KILLED INNOCENT PEOPLE
FOR OUR GOVERNMENT"
nearly 12 years, Staff Sergeant 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 Iraqi war changed Massey.
The brutality, the sheer carnage of the U.S. invasion, touched
his conscience and transformed him forever. He was honorably
discharged last December 31 and is now back in his hometown,
Waynsville, North Carolina. When I talked with Sergeant Massey
last week, he expressed his remorse at the civilian loss of life
in incidents in which he himself was involved.
You spent 12 years in the Marines. When were you sent to Iraq?
I went to Kuwait around January 17th. 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
The cause of the Iraqi revolt against the American occupation.
What they need to know is we killed a lot of innocent people.
I think at first the Iraqis had the understanding that casualties
are a part of war. But over the course of time, the occupation
hurt the Iraqis. And I didn't see any humanitarian support.
What experiences turned you against the war and made you leave
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.
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.
Rockwell: 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.
He spoke English?
Baghdad was being bombed. The civilians were trying to get out,
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?
Yea, first hand. 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 check-point "light-ups"?
Lit Him Up Pretty Good"
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.
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.'
Were the protest signs in English or Arabic?
Who gave the order to wipe the demonstrators out?
Higher Command. We were told to be on the lookout for 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?
What kind of firepower was employed?
M-16s, 50-cal.machine guns.
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.
After you lit up the demonstration, how long before the next
Probably about one or two hours. This is another thing, too.
I am so glad I am talking with you, because I suppressed all
Well I appreciate you giving me the information, as hard as it
must be to recall the painful details.
That's all right. It's kind of therapy for me. Because it's something
that I had repressed for a long time.
And the incident?
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.' Man, I forgot about this.
Uranium and Cluster Bombs
You mention missiles and machine guns. What can you tell me about
cluster bombs, or depleted uranium?
Depleted uranium. I know what it does. It's basically like leaving
plutonium rods around. I'm 32 years old. I have eighty-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 of depleted uranium?
Oh, yeah. It's everywhere. DU is everywhere on the battlefield.
If you hit a tank, there's dust.
Did you breath any dust?
And if DU is affecting you or our troops, it's impacting Iraqi
Oh, yeah. They got a big wasteland problem.
Do Marines have any precautions about dealing with DU?
Not that I know of. Well, if a tank gets hit, crews are detained
for a little while to make sure there are no signs or symptoms.
American tanks have depleted uranium on the sides, and the projectiles
have DU in them. If an enemy vehicle gets hit, the area gets
contaminated. Dead rounds are in the ground. The civilian populace
is just now starting to learn about it. Hell, I didn't even know
about DU until two years ago. You know how I found out about
it? I read an article in Rolling Stones magazine. I just started
inquiring about it, and I said 'Holy shit!'
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
a cluster bomb.
He stepped on it. We didn't get to training about clusters until
about a month before I left.
What kind of training?
They told us what they looked like, and not to step on them.
Were you in any areas where they were dropped?
Oh yeah. They were everywhere.
Dropped from the air?
From the air as well as artillery.
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 for an average grunt, they're everywhere.
Including inside the towns and cities?
Yes, if you were going into a city, you knew there were going
to be 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. There are a lot of undetonated duds and they go off after
the battles are over.
Once the round leaves the tube, the cluster bomb has a mind of
its own. There's always human error. I'm going to tell you. The
armed forces are in a tight spot over there. 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.
How are the embedded reporters responding?
I had embedded reporters in my unit, not my platoon. One we had
was a South African reporter. He was scared shitless. We had
an incident where one of them wanted to go home.
It was when we started going into Baghdad. When he started seeing
the civilian casualties, he started wigging out a little bit.
It didn't start until we got on the outskirts of Baghdad and
started taking civilian casualties.
Killed Innocent People For Our Government"
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 o.k?' 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?'
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.
What changed you?
The civilian casualties taking place. That was what made the
difference. That was when I changed.
Did the revelations that the government fabricated the evidence
for war 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.
with the Brass
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. ' He asked me something and I said that
with the killing of civilians and the depleted uranium we're
leaving over here, we're not going to have to worry about terrorists.
He didn't like that. He got up and stormed off. And I knew right
then and there that my career was over. I was talking to my commanding
What happened then?
After I talked to the top commander, I was kind of scurried away.
I was basically put on house arrest. I didn't talk to other troops,
I didn't want to hurt them. I didn't want to jeopardize them.
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 regimental
Sergeant Major. He's in charge of 3500-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. And you
know who I blame? 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.
interview first appeared in the
is a writer in the Bay Area
BETWEEN MASSEY AND CRITIC RON HARRIS
MARI, LE NOUVEL OBSERVATEUR, FRANCE - In a just-published book,
Master-Sergeant Jimmy Massey tells about his mission to recruit
for, then fight in, the war in Iraq. He tells why he killed.
And cracked. Jimmy Massey is 34 years old. He's originally a
Texas boy, raised as a good Southern Baptist who loves squirrel
hunting with his air rifle. After 12 years in the Marines, Jim
is a broken man, a veteran afflicted with post-traumatic stress
syndrome, a depressive hooked on his medications, haunted by
the nightmare images in which he massacres innocent civilians,
scenes experienced in Iraq when he was nothing but a killing
machine. Jim has cracked, has withdrawn from the service for
medical reasons, and has written a raw and brutal book. . . .
The army denies the facts and his former comrades have insulted,
rejected, and threatened him. An extract:
MASSEY - We had reached the military site Al-Rashid on an overcast,
dark and sinister day. . . . When we stopped, I saw ten Iraqis,
about 150 yards away. They were under forty years old, clean
and dressed in the traditional white garment. They stayed on
the side of the road waving signs and screaming anti-American
slogans. . . . That's when I heard a shot pass just over our
heads, from right to left. I ran into the middle of the street
to see what was happening. I had barely rejoined Schutz when
my guys unloaded their weapons on the demonstrators. It only
took me three seconds to take aim. I aimed my sights on the center
of a demonstrator's body. I breathed in deeply and, as I exhaled,
I gently opened my right eye and fired. I watched the bullets
hit the demonstrator right in the middle of his chest. My Marines
barked: "Come on, little girls! You wanna fight?"
acquired a new target right away, a demonstrator on all fours
who was trying to run away as fast as possible. I quickly aimed
for the head; I breathed in deeply, breathed out, and I fired
again. One head: boom! Another: boom! The center of a mass in
the bull's eye: boom! Another: boom! I kept on until the moment
when I saw no more movement from the demonstrators. There was
no answering fire. I must have fired at least a dozen times.
It all lasted no longer than two and a half minutes.
know that they had also been shot in the back; some of them were
crawling and their white clothes turned red. The M-16's 5.56
is a nasty bullet: it doesn't kill all at once. For example,
it can enter the chest and come out at the knee, tearing all
the internal organs on the way through. My guys were jumping
around in every direction. Taylor and Gaumont hollered: "Come
back, babies!" "They don't know how to fight, those
cocksuckers! Fucking cowards!" They slapped one another
on the back, exchanging "Good job!," but they were
frustrated because some demonstrators had succeeded in getting
away. I wanted to keep on firing, I kept telling myself: "Good
God, there must be more of them." It was like eating the
first spoonful of your favorite ice cream. You want more. . .
demonstrators were the first people I killed. . . . That had
a hell of an effect on me. What an adrenaline, rush, fuck! Fear
becomes a motor. It pushes you. It had more of an impact on me
than the best grass I ever smoked. It was as though all those
I had ever hated, all the anger that was accumulated in me was
there in that being; you feel like you're absorbing life like
a cannibal. You're really happy with yourself; you feel really
powerful and everything becomes clear. You reach nirvana, like
a white luminous space. But after a few hours, you come down
from nirvana and find yourself in dark waters; you swim in a
pool of mud and the only way to go back to that other feeling
is to kill again. . . .
by Truth Out]
LOUIS POST DISPATCH
HARRIS ST LOUIS POST-DISPATCH - For more than a year, former
Marine Staff Sgt. Jimmy Massey has been telling anybody who will
listen about the atrocities that he and other Marines committed
in Iraq. In scores of newspaper, magazine and broadcast stories,
at a Canadian immigration hearing and in numerous speeches across
the country, Massey has told how he and other Marines recklessly,
sometimes intentionally, killed dozens of innocent Iraqi civilians.
organizations worldwide published or broadcast Massey's claims
without any corroboration and in most cases without investigation.
Outside of the Marines, almost no one has seriously questioned
whether Massey, a 12-year veteran who was honorably discharged,
was telling the truth.
of his claims is either demonstrably false or exaggerated - according
to his fellow Marines, Massey's own admissions, and the five
journalists who were embedded with Massey's unit.
backtracked from allegations he made in a May 2004 radio interview
and elsewhere that he had seen a tractor-trailer filled with
the bodies of Iraqi civilians when Marines entered an Iraqi military
prison outside Baghdad. He said the Iraqis had been killed by
American artillery. He told listeners that the scene was so bad
"that the plasma from the body and skin was decomposing
and literally oozing out of the crevices of the tractor-trailer
repeated the story in the Post-Dispatch interview. But when told
that the newspaper's photographs and eyewitness reports had identified
the trailer contents as all men, mostly in uniform, Massey admitted
that he had never seen the bodies. Instead, he said, he received
his information from "intelligence reports." When asked
if those reports were official documents, he answered, "No,
that's what the other Marines told me.". . .
almost always told his audiences and interviewers of an event
he said he'd never forget: Marines in his unit shooting four
civilian Iraqis in red Kia automobile. In some accounts, Massey
said Marines fired at the vehicle after it failed to stop at
a checkpoint. In another version, he said the Marines stormed
he said three of the men were killed immediately while the fourth
was wounded and covered in blood; sometimes he said the fourth
man was "miraculously unscathed."
he said the Marines left the three men on the side of the road
to die without medical treatment while the fourth man exclaimed:
"Why did you shoot my brother?" In other versions,
he said the man made the statement as medical personnel were
attempting to treat the three other men, or as the survivor sat
near the car, or to Massey personally.
is no evidence that any of the versions occurred.
a speech in Syracuse in March, the Post Standard newspaper quoted
him as saying, "The reason the Marines teach you discipline
. . . is so that you can confront the enemy and kill him. . .
. Or so you can put a bullet into a 6-year-old, which is what
I did. "
the interview with the Post-Dispatch, Massey said he never personally
had shot a child.
meant that's what my unit did," he said.
could not provide details.
could he name any Marine who could corroborate any of his stories.
guilt is a hard thing to do," he said.
GOFF, COUNTERPUNCH - On April 9, 2003, Ron Harris, a St. Louis
Post Dispatch writer embedded with Lima Company, 3rd Battalion,
7th Marines, posted a story about Resheed, an Iraqi military
base near Baghdad, wherein he described a dramatic daylong battle
which included RPGs hidden away in civilian clothes and guerillas
"hiding behind civilians." The battle, as the story
turned out, was the apologetic context for the description of
Marines firing into a car full of civilians, wounding all of
them. Quoting the battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Belcher,
Harris wrote, "You're seeing drive-by shootings, suicide
bomb attempts, and they're even trying to use civilians as shields."
other stories done by Harris over 2003 and 2004, the guerrillas
hiding behind civilians becomes a recurrent topic. He was also
as enamored of florid prose as Shacochis. That's what happens
when you are writing about those you love.
problem was, according to former Marine Staff Sergeant Jimmy
Massey, who was interviewed at the Boston Veterans for Peace
Convention in 2004, Harris' description was heavily embellished.
Contact that day was thin and sporadic.
his Marine unit entered Iraq it came upon empty Iraqi military
bases with weapons lying on the road. 'We shot it up with everything
we had, and we were laughing and having a good time. The Iraqis
let us in the country; we didn't take it.'
entering Baghdad his unit came upon an unarmed pro-Saddam demonstration.
His unit killed several of the demonstrators. 'I knew that we
caused the insurgency to be pissed off because they had witnessed
us executing innocent civilians.' Massey told us how the U.S.-embedded
reporter, Ron Harris, from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote
that there was a ferocious battle between his unit and the Iraqi
military, but it never happened. The reporter was writing what
the Marines wanted him to write.". . .
Massey didn't meet Harris that day, or ever, because while Harris
was embedded with Lima Company 3/7, Jimmy was assigned to Weapons
Company. In fact, Ron Harris has never so much as called Jimmy
Massey on the telephone or attempted to send Jimmy Massey an
email until he called several weeks ago to tell Jimmy to retract
all his claims or be "exposed." The reason I bring
that up is that two days ago, Harris published an ambush piece
on Jimmy Massey, a year and a half after Massey dissed Harris
on his Resheed battle story, and just one month after the release
of Massey's devastating book, Kill Kill Kill, relating his experiences
in Iraq, and naming names. . .
hasn't read the book nor has he called Jimmy Massey except once
to demand he retract his claims, but that didn't deter him from
writing his hit-piece. . .
goes on . . . to claim that Massey said he had personally killed
a 6-year-old. But Massey says that this was a misquote that grew
legs. There was a child among the dead when demonstrators were
shot in Resheed. The original statement was "I brought these
series of events up through the chain of command. Each time I
was told they were terrorists, or they were insurgents. My question
to the marine corps at that point became, how was a 6-year-old
child with a bullet hole in its head a terrorist or insurgent?"
Reads a bit differently that Harris' smear-job, doesn't it?.
says, "While touring with Sheehan in Montgomery, Ala., he
told of seeing the girl's body." Sheehan did not join that
leg of the three-bus tour until Atlanta. She was never in Montgomery.
I just got an email from Cindy confirming that. No big deal in
most circumstances. Just a minor error. But since what is good
for the Massey-goose is examination with an electron microscope,
let's just say its sauce for the Post-Dispatch's embedded-gander.
MASSEY, COUNTERPUNCH - Major newspapers and media outlets published
my story. Neither the Marine Corps nor any of my platoon members
filed any charges against me as a result of my claims in over
20 months. Nor did they attempt any defamation campaign to counteract
my allegations that the large numbers of civilians killed in
the invasion, as a result of failed strategies, fomented anti-American
sentiment, and fueled the insurgency. Until Saturday.
Marine Base Public Affairs Officer Lt. Col. Richard Long, former
director of Public Affairs and the embedded reporter program
in Iraq, began circulating an article Monday published in the
St. Louis Post Dispatch, Saturday, November 5, by former embedded
reporter Ron Harris, accusing me of lying. Harris not only was
not assigned to my Weapon's Company, (he was with Lima), and
was not present for any of the incidents he disputes, but before
last week, had not spoken with me once since my return.
Monday, Harris appeared on CNN's "American Morning,"
in an unrebutted interview stating, "not only did I not
see any protesters, nobody saw any protesters," and "nobody
ever interviewed the Marines, which I did all of." Nobody
ever checked his story. . .
apparent contempt for me seems to stem from the fact that one
and a half years ago, I exposed him for having greatly embellished
an incident at Rasheed Military complex in his April 9, 2003,
article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch In the article, Harris
described a dramatic, daylong battle glorifying heroic deeds
and describing guerillas "hiding behind civilians."
Speaking at the Boston Veterans for Peace Convention in 2004,
I said Harris had greatly exaggerated the combat in what was
subsequently hailed as an example of American military prowess.
I confessed publicly that"contact that day was thin and
sporadic," and that "as my unit entered Iraq it came
upon empty Iraqi military bases with weapons lying on the road."
I noted that We shot it up with everything we had, and we were
laughing and having a good time. The Iraqis let us in the country;
we didn't take it.'
is ironic that Ron Harris should accuse others of bad reporting.
It was Ron Harris himself that misquoted me as having mentioned
a 4 year old with a bullet in her head, and then conveniently
used his own misquote to accuse me of lying. Simply doing a web
search for "Jimmy Massey" and "4 year old,"
you will find that the only source even suggesting that I knew
of an incident when Marines had killed the child is Harris' own
story. My only related quote had been "Lima Company was
involved in a shooting at a checkpoint. My platoon was ordered
to another area before the victims were removed from the car.
The other Marines told me that a 4-year-old girl had been killed."