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, O’Reilly didn’t exactly apologize but instead insisted he was
referring to supposed U.S. revenge killings after the Malmedy
atrocity. But that wasn’t what he actually said. (Olbermann reported
that Fox News later doctored the May 30 transcript to substitute
“Normandy” for “Malmedy.”)
Odder still, O’Reilly 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 O’Reilly 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,”
O’Reilly wrote, adding: “In the Pacific, relatively few Japanese
prisoners were taken in the brutal island fights.”
Yet, O’Reilly 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, O’Reilly seems bizarrely sympathetic to the
fascist forces of Germany and Japan, responsible for tens of millions of
O’Reilly also engages in historical revisionism
with his explanation that the small number of Japanese POWs at Iwo Jima
and other Pacific battles is proof that U.S. Marines committed
systematic murder. According to most historical accounts, the Americans
wanted the Japanese soldiers to surrender but they chose to fight to the
O’Reilly’s historical smears against U.S. troops in
World War II read almost like some pro-fascist rationalizations
circulating on some ultra-right Web sites.
Indeed, if there were a Fox News network that
applied Fox News standards against Fox News personalities like O’Reilly,
there surely would be one segment with loaded questions like “Why Does
O’Reilly Enjoy Smearing American Heroes?” or perhaps “Is Bill O’Reilly a
Nazi?” Just asking.