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“Why did you kill my brother? We’re not terrorists. We didn’t do anything to you”
anti-war / imperialism |
Saturday July 15, 2006 12:32 by Dave Donnellan/IMC Editorial Enlistees
Former US Marine Speaks of Iraq Experience
"Those words ring in my ears and haunt my dreams every night. Those words came from an Iraqi man after we shot into his car at a checkpoint near the Baghdad station. We had given a hand and arm signal to stop but they did not. There were four Iraqis in the car three of them were fatally wounded." - Former US Marine, Jimmy Massey.
Jimmy Massey was a member of the US Marines for 12 years. He was deployed to Iraq as a Staff Sergeant in command of 35 men. During his tour of duty in Iraq his troops were responsible for the killing of approximately 35 unarmed civilians including children. He refused to continue killing and asked to be seen by a psychiatrist and was then sent back to the US for treatment. He was honourably discharged from the military in 2003 and was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Jimmy Massey is a founding member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. He is currently in Ireland as a witness in the trial of five peace activists from the Pit Stop Ploughsahres who disarmed a US Navy war plane in Shannon airport on the 3rd of February 2003.
Also of Interest: A video of Jimmy speaking the last time he was over in Ireland | Interview From The Frontline | Pitstop Trial Begins in Four Courts | The Mysterious Indymedia Anti-war Archive Machine
The followoing is a report of a speech delivered by him at a recent public meeting in Dublin.
It’s definitely an honor to be back in Ireland and to be a part of this (Pitstop Plougshares) trial. I want to give you a little bit of history about myself. I grew up in western North Carolina and also along the gulf coast of Texas. My grandfather was co-owner of a dairy farm in western North Carolina. I used to spend my summers there working on a dairy farm so that I could get money to pay for my school clothes and what not. I grew up in a working class family. My father was shot and killed by police in Florida when I was very young so it was difficult growing up as far as money. I came from a trailer park in Texas. So it was funny, I was watching a show last night on MTV called ‘Trailer Park Boys’ and it was very reminiscent of my experiences in trailer park growing up.
I went to college. My dreams and desires were to become the pride of the automotive engineering community. I wanted to design new cars. That’s one thing. My first year of college my Mom called me on Spring Break and said ‘Bubba, I can no longer afford for you to go to college’. So I dropped out and decided to take a sabbatical and roam around the South. I found my way to New Orleans where I took a job working in the oil fields. Shortly after going to New Orleans I discovered Bourbon Street! And being 19 years old on Bourbon Street I soon lost my car, my apartment and my job. Then I was homeless living out on the streets and being very stubborn and headstrong and from Irish background myself, my mother is a red headed fiery Irish woman, I called her and I said ‘Mom, I’m gonna join the marines’. She said ‘Well, the only thing that you’re gonna do, if you still want to continue to be a part of this family, is you are going get on a Greyhound bus there in New Orleans and you’re gonna travel back to Houston and you’re gonna talk to me about wanting to go into the Marines. So over the course of that morning when I arrived back in Houston and over breakfast taking with my Ma about going in the marines she finally gave me her blessings and so off I went. So that began my career in the Marines.
When I eventually found out over time being a part of the Military Industrial Complex in America was that I was an economic conscript. In America we don’t have to have the draft. The draft was did away with after the Vietnam War. What they incorporated was something that was more clever than the draft. They basically sold off all the factories little by little in America, and especially in the South and moved them to China, which forced the youth of America to either leave their hometowns and find employment or try to find work within the fast food industry.
These were the types of situations that I heard continuously while I was a recruiter for three years as a Marine. Never once did I have a young man or woman come to me and say, you know Staff Sergeant the reason I’m joining the marines is for patriotism or for loyalty to country, or esprit de corp., all these intangible benefits. It was always for tangible benefits. It was for financial security, health care, technical skills and also money for college. The US military promises up to $50,000 to go to college. For a kid living in a trailer park who just doesn’t have the economic means, going in the military is definitely a way to go.
By doing away with the draft we incorporated the what’s called the IRR (Individual Regular Reserve). So now when you sign up for the military in the US you have a four-year obligation and then you have a 4-year obligation in the IRR. During the time after you’ve been discharged after four years and you’re in the IRR, the US government can call you back on active duty at any time in the case of imminent danger or war, which we’re in. So basically right now if you join the military you’re in for 8 years.
I’ve written a book. The Spanish Version is called ‘Cowboys From Hell’. The French version is called ‘Kill, Kill, Kill’. I have went through many English publishing companies from Britain to Amsterdam to Canada to the US. And no English publishing company will pick it up for fear of legal reprise. I name names in the book and that’s very threatening to a lot of English publishing companies. If you know any good Irish publishing company that has the intestinal fortitude to pick up the book please send them my way.
With that in mind when I first heard the possibility of the US going to war with Iraq I believed President lies like many other Americans. It’s no secret that Saddam Hussein was a horrible dictator and done unspeakable acts against humanity. He did things like use chemical warfare on the Kurds and tortured prisoners, now the American Forces are doing the same. These things and so much more ended with the mass killings of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians.
As I was going over all this information in my mind I began to ask myself deep questions. How did we get into the situation where the use of military force was about to possibly cause a global war? How was Saddam linked to weapons of mass destruction? I knew that we put Saddam into power and sold lots of military hardware to Saddam government during the Iran Iraq war. This was confirmed when I was in Iraq my platoon and I saw left over US munitions and abandoned ammo stores facilities throughout Iraq. Also US maintenance left over after the Iran Iraq war.
I had many briefings during my career about the Middle East and in each briefing I was led to believe they, along with North Korea, were a constant threat to the US. The Marine Corps had to train for this moment since the end of the Cold War
I joined the marines at the end of the Gulf War in 1992. I remember training with the use of Soviet infantry pop up targets in boot camp. We shifted to use Middle Eastern pop-up targets by the time I got to the regular Marine force. The Cold War was dead and we needed a new enemy to supply the Military Industrial Complex. The Middle East was the new target. Osama Bin Laden knew this early on. Maybe he came to this rationalisation while conducting business with the CIA during the Russian Afghan war.
What I believed when I cycled all this information though my mind was that my president would not send me to war for no good reason. I felt this because I knew his job is to uphold the constitution of the United States, the Geneva Conventions and abide by International Law even though we, as Americans, don’t belong to the International Court system I voted for Bush in his first election. I had faith in this man but I was wrong and thankfully it didn’t take me too long to figure that out once I got into Iraq.
I remember passing the UN checkpoint entering into Iraq, entering the town of Safwa. I was wondering if we were going to provide medical assistance to any of the civilians in the town. After the constant bombardment of artillery I knew they would be desperate for it. I thought we would provide humanitarian food to the people of Safwa or area that had been affected by the dropping of cluster bombs. But much to my dismay this was the first of many disappointments. When we were packing up our gear to leave to invade Iraq we were ordered to leave the humanitarian aid and medical supplies behind us in Kuwait which we so proudly displayed to all the embedded that this is the level of humanitarian assistance we were going to give to alleviate the 13 years of sanctions which never came true.
I remember hearing about one of the Marines who lost his leg standing on one of the cluster bombs in the city. Staff Sergeant (?) became the first American casualty of the Iraq war. But it was how he became a casualty that bothered me.
He basically stepped on a landmine that we shot out of a cannon into the city of Safwa, which is a violation of the Geneva Conventions. Land mines are a cruel and psychological way to bring constant fear not only to civilians in Iraq but also the military. Every step you take could be your last.
My first mission in Iraq was not to help the people of Safwa but to head North towards Basra and the Ramallah oilfields. We were told to secure this area from the potential destruction of the pumping station. We were also told that this mission would save millions of dollars of lost revenue if the pipeline was not destroyed by Saddam loyalists. The mission to secure the pipeline was nothing new to the marines. They had been secretly conducting drills in California since the summer of 2002. The Marines had detailed personal computer software to do 3-D imaging of the target area at the pumping stations. These images enabled marines to simulate walking though the pumping stations on their personal computers. The CIA also told us that they would try to recruit some Iraqi agents from within the pumping stations to points out any bad guys once we were in the station. So they had operatives working within the Iraqi infrastructure. Many US Marines had participated in a one-week course into oil-field operation and hazards. The Marines had just become and the savior of oil rich companies.
I felt betrayed. Betrayed over oil, money and guns. We sneaked our way through Iraq occasionally stopping to waste and destroy US taxpayer dollars. We would shoot at abandoned Iraqi military compounds because this was a crowd favorite among the embedded journalists. It would allow them to get a story and get live footage of us in action to beam into American households as the story of the hour on CNN or Fox.
During my stay in Iraq I only came under direct fie a couple of times. The firing lasted several seconds and then it was gone. Much like a Saturday night in south central Los Angeles.
I started to question what our real mission was in Iraq after the first civilians were killed. It was near the Rashid military compound. When we pulled up I saw ten Iraqis standing about 150 meters from us. They were standing in a road waving banners chanting anti-American slogans. They were holding two big pictures, one of Saddam and one apparently of a cleric. I walked over to a marine who was watching the demonstration though his binoculars. He told me they were having a peaceful demonstration. And that they didn’t have any weapons. I walked back to my Humvee to check on my men and I heard a stray gunshot that went directly over our heads. The next thing I knew we were opening up on the demonstrators. No one asked us where the gunshot had came from before they fired their weapons The intelligence reports we were getting had painted every Iraqi as a terrorist. We were on high alert at all times. My Lieutenant and I did a reconnaissance of the area when the shooting was over and I guess you could say we were shooting first and asking questions later.
We had killed at least four of the ten demonstrators. I kept looking around the bodies for weapons but didn’t see any. The only weapons I saw were lying up against a concrete pillar about 150 meters away from the demonstrators. They could have shot at us if they wanted to but they didn’t. They were just holding a peaceful protest telling us to leave and that they didn’t want us in their country. I was so angry at what we were doing in Iraq I tried to tell myself that maybe it was an accident maybe it was that those things sometime happen that it was just the fog of war. But I couldn’t let it go and hoped and prayed it wouldn’t happen again.
Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse my fears became a reality. “Why did you kill my brother? We’re not terrorists. We didn’t do anything to you” Those words ring in my ears and haunt my dreams every night. Those words came from an Iraqi man after we shot into his car at a checkpoint near the Baghdad station. We had given a hand and arm signal to stop but they did not. There were four Iraqis in the car three of them were fatally wounded. The driver of the car was miraculously unscathed. He was screaming and crying, pointing his fingers at my face saying, “You did this. You killed my brother.”
The words of that Iraqi man made me take a step back and think about what our true mission in Iraq really was He made me question my own humanity and my own conscience. I was starting to change not only as a marine but as a man too. My grandfather was a WWII vet who stormed the beeches at Normandy. He always taught me that it was an honor to defend your country but he also told me to stand up for what I believe in. He used to tell me that even the government doesn’t always make the smartest decisions. It was at that point I was beyond certain that we were violating the Geneva Conventions and International Law. The hardest part of the war is that you can actually see the effect on the civilian population. It fells like your heart is being ripped out of your chest every time you see an innocent person die, especially a child because of the war machine. The war machine could get all the supplies the US forces needed like food and water across the desert. But I couldn’t find anyone who had just one vial, one vial of insulin to save a diabetic Iraqi boy’s life. I had to turn him away knowing he was going to die because of the war machine.
The ugly side of the war machine is something the war leaves behind years after the war is over. It’s a nasty little thing called Depleted Uranium. Depleted Uranium is my generation’s Agent Orange. Depleted Uranium comes in the form of ammunition. This ammunition can be used on anything from a tank to an aircraft to a heavy machine gun. On a peace trip to Japan I befriended an Iraqi doctor. I watched his presentation on how Depleted Uranium causes birth defects and cancers like Leukemia. I was horrified to find out that he had documentary evidence going back to the first Gulf War. Mr. Bush said we went into Iraq looking for Weapons of Mass Destruction but if you ask me we are using Weapons of Mass Destruction.
I have nightmares about what I witnessed and participated in while I was in Iraq.
I have to live with the fact every day that I hated the destruction and devastation of the Iraqi people. The horrors of war are forever burned into mind. When I close my eyes I see death, destruction and carnage we inflicted on the Iraqi people. It’s something I cannot mentally escape from.
I am a co-founder of Iraq Veterans Against The War. IVAW was formed in the summer of 2004. We currently have over 300 members and getting larger every single day. Each member is doing different things liking writing books or plays and speaking about their experiences just as I am today. From my understanding you have one of my members coming shortly. We all have one common goal and that is the request for immediate withdrawal of troops and taking care of them when they get home. Our taking care of them is a program we set up called Vets for Vets. Vets for Vets is a way for Veterans to be with other Veterans to share their stories and their experiences. And help them get benefits and medical attention both mentally and physically they desperately need and deserve. From psychological trauma to being poisoned by Depleted Uranium.
James Hillman said in ‘A Terrible Love of War’ the return from the Killing Field is more than a de-briefing it is a slow ascent from Hell. Well my ascent from hell has been a difficult one and I know it’s not over yet.
Now that I’ve given you some bad, let’s talk about what my organisation is doing as far as pressuring congressman and senators. We have given a mission statement to our Senators and Congressmen as to what we should do as Americans:
1) Withdraw all American troops and support services from Iraq immediately
2) Turn over all responsibility except financial to the International community.
3) Pay the cost of repairing all the damages we have done. We broke it we should have to pay to fix it.
4) Recognise the War Courts and turn over to them everyone who is responsible for starting this war. Let them face justice.
5) Many American corporations are profiting mightily from this war let the corporations show their patriotism by sacrificing their profits.
6) Vote out of office every congressman and senator that supported the war.
There are those who say it is not the fault of the Congress such as members like Carey. They are many who are good, decent people who got caught up in the politics of patriotism. But it is the responsibility of Congress to provide checks and balances to the Executive branch. To allow the Executive Carte blanch to implement in Iraq a criminal policy is dereliction of their responsibility. Why should we allow them to stay in office when they have not been responsible? We need to set a precedent so that future Congresses will take their responsibilities seriously.