Confessions of a Marine
By Jean-Paul Mari
Le Nouvel Observateur
Thursday 27 October 2005 edition
Iraq: The story no American publisher wanted.
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 Jim has cracked, has withdrawn from the service for medical reasons, and has written a raw and brutal book. Telling the life of a Marine of today, revealing "how he talks, how he thinks, how he fucks, and how he kills." The army denies the facts and his former comrades have insulted, rejected, and threatened him. His testimony ulcerates Neo-Conservative America and shocks the politically correct. In the United States, no publishing house has dared to publish his manuscript. Extracts follow.
When you're a recruiter, you have to learn fast. And I rapidly learned that if I wanted to keep my job, I couldn't allow myself to have any scruples.
I went to public schools every day where I was able to contact young people easily. I had already been given a list of all the students, with their phone numbers. So I really didn't need the 2002 law - the No Child Left Behind Act 1 - which stipulates that any high school receiving federal funds must furnish military recruitment officers with the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of its students. [...] As usual, I said to myself, "I'm going to get them, those fuckheads," since, you must understand, a recruiter has only one thing in his head if he wants to pay his rent: landing contracts. [...]
One day in 2000, I was with my warrant officer in the cafeteria of a little local university. Chief Warrant Officer Dalhouse rushed over to me, saying "Hey! Chief-Sergeant, I'd like to introduce you to Timmy." I lifted my head towards Timmy to discover ... a retard! Two hundred and ten pounds of muscles, the features and the speech of a retard. Upset, I looked at my new boss and asked him: "Are you shitting me?" He firmly replied: "No, Chief-Sergeant, you are going to interview this guy. He is seriously thinking about joining the Marines."
[...] Timmy was short and massive; he wore blue jeans, work boots, and a T-shirt in the Andrews High School football team colors. He reminded me of the Lenny character from Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men." He seriously wanted to sign up with the Marines; it was obvious. [...] "Now, let's talk about your handicap. I know it's been harder for you than the average person and you've already shown a lot of self-confidence by overcoming your disability." Timmy lowered his eyes; I saw he was a little embarrassed. Then he raised his head, his eyes glistening with tears, and in a trembling voice, answered: "You're right, Sergeant, it's been really hard for me. Once, when I was new, the other guys locked me in a closet. They shoved me around and insulted me. I was so angry I knocked down the closet door." "- Timmy, no one will ever bother you again. The Corps will help you acquire all the self-confidence you'll need to overcome the obstacles you could encounter in the course of your life." He sent me a look full of gratitude. [...]
When a kid told me he had taken Ecstasy, here's the sort of conversation we'd have: "Listen, guy, are you sure it was really Ecstasy? Maybe it was Doliprane." When I said that, I'd nod my head up and down. "Yeah, I'm not sure, in fact." "So you think it was Doliprane?" still nodding my head. "Yeah, it was Doliprane." [...]
The War in Iraq
"You call that pacification? I've got a problem with it," I said in a nauseated voice. "My friend, you've gotta get a grip. If you keep making waves, they'll judge you as a war criminal."
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?"
I 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.
I 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. [...]
Those 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. [...]
After pulling out at dusk, we heard shots, at least a hundred. Lima Company had opened fire on a vehicle. I learned later that there were three women and a child inside. As far as I know, there was never any inquiry. [...]
Forty-five minutes later, a red Kia Spectra came towards us at around 35 mph. It penetrated the green zone; a few of my Marines let loose a warning round and the sniper fired on the engine, but the damage didn't keep the car from continuing into the red zone. The vehicles installed in the rear immediately opened fire with their 240 Gulfs; we joined in with our M-16s, targeting the car and firing at least 200 rounds at high speed. The KIA stopped in a grating around 25 yards from my Humvee, and my Marines pounced on the vehicle and began to extract the four wounded Iraqis. The occupants, young men tastefully dressed, were bleeding profusely. [...] Six stretcher bearers arrived with stretchers and took them away. The survivor came towards me groaning, a tortured expression covering his face. He looked in the air, his hands raised: "Why did you kill my brother? We didn't do anything to you. We're not terrorists."
I walked away without saying anything to him and sat down inside my vehicle, devastated. I got out when I heard the Marines and the stretcher-bearers bringing the Kia's occupants back to the car. "Fuck, what are you bringing them back for?" "Chief-Sergeant, the chief Medical Officer said he couldn't do anything for them." I looked at the Iraqis, containing my anger with difficulty. They were twisting and groaning, dying by inches and in pain. [...] I couldn't speak. I looked inside the car. Obviously, there were neither weapons nor explosives there. I was more and more disgusted.
The Last Straw
[...] Captain Schmitt came towards me and asked me, very calmly: "Are you OK, Chief-Sergeant? [...]" "- No, Captain. I'm not OK." "- Why not?" I answered without hesitation: "It's a bad day. We killed a lot of innocent civilians." "- No. It's a good day," he retorted in an authoritarian tone. Before I had time to answer, he had already moved away from me with a confident tread.
Today, Jimmy Massey is no longer a Marine. He lives in a little village in North Carolina, spends his time making anti-recruitment visits to schools and militating against the war in the association he founded with five other soldiers: Veterans Against the War.
(*)Kill! Kill! Kill! by Jimmy Massey (with Natasha Saulnier), published by Editions du Panama, 390 p., 22 Euros.
Translation: t r u t h o u t French language correspondent Leslie Thatcher.