Dec. 9, 2004 – At a hearing today for a US soldier seeking asylum in Canada, one witness described how he and his fellow Marines routinely shot unarmed civilians at checkpoints in Iraq.
"We deliberately gunned down people who were civilians," said Marine staff sergeant Jimmy Massey, who was honorably discharged after serving twelve years in the military, three months of which were in Iraq. "I became so concerned because I felt that Marines were honestly enjoying it. I saw plenty of Marines become psychopaths -- they enjoyed the killing."
Massey, addressing the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board, told of one 48-hour period when he and his fellow Marines killed over 30 civilians while they were stationed at a checkpoint in southern Baghdad. Massey said those civilians included a group of unarmed demonstrators and a driver of a car who had raised his hands above his head in surrender.
"I know in my heart that these vehicles that came up, that they were civilians," he said, explaining that he struggled with the killings but had been acting on orders to shoot anyone who came too close to the checkpoint.
The Marines deny Masseyâ€™s charges. While stopping short of calling Massey a liar, a Marine spokesperson told the Associated Press, "[Masseyâ€™s] perception of what the situation was in relation to the rules of engagement, and what was justified, is different from ours." He also said that an investigation found that any allegations of war crimes were "unsubstantiated."
The soldier whose trial at which Massey served as a witness is seeking refugee status in Canada after leaving his unit in North Carolina, just before he was to ship out to Iraq. He had applied for conscientious objector status, but was turned down. Jeremy Hinzman is one of three fleeing American soldiers currently asking the Canadian government to grant them asylum on the grounds that they will face jail and social prosecution if they return to the US.