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Atrocities come up in hearing of soldiers seeking asylum in Canada

Ex-Marine testifies about ‘psychopaths’ serving in Iraq. A NC-based soldier is petitioning for asylum in Canada says “several men in his unit were ‘psychopaths’ who enjoyed killing unarmed Iraqi civilians who posed no threat.” (AP):

Jimmy Massey, a staff sergeant who was in the Marines for 12 years and served three months in Iraq before being honorably discharged with post-traumatic stress syndrome, made the allegations before Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board on the final day of an asylum hearing for Army Pfc. Jeremy Hinzman, 26.

Hinzman fled Fort Bragg, N.C., to Canada weeks before his 82nd Airborne Division was due to be deployed to Iraq. He had served three years in the Army but applied for conscientious objector status before his unit was sent to Afghanistan in 2002.

He is asking for refugee status for himself, his wife and 2-year-old son, claiming he would face persecution if forced to return to the United States. Hinzman’s lawyer, Jeffry House, said he would be the first American soldier granted political asylum in Canada if his petition succeeds.

Massey, who did not know Hinzman before the hearing, said Hinzman likely would have been forced to commit atrocities that violated the Geneva Conventions if he went to Iraq.

Massey, 33, of Waynesville, N.C., said his 7th Marines weapons company killed more than 30 civilians during a 48-hour period in April while stationed at a checkpoint in the southern Baghdad district of Rashid. The victims included unarmed demonstrators and a man who drove up in a car and raised his hands above his head in the universal symbol of surrender.

“I know in my heart that these vehicles that came up, that they were civilians,” he said. “But I had to act on my orders. It’s a struggle within my heart.”

The orders, he said, were to shoot at anyone who drove into what is known as the “red zone” surrounding the checkpoint because they could be suicide bombers.

Massey told the tribunal he got caught up in the frenzy and shot at civilians as well.

“I take full responsibility for my actions,” he said. “We deliberately gunned down people who were civilians. I became so concerned because I felt that Marines were honestly enjoying it. I saw plenty of Marines become psychopaths. They enjoyed the killing.”

The Marine Corps denied Massey’s allegations.

“We’re not saying he’s lying, but his perception of what the situation was in relation to the rules of engagement, and what was justified, is different than ours,” said Maj. Douglas Powell, a spokesman for the Marine Corps at the Pentagon. “It was investigated and any acts of wrongdoing, in regards to violations of the laws of war, the laws of armed conflict, were unsubstantiated.”

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding