How many Hadithas?

Given the news about the massacre in Haditha last November, now’s the time to remember Seymour Hersh’s story from October, 2004:

HERSH: I got a call last week from a soldier — it’s different now, a lot of communication, 800 numbers. He’s an American officer and he was in a unit halfway between Baghdad and the Syrian border. It’s a place where we claim we’ve done great work at cleaning out the insurgency. He was a platoon commander. First lieutenant, ROTC guy.

It was a call about this. He had been bivouacing outside of town with his platoon. It was near, it was an agricultural area, and there was a granary around. And the guys that owned the granary, the Iraqis that owned the granary… It was an area that the insurgency had some control, but it was very quiet, it was not Fallujah. It was a town that was off the mainstream. Not much violence there. And his guys, the guys that owned the granary, had hired, my guess is from his language, I wasn’t explicit — we’re talking not more than three dozen, thirty or so guards. Any kind of work people were dying to do. So Iraqis were guarding the granary. His troops were bivouaced, they were stationed there, they got to know everybody…

They were a couple weeks together, they knew each other. So orders came down from the generals in Baghdad, we want to clear the village, like in Samarra. And as he told the story, another platoon from his company came and executed all the guards, as his people were screaming, stop. And he said they just shot them one by one. He went nuts, and his soldiers went nuts. And he’s hysterical. He’s totally hysterical. And he went to the captain. He was a lieutenant, he went to the company captain. And the company captain said, “No, you don’t understand. That’s a kill. We got thirty-six insurgents.”

Now’s also the time to remember the dismissive reaction to this from U.S. conservatives. Here’s Max Boot writing in the Los Angeles Times:

…in his lectures [Hersh] has spread the legend of how a U.S. Army platoon was supposedly ordered to execute 30 Iraqis guarding a granary.

And here’s the Weekly Standard’s happy chortling:

…maybe you’re an aging lefty icon who got famous reporting the My Lai massacre in Vietnam. And so maybe you’re still milking your notoriety for everything it’s worth. And maybe you’re always imagining another scoop like My Lai, because you’re afraid that on some level you’ve become just another old gasbag on the lecture circuit.

Of course, we still don’t know the truth behind Hersh’s story. But if accurate, it does more than indicate the recent Haditha massacre wasn’t an isolated incident. It suggests it may be fairly common.

Why? Note again the location Hersh gives for the alleged fall, 2004 massacre:

…he was in a unit halfway between Baghdad and the Syrian border.

Now, note the location of Haditha, site of the confirmed November, 2005 massacre: