"I Killed Innocent People For Our Government." An eye-opening Q&A with Marine Staff Sgt. Jimmy Massey, a 12-year veteran. He was involved in the initial Iraq invasion and was honorably discharged last December 31. He's now back in his hometown of Waynsville, NC, where he spoke with Paul Rockwell of the Sacramento Bee:
Q: What experiences turned you against the war and made you leave the Marines?
A: 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. ... 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. ...
Q: The reports said the cars were loaded with explosives. In all the incidents did you find that to be the case?
A: Never. Not once. There were no secondary explosions. As a matter of fact, we lit up a rally after we heard a stray gunshot. On the outskirts of Baghdad. Near a military compound. There were demonstrators at the end of the street. They were young [6-10 kids] and they had no weapons. ... The order to shoot the demonstrators, I believe, came from senior government officials, including intelligence communities within the military and the U.S. government. ... M-16s, 50-cal. machine guns. ...
I am so glad I am talking with you, because I suppressed all of this. ... It's kind of therapy for me. Because it's something that I had repressed for a long time. ... 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 raps on that. My understanding is Fallujah is just littered with civilian bodies. ...
Q: 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?
A: 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." And when he said that, I said "Oh, my goodness, what the hell am I into?"
Q: Your feelings changed during the invasion. What was your state of mind before the invasion?
A: 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.
Q: What changed you?
A: The civilian casualties taking place. That was what made the difference. That was when I changed. ... 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.
Q: What happened with your commanding officers? How did you deal with them?
A: 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." ... And I knew right then and there that my career was over. I was talking to my commanding officer. ... I've had an impeccable career. I chose to get out. And you know who I blame? I blame the president of the US. It's not the grunt. I blame the president because he said they had weapons of mass destruction. It was a lie.