Jack Robertson is Webdiary’s Meeja Watch columnist. He is a former helicopter pilot in the Australian Defence Force.
What makes me despair about history like this?
Q: Who gave the order to wipe the demonstrators out?
A: 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. government.
Q: What kind of firepower was employed?
A: M-16s, 50-cal. machine guns.
Q: You fired into six or ten kids? Were they all taken out?
A: 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.
What makes me despair are premonitions like this from fiteen months ago, warning of the brutal butchery this ex-Marine will live with for the rest of his life:
Let’s say ten invading LAV-25s roll into an Iraqi town. A twenty-year old Iraqi hothead takes exception to his aged parents being frightened by all these foreign soldiers, and waves his AK-47 around a bit. Who exactly is threatening whom here? What would the young GI in the LAV-25 turret be doing himself if this was occurring in Baton Rouge, with roles reversed? How will that same GI see things five minutes later, if and/or when he is surveying thirty dead men, women and children from his LAV-25, because the ‘stupid’ Iraqi squeezed off a frantic round or two, and the US commander, rightly not wanting to endanger his own troops unnecessarily, had everyone open up, and the situation descended into a one-sided blood-bath? Is this self-defence? Is this a war crime? Is it just bad luck? And is it the Iraqi kid’s own stupid fault, really? What would you do, Harry? Surrender obediently to an invading soldier who has vowed to overthrow your government, however much you might (or might not) hate it yourself? It’s not as if the kid’s got anywhere else to go. Regardless of the legal niceties, the GI will have to live with his actions forever, and uppermost in his mind will be the knowledge that his actions occurred in the context of a US invasion that even a great big wedge of his own countrymen simply didn’t support, not a ‘peace-keeping mission’, or a ‘defensive insertion’, or a ‘humanitarian aid project’.
That was from a Meeja Watch piece on 25 January 2003 called ‘White House Anti-Americanism, Australian Patriotic Blackmail’, and it’s exactly how things have panned out. Right down to the sense of moral betrayal this guy feels.
Go and read the whole interview with Staff Sergeant Massey, and weep for the brave men and women who the cowards in the White House have screwed. (But do make sure you weep much, much harder for the butchered Iraqis civilians on the other end of Massey’s .50 cal. He was a volunteer, after all, and millions of people worldwide did try to point out his President’s lies before he’d killed any Iraqis, when it mattered. Also he got to wear a flak jacket and ride in an armoured vehicle while doing so. Also, he had a nice home town to go back to when his outraged soul had had enough. Lest we start to forget who the truly betrayed victims of all this are.)
Q: Did the revelations that the government fabricated the evidence for war affect the troops?
A: 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.
Q: 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?
A: 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. 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.
Q: What happened then?
A: 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.
Are you listening to stories like this, Prime Minister? Are you spinning the rich, friendly neo-conservatives of the Institute of Public Affairs stories of Iraq right now, this evening?
A MAJOR IPA EVENT
The Hon JOHN HOWARD Prime Minister will address The IPA CD KEMP ANNUAL DINNER in Melbourne Wednesday 19 May, 6.15 pm.
IRAQ: THE IMPORTANCE OF SEEING IT THROUGH – The Prime Minister will focus on a description of the current situation in Iraq and make a comprehensive statement of the Government’s response.
RSVP essential by Monday, 17 May 2004
$175 members, per seat
$190 non members, per seat
Premium Corporate tables of 10, $2250
Some seats remaining at Head Table $4000 each
Then why not choose Staff Sergeant Massey’s ‘description of the current situation in Iraq’ as your speech template, Prime Minister? Instead of painting us nice friendly ANZACs a conveniently ‘cuddly’ and more ‘ethical’ shade of desert khaki than those crazy, trigger-happy Yanks. Because I can assure you that if you want stories of good old Aussies slaughtering Iraqis, my brother will gladly oblige. It’s a war, John – yours, and George’s, and Tony’s.
So why not help our ANZUS allies out with the ‘moral heavy lifting’ too, by reading out loud to the IPA just how Staff Sergeant Massey feels about your war lies now. Why not embrace his personal war as yours, too? Saying, to all the rich men at your table who paid $4,000 to bask in your warm Churchilllian glow: “Look – I did this! I lied and lied and lied, and I made Staff Sergeant Massey butcher innocent civilians. I pulled the trigger. And all of you supported me, with your money and your power. And so together we must take full legal and moral responsibility for Staff Sergeant Massey’s predicament.” You won’t, of course, Prime Minister Howard. You and your respectable business mates never own up to the wars you make happen. Cowards.
Iraq: the importance of seeing through you, Lying John. As they say in America: take your f***king speech and go tell it to the Marines.