http://www.alternet.org/story.html?StoryID=18730 A Soldier of Conscience (edited for length - stupid new forums) By Paul Rockwell, Sacramento Bee May 18, 2004 Editor's Note: For nearly 12 years, Staff Sgt. Jimmy Massey was a hard-core, some say gung-ho, Marine. For three years, he trained fellow Marines in one of the most grueling indoctrination rituals in military life: Marine boot camp. The Iraq war changed Massey. The brutality of the U.S. invasion touched his conscience and transformed him forever. He was honorably discharged with full severance last Dec. 31 and is now back in his hometown, Waynsville, N.C. We are republishing the following interview from the May 16 Sacramento Bee because it is a rare first-hand account of the carnage taking place in Iraq, especially the killing of innocent civilians. You spent 12 years in the Marines. When were you sent to Iraq? I went to Kuwait around Jan. 17. I was in Iraq from the get-go. And I was involved in the initial invasion. What does the public need to know about your experiences as a Marine? The cause of the Iraqi revolt against the American occupation. What they need to know is we killed a lot of innocent people. Killing Civilians What experiences turned you against the war and made you leave the Marines? I was in charge of a platoon that consists of machine gunners and missile men. Our job was to go into certain areas of the towns and secure the roadways. There was this one particular incident – and there's many more – the one that really pushed me over the edge. It involved a car with Iraqi civilians. From all the intelligence reports we were getting, the cars were loaded down with suicide bombs or material. That's the rhetoric we received from intelligence. They came upon our checkpoint. We fired some warning shots. They didn't slow down. So, we lit them up. Lit up? You mean you fired machine guns? Right. Every car that we lit up we were expecting ammunition to go off. But we never heard any. Well, this particular vehicle we didn't destroy completely, and one gentleman looked up at me and said: "Why did you kill my brother? We didn't do anything wrong." That hit me like a ton of bricks. Baghdad was being bombed. The civilians were trying to get out, right? Yes. They received pamphlets, propaganda we dropped on them. It said, "Just throw up your hands, lay down weapons." That's what they were doing, but we were still lighting them up. They weren't in uniform. We never found any weapons. You got to see the bodies and casualties? Yeah, firsthand. I helped throw them in a ditch. Over what period did all this take place? During the invasion of Baghdad. How many times were you involved in checkpoint "light-ups"? Five times. There was Rekha. The gentleman was driving a stolen work utility van. He didn't stop. With us being trigger happy, we didn't really give this guy much of a chance. We lit him up pretty good. Then we inspected the back of the van. We found nothing. No explosives. The reports said the cars were loaded with explosives. In all the incidents did you find that to be the case? Never. Not once. There were no secondary explosions. As a matter of fact, we lit up a rally after we heard a stray gunshot. A demonstration? Where? On the outskirts of Baghdad. Near a military compound. There were demonstrators at the end of the street. They were young and they had no weapons. And when we rolled onto the scene, there was already a tank that was parked on the side of the road. If the Iraqis wanted to do something, they could have blown up the tank. But they didn't. They were only holding a demonstration. Down at the end of the road, we saw some RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades) lined up against the wall. That put us at ease because we thought: "Wow, if they were going to blow us up, they would have done it." Who gave the order to wipe the demonstrators out? Higher command. We were told to be on the lookout for the civilians because a lot of the Fedayeen and the Republican Guards had tossed away uniforms and put on civilian clothes and were mounting terrorist attacks on American soldiers. The intelligence reports that were given to us were basically known by every member of the chain of command. The rank structure that was implemented in Iraq by the chain of command was evident to every Marine in Iraq. The order to shoot the demonstrators, I believe, came from senior government officials, including intelligence communities within the military and the U.S. government. You fired into six or ten kids? Were they all taken out? Oh, yeah. Well, I had a "mercy" on one guy. When we rolled up, he was hiding behind a concrete pillar. I saw him and raised my weapon up, and he put up his hands. He ran off. I told everybody, "Don't shoot." Half of his foot was trailing behind him. So, he was running with half of his foot cut off. There was an incident with one of the cars. We shot an individual with his hands up. He got out of the car. He was badly shot. We lit him up. I don't know who started shooting first. One of the Marines came running over to where we were and said: "You all just shot a guy with his hands up." What can you tell me about depleted uranium? Depleted uranium. I know what it does. It's basically like leaving plutonium rods around. I have 80 percent of my lung capacity. I ache all the time. I don't feel like a healthy 32-year-old. Were you in the vicinity of depleted uranium? Oh, yeah. It's everywhere. If you hit a tank, there's dust. And if DU is affecting you or our troops, it's impacting Iraqi civilians. Oh, yeah. They got a big wasteland problem. Cluster bombs are also controversial. U.N. commissions have called for a ban. Were you acquainted with cluster bombs? I had one of my Marines in my battalion who lost his leg from an intermittent cluster bomb. What happened? He stepped on it. We didn't get to training about clusters until about a month before I left. Are they dropped far away from cities, or inside the cities? They are used everywhere. Now if you talked to a Marine artillery officer, he would give you the runaround, the politically correct answer. But they're everywhere. Including inside the towns and cities? Yes, if you were going into a city, you knew there were going to be intermittent cluster bombs. Cluster bombs are anti-personnel weapons. They are not precise. They don't injure buildings, or hurt tanks. Only people and living things. Once the round leaves the tube, the cluster bomb has a mind of its own. There's always human error. It's starting to leak out about the civilian casualties that are taking place. The Iraqis know. I keep hearing reports from my Marine buddies inside that there were 200-something civilians killed in Fallujah. The military is scrambling right now to keep the wraps on that. My understanding is Fallujah is just littered with civilian bodies. I would like to go back to the first incident, when the survivor asked why did you kill his brother. Was that the incident that pushed you over the edge, as you put it? Oh, yeah. Later on I found out that was a typical day. I talked with my commanding officer after the incident. He came up to me and says: "Are you OK?" I said: "No, today is not a good day. We killed a bunch of civilians." He goes: "No, today was a good day." Your feelings changed during the invasion. What was your state of mind before the invasion? I was like every other troop. My president told me they got weapons of mass destruction, that Saddam threatened the free world, that he had all this might and could reach us anywhere. I just bought into the whole thing. Did the revelations that we didn't find any proof about Iraq's weapons affect the troops? Yes. I killed innocent people for our government. For what? What did I do? Where is the good coming out of it? I feel like I've had a hand in some sort of evil lie at the hands of our government. I just feel embarrassed, ashamed about it. I understand that all the incidents – killing civilians at checkpoints, itchy fingers at the rally – weigh on you. What happened with your commanding officers? How did you deal with them? There was an incident. It was right after the fall of Baghdad, when we went back down south. On the outskirts of Karbala, we had a morning meeting on the battle plan. I was not in a good mindset. All these things were going through my head – about what we were doing over there. About some of the things my troops were asking. I was holding it all inside. My lieutenant and I got into a conversation. The conversation was striking me wrong. And I lashed out. I looked at him and told him: "You know, I honestly feel that what we're doing is wrong over here. We're committing genocide." I want to help people. I felt strongly about it. I had to say something. When I was sent back to stateside, I went in front of the sergeant major. He's in charge of 3,500-plus Marines. "Sir," I told him, "I don't want your money. I don't want your benefits. What you did was wrong." It was just a personal conviction with me. I've had an impeccable career. I chose to get out. I blame the president of the U.S. It's not the grunt. I blame the president because he said they had weapons of mass destruction. It was a lie.