The following interview with U.S. Marine Jimmy Massey appeared in Italy's Il Manifesto newspaper the day before Giuliana Sgrena - a reporter for Il Manifesto - was released and shot:
“I’ve seen the horror that we were causing every day in Iraq. I have been part of it. We are all just murderers.Story here: That's me, a marine, a murderer of civilians. Massey's diary, “Cowboys from Hell,” which will be published at the end of the summer.
“We kill innocent Iraqi civilians all the time. That’s the way it is. I believe they need to withdraw all foreign military troops in Iraq right away. And I say this about other soldiers: to avoid punishment or reprisals by the military, they don’t want to talk and admit that killing terrorists is not our mission. It’s to kill innocent civilians.”
“What was your rank in Iraq?”
“I was a sergeant with the Third Marine Battalion during the invasion, in the spring of 2003.”
“How much time did you spend there?”
“From March 22 to the 15th of May. Four months of hell. They had to send me back to the U.S. because of a ‘stress syndrome.’ This is the term in military jargon they use to say that because of the horrors I’ve seen in the war, I’ve lost my mind.”
“Were you in the Marines many years?”
“Had you fought in a war before?”
“You are now a member of the group Iraq Veterans Against the War?”
“Yes, I went to Iraq initially with the idea that weapons of mass destruction had to be eliminated. But soon my experience as a Marine made me understand that the reality was something quite different. We were ‘cowboy murderers.’ We killed innocent civilians.”
“You admit having killed innocent civilians?”
“Sure, and lots of them.”
“How did it happen?”
“Near my base in the south of Baghdad, our whole platoon attacked a group of civilians engaged in a peaceful demonstration. Why? Because we heard gunshots. It was a blood bath. The pretense that those civilians were engaged in ‘terrorist activities’ didn’t work for me. That’s what our military intelligence wanted us to believe.
“We killed more than 30 people. That was the first time that I had to face up to the horror that my hands were soiled with the blood of civilians. We laid down cluster bombs on them. The people fled, and when they arrived at the control points we had set up with armed convoys, I was supposed to shoot the ones that looked like they belonged to ‘terrorist groups.’ Those were the directions military intelligence gave us.”
“And that’s what you all did?”
“We ended up massacring innocent civilians – men, women, and children. When our platoon took over a radio station, we went ahead and put out propaganda to the population urging them to go on with their daily routine, keep the schools open, etc. But we knew that our orders were to ‘search and destroy.’ That meant carrying out armed assaults on schools, in hospitals, anywhere that ‘terrorists’ could hide. In reality these were traps set up by military intelligence. We ourselves were supposed to overlook the taking of civilian lives that were part of these missions.”
“You admit that during your mission you carried out executions on innocent civilians?”
“Yes, my platoon also opened fire on civilians and I too killed innocents. I too am an assassin.”
“How did you react after these operations when you thought about the innocents you had killed?”
“For a while I kept on going. In my own mind I denied the reality of me being a murderer and not a soldier who somehow could tell the difference between who is right and who is wrong. Then, one day I woke up and there was a young kid inside my head.
“Miraculously, he had saved himself from a massacre of passengers in his car. He was shouting at me and asking: ‘Why did you kill my brother.’ He became an obsession. I physically lost control of my equilibrium and couldn’t move or talk. I stayed in one place and looked all the time at the wall. I was really scared, and lost.”
“What measures did your superiors take?”
“For three weeks in Iraq, they filled me with anti depressives and psychotropic drugs. That’s the emergency treatment for these cases of ‘traumatic stress,’ when the idea of refusing to kill takes over a soldier’s life.”
“Didn’t their training in the United States put them at the disposal of the Pentagon into units that were really violent and aggressive?”
“Yes, in the part called ‘boot camp’ each one of us is subjected to techniques of ‘dehumanization’ and ‘desensitization to violence.’ But they never told me that this meant killing innocent civilians.”
“So, three weeks with antidepressants in Iraq – and after that?”
“They didn’t know what to do and sent me back. Now I am out of the military, incapacitated and disabled, with an honorable discharge.”
“Are there others in conditions like yours?”
“Many. And they are still at the front. They stuff them with anti-depressants, and after that they go back and are sent into combat again. It’s a problem that has become quite worrisome for them. One must not say anything about it there in the military.
“In 2004, 31 marines took their own lives, and 85 made suicide attempts. Most of those who wanted to die rather than keep on killing are less than 25 years old, and 16 percent of them are under 20 years.”