AMY GOODMAN: Welcome to Democracy Now!.
STAFF SERGEANT JIMMY MASSEY: Good morning. How you are doing?
AMY GOODMAN: Very good. Can you talk about when you were in Iraq?
STAFF SERGEANT JIMMY MASSEY: Yeah. I was part of the initial invading
force. I was part of first marine division categorized into RCP-7. The
battalion that I was with was third battalion seventh marines, weapons
company cap 1. I was basically in the main invasion all the way up into
Baghdad, and then once Baghdad fell, my battalion headed south towards
the city of Karbala.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about your experience there?
STAFF SERGEANT JIMMY MASSEY: Really, what led up to my disgust with the
war was the civilian casualties that we were inflicting. We were given
intelligence reports—the civilian casualties really started taking place
after we left the town of Anu Mannia on the drive north towards Baghdad.
We were getting intelligence reports from higher command saying that the
Fedayeen and Republican Guards were trading in their uniforms for
civilian clothes, and they were mounting terrorist attacks against U.S.
soldiers and marines using guerrilla-style tactics, suicide bombings.
They were using civilians as human shields. They were loading down
stolen ambulances and police cars with explosives. So, as we progressed
on towards Baghdad, our fears and anxieties were heightened, and also
due to the lack of sleep, some of us had less than 48 hours of sleep
getting into Baghdad. So, whenever we were placed into these situations
where civilian vehicles were coming up to our checkpoints, and not
heeding our warning shot, we were lighting them up. What I mean by
lighting them up, we were discharging our weapons, 50 cals and M-16’s
into the civilian vehicles. When we would do this, we were expecting
secondary explosions, ammunition to be cooking off or actually have the
occupants in the vehicle fire back at us. However, none of this ever
happened. When we would go to search the vehicles, we would find no
weapons, and nothing to link these individuals with—these individuals
with terrorists acts. And this happened continuously through the fall of
Baghdad. I would say my platoon alone killed 30-plus innocent civilians.
AMY GOODMAN: How would you realize what you had done? Can you give us a
STAFF SERGEANT JIMMY MASSEY: Sure. Sure. A car would roll up to our
checkpoint. And prior while we were still in Kuwait, we had actually
made up Arabic road signs to place out in front of our checkpoint area
warning the Iraqis to slow down. That didn’t help. We would verbally
tell them stop and we would fire a warning shot. When we would light the
cars up, you know, we would go through and search the dead occupants as
well as the vehicles, and we would find nothing that directly linked
them to any type of terrorists. They were just average civilians that
were trying to flee out of Iraq—or excuse me—out of Baghdad, out of the
city limits because of the invading American force. They were scared.
But with the intelligence reports that we were given, it was very hard
for us to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys. We ultimately
started looking at everybody in Iraq as a potential suicide bomber or
terrorist from women to children to old men. We didn’t know who the
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Jimmy Massey former marine staff sergeant,
honorably discharged in December after serving 12 years, most recently
in Iraq. He was in charge of a platoon that consisted of machine gunners
and missile men describing, quote, lighting up cars, opening fire on
Iraqi cars. When you would go up to the cars and see who was dead
inside, what would you do with the bodies?
STAFF SERGEANT JIMMY MASSEY: We would take the bodies and search them to
try to find any type of identification or anything like that. Generally,
we found large quantities of cash, and that’s what led us to believe
that the people were just fleeing out of Baghdad. They were trying to
secure what valuables that they had. Some of them had their valuables in
the car, but you know, there was basically nothing that we could do with
the bodies other than toss them in the ditch and off the road. So,
that’s what we would do, and then hopefully wait for the Iraqi medics,
civilian medics to come in and take care of the bodies.
AMY GOODMAN: How many children would you estimate you killed?
STAFF SERGEANT JIMMY MASSEY: With unknown gunfire, the potential is
unlimited, and what I mean by unknown gunfire, whenever you fire a
machine gun especially a 50 caliber and any type of lightweight machine
gun, you don’t know where the bullets are going to go. So bullets could
indiscriminately hit a child. The architecture—some of these villages
that we went into were very shady construction. Our weapons could easily
punch through. The reason I say that or use that as an example. I had a
young child die in my arms. The father came up to us at the checkpoint
with a child, and began to say, the bombs—the bombs killed his child. I
called the corpsman. The corpsman came over to assist the child and said
the child probably had internal damage from the concussion, from the
bombs. So, as his child died in my arms you know, I began to think, you
know, wow, here’s an innocent child that was just sleeping or doing
things that children do, and the—the response that I got from my command
was, well, better them than us, and, you know, it’s—he’s just a casualty
of war. Sorry. However, that father that was standing there as his child
was dying in my arms, and, you know, the doc was resuscitating, doing
CPR, this father was looking at me like, why did you do this? You know,
and—you know, why does my son have to die? Almost just like a hatred
look towards me. He knew I was obviously in command. Another incident it
was on the outskirts of Baghdad near the Baghdad stadium, we had pulled
into an area, and shortly after we had pulled in, it was on a major
highway like a superhighway going in towards Baghdad. We had just lit up
a vehicle, a red KIA, the Korean-made passenger vehicle, and we had just
lit it up. They failed to stop at our checkpoint. Three of the men were
fatally wounded that were in the vehicle and one—the driver, had
survived without any damage. As we were pulling the bodies out of the
vehicle, of course, we’re searching and we find nothing, and these were
young—these were young men. They were in their mid 20’s. The one that
was unscathed, he looked up at me and he goes, you know, why did you
kill my brother? We didn’t do anything to you. We’re not terrorists. So,
I have three dying men with bullet holes from our weapons, and this
gentleman asking me why I killed his brother. That’s a tough pill to
swallow, and that continuously happened the entire time that we were in
Iraq. After we left the city of Anu Mannia, it just became utter chaos.
It sickened me so that I had actually brought it up to my lieutenant,
and I told him, I said, you know, sir, we’re not going to have to worry
about the Iraq—you know, we’re basically committing genocide over here,
mass extermination of thousands of Iraqis, and with the depleted uranium
that we’re leaving around on the battlefield, we’re setting up genocide
for future generations within Iraq. He didn’t like that. He immediately
went to my commanding officer, Captain Schmitt and proceeded to tell him
about how I felt about Iraq. Word spread pretty quickly and I knew that
my Marine Corps career was over. I knew that the statement that I had
just made was going to bring about the blackball pretty quickly. So, I
was scurried out of Iraq quickly, and ordered to report back stateside
to receive psychological therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder and
major depression. When I got back stateside, that’s when things really
became ugly. I felt like the staff sergeant that just received the
prison sentence for a year. I had to hire a lawyer because they were
trying to pin me with conscientious objector, and basically, they were
doing everything in their power to threaten me and to intimidate me so
that I would go U.A. Unfortunately, with the staff sergeant, he fell
into their trap, and he went U.A.
AMY GOODMAN: What does U.A. mean?
STAFF SERGEANT JIMMY MASSEY: Unauthorized absence. That means that he
left without authorization. That’s basically—you know, that’s what they
charged him with. Then they later on pinned on the conscientious
objector. However, the Marine Corps told me they were going to bring
legal repercussions against me and I decided to hire a lawyer. The
lawyer that I hired was actually—he was involved with the My Lai trials.
I got really lucky, a man by the name of Gary Myers in Washington D.C.
Their main concern was whether or not I was a conscientious objector. I
told them that I believed in war and some wars in our history have been
helpful for humanity and society as a whole, however, I do not believe
in killing innocent civilians. So, I told them if they wanted to label
me as a conscientious objector for disagreeing with, you know, killing
innocent civilians, then I’ll see them in court.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Jimmy Massey former staff sergeant Marine,
honorably discharged in December after serving 12 years. We’re speaking
to him from his home in Waynesville, North Carolina, in the Smoky
Mountains. We’ll come back to him if a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! The War and Peace Report.
Democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman, as we continue with Marine Staff
Sergeant Jimmy Massey, honorably discharged in December, talking about
his experiences in Iraq. You talk about opening fire on a group of
STAFF SERGEANT JIMMY MASSEY: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you describe it?
STAFF SERGEANT JIMMY MASSEY: Sure, we had just rolled up—it was probably
about 20 miles north of the Saddam International Airport. We had rolled
up into this military compound area, and to try to give you—it’s a
little bit important that you understand the architecture. This military
compound was heavily fortified with about 13-foot-tall concrete fences
going all the way around the compound. This particular road that we went
into, these walls were on the left and right, and the road itself was
about 1,000 meters long. So, it made a very difficult—it was a prime
area for an ambush. When we pulled up, there was already an Abrams tank
that was parked into one of the entrances at the military compound. At
the end of the street about 200 meters a way from the tank there was a
group of demonstrators. They were holding a peaceful demonstration. They
were holding up signs that looked like a Muslim cleric as well as Saddam
Hussein. The intelligence that we had received was these
demonstrators—there was about four of them and there was ten in the
background. They were standing next to a highway overpass. The
intelligence that we had gotten, these people were probably members of
the Iraqi military that had slipped back into the community, and they
were going to be waging all of these terrorist attacks against us. We
rolled up, and about two minutes later, we had heard a stray gunfire. My
men were already on the edge, you know, with anxiety, and the lack of
sleep, and with the constant reports that we were given. When the
gunshot was fired, my marines opened up on the demonstrators. I turned
around just in time because I was walking the lines inspecting my
marines to make sure that they had food and water and they were in the
right position in case of an ambush. I turned around to the front of the
convoy, and I saw the—I saw my marines opening up. I swung my rifle
around. I didn’t know what was going on, and I started discharging my
weapon as well into the demonstrators. After that, the lieutenant
decided to go on a reconnaissance up onto the overpass area. We—as we
were driving towards the demonstrator, I didn’t see any weapons. It just
horrified me at the thought that we just opened up on a group of
peaceful demonstrators, however, we heard gunshots coming from that
direction towards us. So, as we rolled up onto the highway overpass, I
looked down and below the highway it looked like the Iraqis had set up
some sort of makeshift military compound, but it had been abandoned. I
saw some R.P.G.‘s lining up against the wall underneath this highway,
and it was about—they were about 200 meters away from the Iraqi
demonstrators. This really disturbed me, because the demonstrators if
they wanted to fire on us, they had the ability. They had the ability
before we even got there to destroy this tank, because the way that we
were jammed into this area, it was almost impossible for us to turn
around quickly. Nearly—or double almost impossible for this tank to fire
or use its main battle gun. It left this tank defenseless. These Iraqis
had a clear shot of the tank before we even got there, but they didn’t.
I just quickly- put two and two together and said, oh, my God–we just
opened up on a group of peaceful demonstrators.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to former marine staff sergeant Jimmy Massey,
what about the use of cluster bombs?
STAFF SERGEANT JIMMY MASSEY: I had a staff sergeant at the very
beginning of the war. He was our supply staff sergeant. He lost his leg
because of cluster bombs. Cluster bombs were everywhere, and I believe
that he was the first marine to be awarded the Purple Heart in
“Operation Iraq.” because it happened in Safwan, the town of Safwan, the
first city as your heading into Iraq from Kuwait. They were everywhere.
The long-term casualties of these cluster bombs with children and—you
know, older people working in the fields is going to go on for years.
AMY GOODMAN: Where were they from?
STAFF SERGEANT JIMMY MASSEY: From Marine Artillery and from air.
AMY GOODMAN: In the case of the protests, when you realized that you had
open fire on defenseless civilians, what was the he reaction of your
troops? How many people felt the way you did?
STAFF SERGEANT JIMMY MASSEY: The reaction of the troops was they were
joyous. You know it’s not their job to play politics. That’s the job of
the staff sergeant and the lieutenant, to make determinations on whether
or not we were in the right or we were in the wrong. I didn’t tell my
troops. My job was to keep them motivated so they go home alive, and in
one piece, and left with some sort of sanity after the war. However, I
did have several of my younger troops come up to me in private and say,
you know, staff sergeant, can I talk you to? And then they would go on
to tell me, you know, that some of the incidents were affecting them.
So, I told them, I said, listen double dog, we’re here to do a job and
provide democracy for the Iraqis, and you questioning and you playing
politician is not helping them. So, I want you to get back out there on
the gun line and do your job as a marine, and let the politicians do
their job. But deep down, it was seriously affecting me, because it was
so evident. Marines are trained from day one that you go in—when you go
in to boot camp you learn what the Geneva Convention is, what the rules
of the Geneva Convention are, what the rules of engagement. However,
Iraq violated every rule of engagement that I have ever been
taught–violated every rule of the Geneva Convention that I have been
taught. If you have young marines coming up you to and asking you, staff
sergeant, what’s going on? You know, we have got a problem.
AMY GOODMAN: What are you doing right now? How are you living with
yourself? How are you dealing with what happened in Iraq with you and
what you and your soldiers did in Iraq?
STAFF SERGEANT JIMMY MASSEY: I’ll be honest with you, there isn’t a
waking moment of the day that I don’t think about it and think about
what we have done over there. A lot of people ask me, you know why you
are speaking out? Why are you—you know, are you just trying to do this
for money fame, fortune. What are you doing? I have been called a
traitor, a disloyal s.o.b. You name it. The reason that I’m doing this
is to heal myself. To possibly heal other marines that are not in the
position for them to come out and say something from fear of retaliation
from the marine corps. I’m doing this not only to heal myself about to
help other marines that feel the same way that I do.
AMY GOODMAN: Are others talking to you now here?
STAFF SERGEANT JIMMY MASSEY: No. Let me explain you to—I was also a
recruiter for three years in the Marine Corps. Whenever you sign up for
the military, army, navy, air force, marines, coast guard, have a
four-year commitment. At the end of that four-year commitment, you still
have another four-year commitment in what’s called an I.R.R., Individual
Ready Reserve. That means in the time of national emergency or crisis,
the president of the United States can call these members back to active
duty. So, these marines that have been discharged, you know, after the
fall of Iraq, they’re living back in their civilian community but
they’re still fearful to come out and say anything because the Marine
Corps can call them back to active duty. And then they’re worried about
what happened to the staff sergeant. The staff sergeant is being used as
a patsy. He’s being used as: see, this is what will happen to you to if
you speak out. However, I spent 12 years in. There’s nothing that they
can do to me as far as calling me back to active duty. So, I feel it’s
my responsibility to let the civilian public know. You know, the boards
that we put into those—the bullets that we put into the civilians were
paid for by the U.S. Tax dollar. I believe that the U.S. Taxpayers have
a rate to know what’s going on over there. When we pulled into that
military compound, they had makeshift morgues. They had tractor-trailer
beds full of bodies. It was so bad—this is because of the bombing that
we did—some of them had Iraqi flags on them, representing that they were
a soldier, but 80% of them didn’t. We would find tractor-trailers
literally full of stocked bodies. It was so bad that the plasma from the
body and the skin was decomposing and literally oozing out of the
crevices of the tractor-trailer bed. We asked—we asked some of the
Iraqis that—the locals that were basically homeless and they were living
in the compound, we asked them, like, what is this? How come, you know,
the bodies are in there, and he told us it was from the bombing, and
when they lost the power, they didn’t have any other place to put them.
So, they put them in there to bury them later on.
AMY GOODMAN: Jimmy Massey, I want to thank you very much for being with
us, former marine Staff Sergeant, honorably discharged in December after
serving 12 years, speaking to us from his home in Waynesville, North
Carolina, in the smoky mountains. Any last thoughts?
STAFF SERGEANT JIMMY MASSEY: Yeah. I’d just like to say to the Marines,
you did a great job. You did what your country asked you to do.
Unfortunately, the rules of engagement and the Geneva Convention weren’t
used. But it’s up to you to look within your heart and do the right
thing. You know who you are. Don’t be scared. Come out. The American
public, they need to know. You’re not the only one. There are other
people out there that can help you to heal. There are other people out
there that can help you to get on with your life. Don’t feel ashamed.
Don’t feel embarrassed. Did you a great job, however, you know, the
Command—they didn’t give you the right tools for you to carry on with
your mission. Just do the right thing, marines.
AMY GOODMAN: Who do you hold most responsible for this?
STAFF SERGEANT JIMMY MASSEY: The president of the United States. He’s
the win that authorized it. He’s the one that said there were weapons of
mass destruction. He’s the one that gave the case to us for going to
war. We went to war backing him, however, the intelligence reports that
we were getting hindered our ability to make Iraq a free democracy. You
know, it’s hard to tell a middle aged or middle—you know, young man in
his 20’s—say 20 to 28 years old that just watched his brother die by the
hands of Americans. It’s hard to tell him, you know, what, hey, we’re
sorry. All right. He’s just a casualty of war. Now, this young man has
taken revenge or is acting in revenge against the United States in
Fallujah, in Karbala. He’s picking up that R.P.G. because he’s mad. He’s
mad at the Americans. We were supposed to go in there and set up a
democracy. All we did was cause chaos and have a genocidal mindset. So,
they’re mad. They have every right to be mad. I know if somebody killed
my brother, you know, indiscriminately and laughed about it and said,
well, sorry, wrong place, wrong time, I would be mad, too.
AMY GOODMAN: Jimmy Massey, thank you for being with us, former Marine
staff sergeant, speaking to us from North Carolina.
STAFF SERGEANT JIMMY MASSEY: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!.