Back in October, Jamie McCarthy and I castigated Bill O’Reilly for implying that at Malmedy in December 1944 during the Battle of the Bulge U.S. Airborne troops had massacred Nazis soldiers who had surrendered when in fact the Malmedy massacre was perpetrated by SS troops to whom U.S. soldiers had surrendered. Naturally, after ragging on him a bit, we wrote it off as yet another example of Bill O’Reilly’s self-confident ignorance. I figured O’Reilly had simply mixed up historical facts in his eagerness to defend the abuses at Abu Ghraib by pointing to supposed atrocities committed by U.S. forces during World War II and that, once burned, he would be unlikely to make that same mistake again.
How incorrect I was!
Tuesday night, O’Reilly topped even himself for sheer historical ignorance and idiocy. While discussing the killings by U.S. troops at Haditha, Bill O’Reilly invoked Malmedy again. Only this time he did not imply anything. He explicitly stated it:
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. You know that. That’s on the record. And been documented.
You won’t be able to find this exact quote on the Fox news website, because it’s been scrubbed from the official transcript, with the word “Malmedy” replaced by “Normandy.” Fortunately, you can find the original video documenting what O’Reilly actually said here, with Keith Olbermann’s blistering takedown of O’Reilly’s despicable idiocy. There is no doubt at all that O’Reilly said “Malmedy,” not “Normandy.” Particularly disgusting is O’Reilly’s lame explanation when reader mail pointed out to him that he had gotten his facts wrong. I can’t imagine why O’Reilly would keep making such a historically erroneous statement, given that his remarks are likely to tick off a large part of his core audience (at least the ones with some knowledge of World War II history). The only explanation I can think of is that O’Reilly seems to think that if members of the “Greatest Generation” committed atrocities during what we consider to be a just war, then he can argue that the abuses at Abu Ghraib (warning: graphic images) and the massacre at Haditha are no big deal. It’s the “shit happens during war” defense at the expense of sliming the American soldiers murdered at Malmedy.
Of course, in this whole incident, it’s not just Bill O’Reilly that infuriates me. I now consider General Wesley Clark to be just as big of an idiot as he. Clark had not one, but two chances to counter O’Reilly’s ignorant bloviations but chose to remain silent. I could forgive him the first time (perhaps he was simply so taken aback that he didn’t know how to react), but not this second time. It’s not clear to me whether Clark remained silent because he simply doesn’t know the facts about Malmedy or because he was just too timid to give O’Reilly the bitch-slapping on the air that he so richly deserved. As a retired four star general who served his nation so honorably and bravely for so many years, Clark should know a little military history–they do still teach that stuff in West Point, don’t they?–particularly of his own military. He should know that it was the SS who murdered U.S. troops at Malmedy, not the other way around. Yet he said nothing when O’Reilly implied in October that it was U.S. troops who murdered Nazis at Malmedy and he again said nothing on Tuesday when O’Reilly explicitly stated that U.S. troops murdered SS troops at Malmedy! Any self-respecting veteran or soldier with a little knowledge of World War II history would have publicly ripped O’Reilly a new orifice for his slurs upon the U.S. Army or, at the very least, would have ripped off his microphone in disgust and left the studio, preferably with the fluorish of a colorful stream of profanity.
Yet Clark said nothing and did not even disagree with O’Reilly.
I think Keith Olberman put it best:
When you’re that wrong — when you’re defending Nazi War Criminals and pinning their crimes on Americans, and you get caught doing so–twice–you’re supposed to say ‘I’m sorry, I was wrong’… and then you should shut up for a long time. Instead, Fox washed its transcript of O’Reilly’s remarks Tuesday — its website claims O’Reilly said “In Normandy…” when in fact he said, “In Malmedy…”
The rewriting of past reporting — worthy of Orwell — has now carried over into such on-line transcription services as Burrell’s and Factiva. Whatever did or did not happen later, in supposed or actual retribution… the victims at Malmedy, were Americans, gunned down while surrendering — by Nazis in 1944 — and again, Tuesday Night and Wednesday Night — by a false patriot who would rather be loud than right.
“In Malmedy, as you know,” Bill O’Reilly said Tuesday night, in some indecipherable attempt to defend the events of Haditha, “U.S. forces captured S.S. forces who had their hands in the air and were unarmed and they shot them dead, you know that. That’s on the record. And documented.”
The victims at Malmedy in December, 1944… were Americans. Americans with their hands in the air. Americans who were unarmed. That’s on the record. And documented.
And their memory deserves better than Bill O’Reilly.
We all do.
Their memory also deserves beter than weasely Wesley Clark.