A high-profile battle has broken out in Washington between a retired general and a leading journalist over allegations of war crimes by US forces in Iraq.
What is particularly unusual is that the allegations have been made public by the man at the centre of them, in what appears to be a pre-emptive strike. Indeed, that is the only form in which the allegations exist: no one else has publicly raised them.
General Barry McCaffrey, who runs the White House war on drugs, has attacked journalist Seymour Martin Hersh for making claims about war crimes in an article he is preparing for The New Yorker magazine, even though Mr Hersh has written nothing so far. The protagonists are both highly experienced and respected in their fields.
General McCaffrey was the most highly decorated and youngest four-star army general at retirement, with two Distinguished Service Crosses and two Silver Stars for his actions in Vietnam. He commanded 26,000 soldiers of the US Army 24th Infantry Division Combat Team during Desert Storm, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for leading a massive left-hook attack into Iraq. He now heads the Office of National Drug Control Policy in the White House, and is a very controversial figure.
Mr Hersh is one of the best-known investigative reporters in the world. As a freelance in 1969, he wrote the first account of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam. He has worked for The New York Times and written for The New Yorker, as well as publishing books on Henry Kissinger, Gulf War Syndrome, and a controversial book on John F Kennedy, The Dark Side of Camelot.
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