Ex-recruiter: 'I sold my soul'
Ohanian Comment: NCLB rules require military recruiters to be heard. Kudos to school officials who invited/allowed former Marine Sgt. James Massey to be heard.
Here is Amy Goodman's interview with Massey on Democracy Now!
SPRINGFIELD — Former Marine Sgt. James Massey spent eight years talking high school kids into joining the military. Now he is trying to talk them out of it.
Massey, a former recruiter turned anti-war activist, took his message of pacifism to Springfield High School on Friday.
Standing before a group of about 80 high school students, Massey said he saw the U.S. military slaughtering Iraqi civilians during his 2003 deployment to the country.
"Our society promotes war," he said. "Everything is centered around making money for the military industrial complex."
Massey, a Texas native, is in Vermont this week, giving presentations on his war experiences in several high schools. His trip to this state culminates with an appearance at an anti-war rally today in Montpelier.
Massey said he signed up for the Marines at the age of 20 after losing his job, apartment and car. He had one year of college, but could not afford to return.
A conversation with a Marine recruiter meant a free meal, Massey said. But soon the tangible and intangible benefits of a military career attracted him. The Marines would teach him self-discipline, he said.
For eight years he worked as a Marine recruiter, trying to meet his monthly quota. It was during this time that he frequently urged new recruits to hide prior drug use, medical conditions or criminal records in their paperwork, he said.
"I lied, I cheated, I begged, I borrowed and I stole," he said. "I did anything to find my quota, to get bodies in the Marine Corps."
His epiphany occurred after he was deployed to Iraq in January 2003 as part of the first wave of the U.S.-led invasion, he said. He and other guards at a checkpoint opened up fire on a red Kia that wasn't responding to orders to stop.
Three of the car's occupants were critically wounded and died, he said. No weapons or bombs were found in the car.
Massey said his whole life changed 20 minutes later when one of the dead man's brothers confronted him about the shooting.
Massey said his desensitization to violence evaporated when the man asked why the soldiers killed his brother. His brother was not a terrorist, he said.
The U.S. military kills Iraqi civilians indiscriminately, Massey said. One attack he witnessed left 30 innocent Iraqis dead during a 48-hour period, he said.
"That's war," he said. "A 6-year-old girl with a bullet hole in her head at an American checkpoint. That's war."
It was difficult to gauge the reaction from the students Friday. Some seemed supportive, but when Massey said the United States was committing genocide in Iraq, a number of teenagers looked uncomfortable.
One senior who plans to join the Marines after graduation this year found a number of Massey's points offensive.
"Why do you object to what they are doing, but have no problem taking $1,300 a month of taxpayer money?" asked Andrew Kesek, 18, of Springfield.
Several nearby students murmured in support. Kesek said Massey's comments were degrading to the U.S. military. The conflict in Iraq may be violent and bloody, but that is war, he said.
Many Marines have very positive experiences with the military, he added.
"If it is so bad over there, why aren't we hearing about it?" Kesek said.
When Kesek questioned his patriotism, Massey showed off a large militaristic tattoo on his forearm. The tattoo prominently featured the American flag's three colors.
"Are you calling me unpatriotic?" he said. "I got it tattooed on my arm."
After taking part in the atrocities in Iraq, Massey said he then began questioning the motives behind the war to his fellow soldiers and commanders.
He was referred to a military psychologist and then given an honorable discharge for a medical disability, he said.
He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, a personality disorder that affects an estimated 15 to 30 percent of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
With the monthly $1,300 disability check from the government as his only source of income, Massey said he tours the country to "tell the story of what happened."
"I sold my soul when I began as a recruiter," he said. "Each time I speak, I get a little bit of my soul back."
Contact Daniel Barlow at firstname.lastname@example.org
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