A Public Talk Given At Trinity College By Jimmy Massey, 2nd October 2005
Tuesday December 06, 2005 20:04 by BP
"the enemy that I found and that I destroyed, were civilians"
Report on a talk given by ex US marine Jimmy Massey at Trinity College while he was in Ireland to testify as a witness during the trial of the Pit Stop Ploughshares.
"Now I, ehm, I usually have a lot to say and my speech, I have it in my mind and I can rattle it off at any given moment, but, eh, I'm going to be completely honest with you, I've been on a mission and I've been seeking.
In the Marine Corps my primary mission was to seek and destroy, pretty cut and clear. I think the phrase, somebody mentioned the phrase to me today and, eh, it's still with me and I'm going to share that with you, this phrase that was, eh, presented to me today - I was called a criminal. And, eh, you know it really hit me because it is something I have been running from, and then I got a double dose today when I was in the Irish court. The Irish court and the American court are like night and day. And over the course of listening to the prosecutor and the defence, and especially the testimony that the Doctor of International Law and the Geneva conventions, when he got up and gave his spiel.
In a deep, dark space in my heart, I realised today that I am a war criminal. I never wanted to admit that. I knew what I did it was a violation of the Geneva conventions and International Law. But when you tell it to Americans and you explain the scenario of what happens, the Americans dismiss it as 'fog of war' or 'collateral damage'.
My true test of humanity came today, because when I went back to my hotel room I had to look in the mirror and I had to bitterly swallow what I had done while I was in Iraq.
I guess my journey has led me to Ireland for a purpose and I just wanted to share that with you. I grew up having the best of both worlds, I grew up along the Gulf Coast of Texas and in western North Carolina where I currently live now. It took me many years and for me to become a recruiter for me to understand that I was an economic conscript. And all the young men that I signed up in the Marine Corps over my three years as a recruiter, was 75.
I live in the area where I recruited, so there isn't a waking moment of the day that I don't think about the families of the men and women that I put into the Marine Corps and what they're going through in this war.
My only freedom that I have now is my voice, because I'm incarcerated, I'm incarcerated in my mind, because of what I have seen and what I witnessed and what I took part in.
I thought by writing a book that somehow I could alleviate the demons of the war - but it hasn't helped, so I guess I'll continue along my journey in trying to seek the questions and the answers of why my government has done what they've done.
I remember the first true taste of humanity that I got was from a little boy in the city of Karbala in Iraq. I, eh, was on guard duty, I was the officer in charge of the guard. I was sitting up at the front gate, we had taken over an abandoned hotel in Karbala and turned it into our little mini-compound. Generally there was about 50 to 100 Iraqis that would be in front of the hotel, looking for work or asking for compensation for property they had lost, when, like Moses parting the Red Seas, this man and this child came walking out of the crowd and as they approached the front fence I got up and I met them. The man began to explain to me that the child needed medicine, and he showed me the medicine, and it was insulin, the child was a diabetic.
So I led them into the compound and I immediately got on the radio to the battalion chief, eh, surgeon, and told them that they needed to come down to the plaza. When they showed up I was rather surprised because the first thing that the medical officer said to me is, "Is that the man and is that the child?" and I said "Yes" and he said "Staff Sgt, I can't help them" and he began to explain how this man and this child had been to all the marine camps in Karbala looking for insulin.
I became very irate and I began to question the medical officer and I said "Do you mean to tell me that we can truck thousands of gallons of fuel across one of the harshest deserts in the world, meals and medical supplies for Marine and Navy personnel, but we can't provide something as simple as insulin for a dying child?" And as I looked over at my Marines they were playing with the child, giving him high-fives and candy, and I thought to myself, "Is this what we're here for?" So I had to go to this man and this child and explain to them that I didn't have any insulin, and turn away this child. There isn't a waking moment that I don't think about that child - this face is permanently burned and etched into my mind.
On a bright sunny day on the outskirts of Baghdad, before Baghdad fell, we were setting up a checkpoint when this red Kia, meaning the car manufacturing company Kia, comes speeding towards our checkpoint. We gave a hand and arm signal - Stop - then we fired a warning shot - Stop - the vehicle didn't, so we discharged our weapons into the vehicle. There were four occupants total, three were hit and were expiring fast - we began to provide medical attention while we were searching through the car looking for weapons or any type of terrorist related propaganda - of course we didn't find any.
Meanwhile the driver of the car was going around and questioning my Marines as to why we had shot, and then he began to cry at some of my Marines that they were terrorists. The driver then watched his brother who was one of the occupants in the car, die. Finally the driver got up and he walked towards me and he stuck his finger out and he said " You did this! You killed my brother!" People ask me, when did I make a conscious decision to change my thoughts and mindset - that was the moment.
You might say I got a crash course or a PhD in Humanity over a three month time period when I was in Iraq.
You see I was expecting to meet "the enemy", because the main job and purpose of the United States Marine Corps is to meet the enemy on the battlefield and to destroy him, that's all a marine is good for - but the enemy that I found and that I destroyed, were civilians.
So I went to my commanding officer and I began to explain to him how I felt - of course they didn't like my stance - finally the day came when my Lt asked me, "Staff Sgt, how do you honestly feel about Iraq?" and I told him, "Well sir, I honestly feel that we are committing genocide and that we are leaving behind depleted uranium to ensure continued genocide."
Do I think that we are committing genocide in Iraq? - No! However, I am worried about things like depleted uranium, I am worried about the chemical exposure that happened during the first Gulf War when we blew up the bunkers.
I was in Japan at an international peace conference when a doctor from Basra began to show us a slide show of all the abnormalities and birth defects that's happening in Iraq. Though the American government will never admit it, to the contamination of depleted uranium in the first Gulf War also.
When I was discharged from the Marine Corps on December 31st of 2003, I went back to western North Carolina, I guess maybe I went back to the scene of the crime, and I told myself that I'm going to put that behind me, that I'm never gonna speak about the Marine Corps, I didn't want anything to do with it.
But my wife read an editorial comment in our local newspaper and made a comment back, next thing you know the phone is ringing off the hook with reporters wanting to know my story. Finally, having seen the total deaths that we had incurred in Iraq, I made up my mind to speak out. You see, I sold my soul to the Marine Corps and every day I fight to get it back. The only power that I have is my voice, but I'll be honest with you, it gets harder, because the American people haven't fully, they haven't came full circle yet, they haven't realised ...
So, you didn't get the full speech tonight, and I apologise ... I had to come to grips and terms today with what I did, and it hit me pretty hard.
So I just want to say that the government, the US government, is not going to pick up the pieces or the broken lives of the returning soldiers that are coming home, it's their community. It's their community that has to deal with it, and it's the community that has to band together and support the troops - there will be no government handouts for the returning soldiers - they have to come home to an economy that's slowly dwindling, there are no more jobs, they're all going to China or South America - I watched western North Carolina just dry up. I remember once where the textiles and the factories that was there, and now it's a place for retirees.
So I don't know what the future holds, but all I can do is continue to speak. I'm no hero, any idiot can run on the battlefield with a rifle. The true heroes are you, because it's you that has to pick up the pieces, that has to heal the wounded. So I thank you for allowing me to come here and to speak because you are the heroes, thank you."
Related Indymedia Ireland Stories
Video Of The Talk Here
WSM Interview With Massey
Report Of Catholic Worker Trial At Which He Testified
Where Is The Iraq War Headed Next: An IMC IRL Blog