"We killed 30 civilians in six weeks. I felt
we were committing genocide"
23 May 2004 The Independent During 12 years in the US
Marines, including three years putting new recruits through boot camp, Staff
Sergeant Jimmy Massey hardly questioned his role. But what he saw in Iraq
"In a month and a half my platoon and I killed more
than 30 civilians," Mr Massey said. He saw bodies being desecrated
and robbed, and wounded civilians being dumped by the roadside without
medical treatment. After he told his commanding officer that he felt
"we were committing genocide", he was called a
Mr Massey, who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress and depression, left
the Marines in November. Back home in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina,
he says the cause of the uprising in Iraq is that "we
killed a lot of innocent people".
His 7th Marine Weapons Company, armed with machine guns and missiles, was
one of the first into the country in March last year. "We would take over
villages and control checkpoints," he said.
"My men and I would fire warning
shots at oncoming vehicles. But, if they didn't stop, we didn't have any
qualms about loading them up."
The Marines were told that Iraqis were filling
ambulances with explosives, and that soldiers were dressed as civilians, but
after pouring fire into vehicles and hearing no explosions, they started to
doubt the truth of these claims.
"Iraqi military compounds had nothing in them, except for dismantled tanks,
equipment that was barely functioning, and barracks that looked like ghost
towns," Mr Massey said.
The incident that haunts him most took place early in April, near an Iraqi
military compound five miles from Baghdad's airport. "There were
approximately 10 demonstrators near a tank," he said.
"We heard a shot in
the distance and we started shooting at them. They all died except for one.
We left the bodies there."
"We noticed that there were some RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades] about 200
metres away from them - they might have come from the military compound. The
demonstrators had the ability to fire at us or at the tank, but they didn't.
The survivor was hiding behind a column about 150 metres away from us. I
pointed at him and waved my weapon to tell him to get away. Half of his foot
had been cut off. He went away dragging his foot. We
were all laughing and cheering."
"Then an 18-wheeler [truck] came speeding around. We shot at it. One of the
guys jumped out. He was on fire. The driver was dead. Then a Toyota Corolla
came. We killed the driver, the other guy came out
with his hands up. We shot him too."
"A gunny from Lima Company came running and said to us: 'Hey, you just shot
that guy, but he had his hands up.' My unit, my commander and me were
relieved of our command for the rest of the day. Not more than five minutes
later, the Lima Company took up our position and shot a car with one woman
and two children. They all died."
"The next day the platoon guarded a checkpoint at Baghdad Stadium. "A red Kia
Spectra sped toward us at about 45mph. We fired a warning volley above it
but the car kept coming. Then we aimed at the car and fired with full force.
The Kia came to a stop right in front of me, three of the four men shot
dead, the fourth wounded and covered in blood. We called the medics, but he
died before they arrived. That day we killed three more civilians in the
same circumstances. I talked to my captain afterwards and told him: 'It's a
bad day.' He said: 'No, it's a good day.'"
Mr Massey watched as badly injured Iraqis were repeatedly "tossed on the
side of the road without calling medics". His reaction to the event that
triggered the recent siege of Fallujah - the sight of the blackened,
mutilated bodies of four American private security men - was that "we did
the same thing to them".
Iraqis, he said, "would see us debase their dead all the time. We would be
messing around with charred bodies, kicking them out of the vehicles and
sticking cigarettes in their mouths. I also saw vehicles drive over them. It
was our job to look into the pockets of dead Iraqis to gather intelligence.
However, time and time again, I saw Marines steal gold chains, watches and
wallets full of money."
Several members of his platoon expressed concern that so many civilians were
being killed, but Mr Massey says he told them: "We've got a job to do."
Finally, however, he voiced his own doubts to his commanding officer.
told him I felt like we were committing genocide in Iraq, that we were doing
harm to a culture. He said nothing and walked away. I knew my career was
over." Later, he says, his superior poured abuse on him, saying,
poor leader. You're faking it. You're a conscientious objector, you're a
After being sent back to the US, Mr Massey was offered a desk job.
seven years until retirement from the Marine Corps, but I told them I didn't
want their money any more," he said. The Marines' slogan -
friend, no worse enemy" - now embitters the former sergeant, who says
remorse keeps him awake at night.
"One day we would go into a city and set up roadblocks where civilian
casualties would take place, and then the next morning we would undertake a
humanitarian mission," he said. "How do we expect people who've seen their
brothers and mothers killed to turn around and welcome us with open arms?"
source: The Independent - 23 May, 2004