“Apr. 18, 2006 was the date of my first confirmed kill,” he said sombrely. “He was innocent, I called him the fat man. He was walking back to his house and I killed him in front of his father and friend. My first shot made him scream and look into my eyes, so I looked at my friend and said, ‘Well, I can’t let that happen’, and shot him again. After my first kill I was congratulated.”
“After that the ROE changed, and carrying a shovel, or standing on a rooftop talking on a cell phone, or being out after curfew [meant the people] were to be killed. I can’t tell you how many people died because of this. By my third tour, we were told to just shoot people, and the officers would take care of us.”
He said his first experience in Iraq was being on a patrol that killed two Iraqi farmers as they worked in their field at night. “I was told they were out in the fields farming because their pumps only operated with electricity, which meant they had to go out in the dark when there was electricity,” he explained, “I asked the sergeant, if he knew this, why did he fire on the men. He told me because the men were out after curfew. I was never given another ROE during my time in Iraq.”
“We were encouraged to bring ‘drop weapons’ or shovels, in case we accidentally shot a civilian, we could drop the weapon on the body and pretend they were an insurgent,” he said, “By the third tour, if they were carrying a shovel or bag, we could shoot them. So we carried these tools and weapons in our vehicles, so we could toss them on civilians when we shot them. This was commonly encouraged.”
Emmanuel spoke of abusing prisoners who he knew were innocent, adding, “We took it upon ourselves to harass them, and took them to the desert to throw them out of our Humvees, while kicking and punching them when we threw them out.”
To conclude, an emotional Turner said, “I want to say I’m sorry for the hate and destruction that I and others have inflicted on innocent people. It is not okay, and this is happening, and until people hear what is going on this is going to continue. I am no longer the monster that I once was.”
Jeffery Smith recalled how his Army unit beat and humiliated Iraqi prisoners. Former Marine Bryan Casler recounted how fellow Marines urinated and defecated into food and gave it to Iraqi children. Former Marine Matthew Childers talked about how he used to humiliate Iraqi civilians during predawn raids on their homes. When he described turning away an Iraqi father who was asking American troops to help the badly burned baby he carried in his arms, Jackson began to weep silently.
He ended up stationed in Fallujah, and then Baghdad. “We were the only authority and took full advantage of that,” he told an audience of roughly 300 people here gathered for three days of testimony by veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan about abuses of civilians. “Everything was haji…haji house, haji smokes, haji burger.”
“We never went on the right raid where we got the right house, much less the right person — not once,” he said.
Adam Kokesh served in Fallujah beginning in February 2004 for roughly one year. Speaking on a panel about the Rules of Engagement (ROE), he held up the ROE card soldiers are issued in Iraq and said, “This card says, ‘Nothing on this card prevents you from using deadly force to defend yourself’.”
Kokesh pointed out that “reasonable certainty” was the condition for using deadly force under the ROE, and this led to rampant civilian deaths. He discussed taking part in the April 2004 siege of Fallujah. During that attack, doctors at Fallujah General Hospital told IPS there were 736 deaths, over 60 percent of which were civilians.
“We changed the ROE more often than we changed our underwear,” Kokesh said. “At one point, we imposed a curfew on the city, and were told to fire at anything that moved in the dark. I don’t think soldiers should be put in the position to choose between their morals and their instinct for survival.”
Kokesh also testified that during two cease-fires in the midst of the siege, the military decided to let out as many women and children from the embattled city as possible, but this did not include most men.
“For males, they had to be under 14 years of age,” he said. “So I had to go over there and turn men back, who had just been separated from their women and children. We thought we were being gracious.”
Hurd said the situation deteriorated rapidly while he was in Iraq. “Over time, as the absurdity of war set in, individuals from my unit indiscriminately opened fire at vehicles driving down the wrong side of the road. People in my unit would later brag about it. I remember thinking how appalled I was that we were laughing at this, but that was the reality.”
“We’re disrupting the lives of our veterans with this occupation, not only the lives of Iraqis. If a foreign occupying force came here to the U.S., do you not think that every person that has a shotgun would not come out of the hills and fight for their right for self-determination?”
To rousing applause, Hurd ended his testimony with, “Ladies and gentlemen, that country is suffering from our occupation, and ending that suffering begins with the total and immediate withdrawal of all of our troops.”