http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/ne...51DC19D72A063D2F862570B00067A5B7?OpenDocument Is Jimmy Massey telling the truth about Iraq? By Ron Harris POST-DISPATCH WASHINGTON BUREAU 11/05/2005 Jimmy Massey former marine staff sergeant says Marines intentionally are killing innocent Iraqi civilians. WASHINGTON For more than a year, former Marine Staff Sgt. Jimmy Massey has been telling anybody who will listen about the atrocities that he and other Marines committed in Iraq. In scores of newspaper, magazine and broadcast stories, at a Canadian immigration hearing and in numerous speeches across the country, Massey has told how he and other Marines recklessly, sometimes intentionally, killed dozens of innocent Iraqi civilians. Among his claims: Marines fired on and killed peaceful Iraqi protesters. Americans shot a 4-year-old Iraqi girl in the head. A tractor-trailer was filled with the bodies of civilian men, women and children killed by American artillery. Massey's claims have gained him celebrity. Last month, Massey's book, "Kill, Kill, Kill," was released in France. His allegations have been reported in nationwide publications such as Vanity Fair and USA Today, as well as numerous broadcast reports. Earlier this year, he joined the anti-war bus tour of Cindy Sheehan, and he's spoken at Cornell and Syracuse universities, among others. News organizations worldwide published or broadcast Massey's claims without any corroboration and in most cases without investigation. Outside of the Marines, almost no one has seriously questioned whether Massey, a 12-year veteran who was honorably discharged, was telling the truth. He wasn't. Each of his claims is either demonstrably false or exaggerated - according to his fellow Marines, Massey's own admissions, and the five journalists who were embedded with Massey's unit, including a reporter and photographer from the Post-Dispatch and reporters from The Associated Press and The Wall Street Journal. "Psychopathic killers" Massey, 34, of Waynesville, N.C., was with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines based out of Twentynine Palms, Calif. The unit went to the Middle East in January 2003 and participated in the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March of that year. Massey was discharged in December 2003, shortly after returning from Iraq due to depression and post-traumatic stress syndrome. He began turning up in the press and on broadcasts last spring with stories about military atrocities. Massey's primary thrust has been that Marines from his battalion - some of whom, he told a Minneapolis audience, were "psychopathic killers" - recklessly shot and killed Iraqi civilians, sometimes, he said, upon orders from their commanders. During a hearing in Canada, Massey said, "We deliberately gunned down people who were civilians." The Marine Corps investigated Massey's claims and said they were "unsubstantiated." From the beginning, Massey misled reporters. In early interviews, he told how he had lost his job at a furniture store because of his anti-war activities. But when asked about the incident in an interview Oct. 19 with the Post-Dispatch, Massey said he had quit his job but never had felt pressure to leave. "I left on good terms," he said. He also backtracked from allegations he made in a May 2004 radio interview and elsewhere that he had seen a tractor-trailer filled with the bodies of Iraqi civilians when Marines entered an Iraqi military prison outside Baghdad. He said the Iraqis had been killed by American artillery. He told listeners that the scene was so bad "that the plasma from the body and skin was decomposing and literally oozing out of the crevices of the tractor-trailer bed." He repeated the story in the Post-Dispatch interview. But when told that the newspaper's photographs and eyewitness reports had identified the trailer contents as all men, mostly in uniform, Massey admitted that he had never seen the bodies. Instead, he said, he received his information from "intelligence reports." When asked if those reports were official documents, he answered, "No, that's what the other Marines told me." Changing stories The details of Massey's stories changed repeatedly. For example, he almost always told his audiences and interviewers of an event he said he'd never forget: Marines in his unit shooting four civilian Iraqis in red Kia automobile. In some accounts, Massey said Marines fired at the vehicle after it failed to stop at a checkpoint. In another version, he said the Marines stormed the car. Sometimes he said three of the men were killed immediately while the fourth was wounded and covered in blood; sometimes he said the fourth man was "miraculously unscathed." Sometimes he said the Marines left the three men on the side of the road to die without medical treatment while the fourth man exclaimed: "Why did you shoot my brother?" In other versions, he said the man made the statement as medical personnel were attempting to treat the three other men, or as the survivor sat near the car, or to Massey personally. There is no evidence that any of the versions occurred. In another story that Massey often tells, he and other Marines in his platoon fired upon a group of innocent demonstrators shortly after they arrived in Baghdad. Massey said that the demonstrators were protesting the Marines' presence, holding signs in English and Arabic. The Marines heard a shot, Massey said, and in panic began firing into the demonstrators. In some versions, the demonstrators were near a checkpoint. In other versions, they were outside a prison on a road about 200 meters away, or anywhere from 5 to 15 miles from Baghdad International Airport. Massey told a version of the story before an immigration hearing in December in support of an American soldier trying to flee to Canada. Then, Massey said he and the Marines killed four of the demonstrators. In other interviews, he said the Marines shot at 10 demonstrators and killed all of them but one, whom he let crawl away. In interviews with more than a dozen Marines and journalists who were in the military complex that morning, none can recall such an incident. They say that during the first week to two weeks inside Baghdad, they never saw any protesters. Ron Haviv, an independent photographer embedded with the unit, said he never saw any protesters or demonstrators, with or without signs. "Basically, the only people who were on the streets in the first week were there to loot," said Haviv, who has covered conflicts across the globe, including the first Gulf War, Haiti, Yugoslavia and Russia. Lt. Kevin Shea, the commander of Massey's platoon, recalls that on the morning after they arrived, about 20 Iraqis from a nearby community did approach the Marines to ask what was happening. Shea said that he had explained what the Marines were doing and that the Iraqis had gone back to their homes. Civilians shot The Marine Corps readily admits that some of its men shot civilians, but not intentionally, they said. The Post-Dispatch reported on the second day of the war that Marines in one battalion had mistakenly shot and killed members of a British-based television network while shooting at Iraqi attackers. When Marines moved into Baghdad a month later, the Post-Dispatch reported two separate automobile-related incidents in which Marines from Massey's battalion inadvertently shot and wounded 12 civilians. All of the passengers survived after treatment by medical personnel. In a fourth incident, Maj. Dan Schmitt said, Marines shot "what we believe to be a non-combatant" because when the Marines raised their arms in a signal to stop, the vehicle continued moving quickly at them. An Iraqi doctor who helped treat the wounded passengers told them that they needed to use another hand signal because they one they were using indicated solidarity, not stop. But none of the five journalists who covered the battalion said they saw reckless or indiscriminate shooting of civilians by Marines, as Massey has claimed. Nor did any of the Marines or Navy corpsmen who served with Massey and were interviewed for this story. One of the checkpoint shootings is apparently the basis for one of most poignant recollections claimed by Massey in numerous speeches and interviews: The shooting of a 4-year-old girl in the head. While touring with Sheehan in Montgomery, Ala., he told of seeing the girl's body. "You can't take it back," he said, according to the local newspaper. But in the interview with the Post-Dispatch, Massey admitted that he never had seen the girl. "Lima Company was involved in a shooting at a checkpoint," he said. "My platoon was ordered to another area before the victims were removed from the car. The other Marines told me that a 4-year-old girl had killed." Girls unharmed No 4-year-old died in the incident or was even wounded, according to witnesses including a Post-Dispatch photographer at the scene who filed photos of the incident that were published in the newspaper. Two women and two girls were in the car that the Marines shot when it failed to stop at a checkpoint and continued to approach the Marines at high speed, said Maj. George Schreffler, then the commanding officer of Lima Company. Schreffler was there at the time. Petty Officer Justin Purviance, who treated them, said the two women were wounded but survived. The girls were unharmed, he said. In other speeches, Massey has said he personally shot a 6-year-old child. In some versions, the child was a boy; at other times, a girl. "How is a 6-year-old child with a bullet in his head a terrorist, because that is the youngest I killed," Massey told a Cornell University audience in March. In a speech in April in Springfield, Vt., he said: "That's war: a 6-year-old girl with a bullet hole in her head at an American checkpoint." In a speech in Syracuse in March, the Post Standard newspaper quoted him as saying, "The reason the Marines teach you discipline . . . is so that you can confront the enemy and kill him. . . . Or so you can put a bullet into a 6-year-old, which is what I did. " In the interview with the Post-Dispatch, Massey said he never personally had shot a child. "I meant that's what my unit did," he said. He could not provide details. Nor could he name any Marine who could corroborate any of his stories. "Admitting guilt is a hard thing to do," he said.