NEW HAVEN, Conn. — “There isn’t a waking moment when I don’t think about what we’ve done over there,” said ex-Marine Staff Sergeant Jimmy Massey. The 32-year-old North Carolina native visited New Haven last week as part of a series of speaking engagements, in hopes of revealing the facts about the war in Iraq.
“A lot of people ask me why I’m speaking out. I’ve been called a traitor, looking for fame, you name it,” Massey told a group at a local church. “But I’m doing this to heal myself and to help other Marines who feel the same way I do. I also believe U.S. taxpayers have a right to know what’s going on.”
Massey is one of a growing number of U.S. military personnel who have returned from Iraq disillusioned with so-called Operation Iraqi Freedom. Massey holds President Bush personally responsible for the debacle, which has resulted in the death of more than 1,000 U.S. troops, 20,000 Iraqi civilians and an ever-growing number of civilian contractors.
“The president of the United States is the one that authorized it,” said Massey, who served with the Third Battalion Seventh Marines Weapons Company Cap One, and was part of the initial invading force in Baghdad.
Bush is “the one that gave us the case to go to war and we went to war backing him. We were supposed to go there and set up a democracy but all we did was cause chaos and now they’re mad and they have a right to be.”
Originally, Massey said, “We were getting intelligence reports from higher command saying that the Fedayeen and Republican Guards were trading in their uniforms for civilian clothes and mounting attacks against U.S. soldiers and Marines using guerrilla-style tactics and suicide bombings,” explained Massey. Anxiety from those reports, coupled with lack of sleep, triggered his platoon’s initial response when civilian vehicles neared military checkpoints.
“We didn’t know who the enemy was, so when they didn’t heed our warning shot we were lighting them up — discharging our weapons into their vehicles,” he said.
When there was no return fire, his troops searched the vehicles for weapons.
“There were none,” said Massey. “They were just scared civilians, trying to flee out of Baghdad.”
However, it was when a child died in his arms that Massey began to completely reconsider the case for war.
“The father came up to us at a checkpoint with a young child and said that the bombs killed him,” said Massey. “The response I got from my command was, well, better them than us … but his father was standing there looking at me like, ‘Why did you kill my son?’”
According to Massey, the invasion soon dissolved into chaos. In one incident, intelligence had identified a group as members of the Iraqi military. Massey’s platoon opened fire, massacring what turned out to be unarmed, peaceful demonstrators.
“I had several of my younger troops come to me in private and say that some of these incidents were affecting them,” he confessed. “I said, ‘Listen, you’re here to do a job and provide democracy, not to play politician. Go back out there and do your job.’” But it was affecting Massey as well.
Finally, he told his lieutenant the U.S. was committing genocide in Iraq. The lieutenant’s reaction was to report Massey to his commanding officer, who immediately ordered him stateside to receive psychological counseling.
“That’s when things really got ugly,” Massey said. He had to hire a lawyer because the Marine Corps told him they would bring suit against him.
“Their main concern was whether or not I was a conscientious objector. I told them that I believed in war when it’s helpful for humanity, but I do not believe in killing innocent civilians. So, I said if they wanted to charge me for disagreeing with them about killing civilians, then I’d see them in court.” Instead the Marines honorably discharged him last December after 12 years in the military.
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