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A Soldier of Conscience PDF Print E-mail
Justice News
Tuesday, 18 May 2004 12:17

Editor's Note: For nearly 12 years, Staff Sgt. Jimmy Massey was a hard-core, somesay 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.

A Soldier of Conscience
Paul Rockwell, Sacramento Bee
May 18, 2004

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


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. 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.


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 [the city of] 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.


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 incident?

Probably about o­ne or two hours. This is another thing, too. I am so glad I am talking with

you, because I suppressed all of this.

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.


Depleted Uranium

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 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. DU is everywhere o­n the battlefield. If you hit a tank, there's


Did you breath any dust?


And if DU is affecting you or our troops, it's impacting Iraqi civilians.

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 Stone magazine. I just started inquiring about

it, and I said "Holy s---!"

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 ICBM.

What's an ICBM?

A multi-purpose cluster bomb.

What happened?

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


Including inside the towns and cities?

Yes, if you were going into a city, you knew there were going to be ICBMs.

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, right?

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 wraps o­n that.

My understanding is Fallujah is just littered with civilian bodies.


Losing Faith

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." 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


Did the revelations that we didn't find any proof about Iraq's weapons affect the


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."

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 officer.

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.

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. 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.

Paul Rockwell ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) is a writer who lives in Oakland.

We are republishing this story with his permission and in accordance with Title 17

U.S.C. Section 107. This material is distributed without profit to those who have

expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and

educational purposes. If you want to republish this article, please contact the

Sacramento Bee.


? 2004 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 May 2004 12:17

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