-- -- "I'm 32 and I am a trained psychopathic murderer. The
only things I can do are to sell youths the idea of joining the
marines and kill. I am not able to keep a job. For me civilians
are despicable people, mentally retarded and weak persons, a
flock of sheep. I am their sheepdog. I am a predator. In the
army they used to call me Jimmy, the Shark".
That was part of the second chapter of the
book Jimmy wrote three years ago, with the assistance of
journalist Natasha Saulnier, and which was launched at the 2007
Caracas Book Fair. Cowboys of Hell is the most violent testimony
that has been written thus far based on the experience of a
former member of the Marine Corps, one of the first to arrive in
Iraq during the 2003 invasion. A is determined to tell, as many
times as necessary, what having been a merciless marine for
twelve years meant to him and why the Iraq war changed him.
Jimmy participated as a panelist at the
fair's main workshop, which had a controversial title: "The
United States, the Possible Revolution" and his testimony
possibly had the strongest expected impact on the audience. He
has his hair cut in the military style and wears sun glasses; he
walks with martial air and he has his arms covered with tattoos.
He looks just like what he used to be: a marine. But when he
speaks he looks different: he is someone marked by a horrifying
experience from which he tries to keep other unwary youths away.
As he assures in his book, he has not been the only one to have
killed people in Iraq; that was a permanent practice by his
fellow men. Four years after having abandoned the war, he still
feels he is being chased by his nightmares.
Q: What do all those tattoos mean?
A: I've got a lot of them. I was tattooed in
the military. Here in my hand (he shows his thumb and his ring
finger), you can see the Blackwater logo, the mercenary army
founded where I was born, there in North Carolina. I had this
one done in an act of resistance because marines are not allowed
to tattoo the area between their wrists and their hands. One day
the members of my platoon got drunk and we all had the same
tattoo done: a cowboy with bloodshot eyes over several aces,
representing death. It means exactly what is going on: "you
killed somebody. " On the right arm is the marines' logo with
the flags of the United States and Texas, where I joined the US
armed forces. On my chest, here on the left side there is a
Chinese dragon ripping the skin and which means that pain is our
weakness leaving our body. What kills us makes us stronger.
Q: Why did you say that you had met the worse
people ever in your life in the US Marines?
A: The United States only has two ways of
using the marines: to undertake humanitarian missions and to
kill. Over the 12 years I was with them, I never took part in
Q: Before you went to Iraq you recruited
youths for the marines. Can you describe a recruiting officer
in the United States?
A: A liar. The Bush administration has forced
the US youths to join the armed forces and what the government
basically does –and I did too—is trying to get people through
economic incentives. During three years I recruited 74 youths
who never told me that they wanted to join the armed forces
because they wanted to defend their country or due to any
patriotic reason. They wanted to get money to go to university
or get a health insurance. So, I would first tell them about all
those advantages and only in the end I would tell them that they
will serve our homeland. I never happened to recruit the son of
a rich person. In order to keep our job, we as recruiting
officers, could not think of any scruples.
Q: I understand that the Pentagon has been
less demanding as to the requisites to join the army. What does
A: recruiting standards have enormously been
eased, because almost nobody wants to join in. Having mental
problems or a criminal record is no longer a problem. Persons
that have committed felonies can join the army; that include
those who have been given over-one-year sentences, which is
considered a serious crime. Also accepted are youths who have
not concluded high school studies; if they pass the
psychological test, they can join the army.
Q: You changed after the war, but could you
tell me about your feelings before that?
A: I felt just like the other soldiers who
believed what they were told. However, since I began my
recruiting work I felt bad about it: as a recruiting officer I
had to tell lies all the time.
Q: But, you believed that your country was
involved in a fair war against Iraq.
A: Yes, Intelligence reports we received read
that Saddan had weapons of mass destruction. Later, we found out
that everything was a lie.
Q: When did you find out you had been
A: Once in Iraq, where I arrived in March
2003. My platoon was ordered to go to the places formerly
controlled by the Iraqi army and we saw thousands of thousands
of ammunitions in boxes bearing the US label; they were there
since the US had supported the Saddan government against Iran. I
saw some boxes with the US flag on them and I even saw American
tanks. My marines—I was a sergeant with E-6 category, a staff
sergeant, which is a higher rank and I had 45 marines under my
command— would ask me why there were US ammunitions in Iraq.
They couldn't understand it. CIA reports said that the Salmon
Pac was a terrorist camp and that we would find chemical and
biological weapons there, but we found nothing. In that moment I
began to think that our real mission in Iraq was focused on
Q: The most disturbing lines in your book
are those in which you describe yourself as a psychopathic
murderer. Could you explain why you said that?
A: I was a psychopathic murderer because I
was trained to kill. I was not born with that mentality. It was
the Marines that trained me to be a gangster in the interest of
US corporations, a criminal. They trained me to fulfill, without
thinking, the orders of the President of the United States and
bring him what he asked for, without any moral consideration. I
was a psychopath because we were trained to shoot first and ask
later, as an insane person would act, not a professional soldier
that is to face another soldier. If we had to kill women and
children, we would do it; therefore, we were not soldiers, we
Q: What specific experience of yours made you
reach that conclusion?
A: Well, there were some of them. Our mission
was to go to different cities and guarantee security in the
roads. There was an accident in particular—and many others as
well—which really put me in a serious situation. It was about a
car with Iraqi civilians. All intelligence reports said that
those cars had bombs and explosives on board. That was the
information that we received. When those cars approached our
areas we made warning shots; when they did not slow down to the
speed we indicated, we would shoot at them without ceremony.
Q: You shot at them with your machineguns?
A: Yes, We expected to see explosions every
time we riddle the cars with bullets; but we never heard or see
an explosion. Then we opened the car and all we found was people
killed or wounded, not a single weapon, not a single Al Qaeda
propaganda, nothing. We only found civilians in the wrong place
at the wrong time.
Q: In your book, you also described how your
platoon machine-gunned peaceful demonstrators. Is that right?
A: Right. In the surroundings of the Rasheed
Military Complex, South of Baghdad and near the Tigris River,
there was a group of people staging a demonstration, right at
the end of the street. They were youths; they had no weapons.
So, when we advanced, we saw a tank parked on one side of the
street, the driver told us that they were peaceful
demonstrators. If those Iraqi people had had any violent
intentions, they would have blown up the tank; but they did not.
They were only staging a demonstration. That calmed us down
because we thought that "if they were there to shoot at us, they
had already had enough time to do so. " They were standing
about 200 meters from our patrol.
Q: Who gave the order to shoot at the
A: We were told by the high command to keep
watching those civilians, because many combatants with the
Republican Forces had taken off their uniforms and were wearing
civilian clothes to undertake terrorist attacks against US
soldiers. The intelligence reports we received were known
basically by every member in the commanding chain. All marines
were well aware about the structure of the commanding chain that
was set up in Iraq. I think that the order to shoot at the
demonstrators came from high-rank US administration officers,
which included both military intelligence agencies and
Q: And what did you do?
A: I returned to my vehicle, my Humvee (a
highly equipped jeep) and I heard the sound of a shot over my
head. My marines started shooting, so did I. We were not shot
back, and I had already shot 12 times. I wanted to make sure
that we had killed people according to combat requirements set
by the Geneva Convention and the operational proceedings
established in the rules. I tried not to look at their faces, I
only looked for weapons, but I found none.
Q: How did your superior officers react at
A: They told me that "shit happens. "
Q: And when your marines found out that they
had been deceived, what was their reaction?
A: I was second in command. My marines asked
me why we were killing so many civilians. " Can you talk to the
lieutenant? ", the answer was "No". But when they found out that
it all was a lie, they were really mad.
Our first mission in Iraq was not aimed at
offering humanitarian assistance, as the media said, but to
secure oil fields in Bassora. In the city of Karbala, we used
our artillery during 24 hours; it was the first city we
attacked. I thought we were there to give the population food
and medical assistance. Negative. We kept on advancing towards
the oil fields.
Before arriving in Iraq we went to Kuwait. We
got there in January 2003 with our vehicles loaded with food and
medicines. I asked the lieutenant what we were going to do with
all those supplies, since we had little room for us with so much
stuff. He told me that his captain had ordered him to download
everything in Kuwait. Shortly after that, we were ordered to
burn everything, all the food and the medical supplies.
Q: You have also denounced the use of
A: I am 35 years old and I only have 80
percent of my lung capacity left. I have been diagnosed a
degenerative disease in my backbone, chronic fatigue and pains
in my tendons. You know, I used to run 10 kilometers just
because I liked to run, and now I can only walk between 5 and 6
kilometers every day. I am afraid of having children because of
that. I got a swollen face. Look at this picture (He shows me
the photo on his Book Fair credential). This photo was taken
shortly after I returned from Iraq. I look like Frankenstein. I
owe all that to depleted uranium, now you can imagine what is
happening to the people in Iraq.
Q: And what happened when you returned to the
A: They treated me as if I were crazy, as if
I were a coward, a traitor.
Q: Your superior officers have said that all
you have revealed is a lie.
A: There is overwhelming evidence against
them. The US armed forces are finished. The longer the war, the
bigger chance for my truth to be known.
Q: The book you have presented in Venezuela
has been published in Spanish and French. Why haven't you
published it in the United States?
A: The publishing houses have requested the
elimination of real names of the people involved and the
presentation of the war in Iraq in sort of a mist that makes it
less crude, and I am not willing to do that. Publishing houses
like New Press, an alleged left wing entity, refused to publish
the book because they fear to be involved in a dispute raised by
the people described in the story.
Q: Why some media outlets like The New York
Times and The Washington Post never reproduced your testimony?
A: I never echoed the official version of the
facts, which says that US troops were in Iraq to help the
people; I never repeated their story that civilians there died
in accidents. I refused to say that. I did not see any
accidental shooting against the Iraqi and I refused to lie.
Q: Have you changed that stance?
A: No. What they have done is to add opinions
and books by people with conscious objections: those who are
against the war in general or those who participated in the war
but who did not have this kind of experience. They are still
reluctant to look straight to reality.
Q: Do you have any photos or documents that
may prove what you have told us?
A: No, I don't. They stripped me of all my
belongings when I was ordered to return to the United States. I
returned home only with two weapons: my mind and a knife.
Q: Do you think there is a short-time
solution to the war?
A: No, I don't think so. What I see is the
same policy being practiced either by democrats or republicans.
They are the same thing. The war is a business for both parties,
since they depend on the Military Industrial Complex. We need a
Q: Which one?
A: the party of Socialism.
Q: You have participated in a workshop titled
"The United States: The Revolution is Possible. " Do you really
think that a revolution could take place in the United States?
A: It has already begun to take place in the
South, where I was born.
Q: But southern United States has
traditionally been the most conservative zone in your country.
A: That changed after Katrina. New Orleans
looks like Baghdad. The people in the South are indignant and
they wonder every day how comes that Washington invests in a
useless war and in Baghdad, while it has not invested in New
Orleans. You must recall that the first big rebellion in the
United States started in the South.
Q: Would you be willing to visit Cuba?
A: I admire Fidel and the Cuban people, and
if I am invited to visit, for sure I would. I do not mind what
my government might say to me. Nobody will control me.
Q: Do you know that the symbol of US imperial
despise against our nation is precisely a photo depicting some
marines as they urinated on the statue of Jose Marti, who is the
Cuban National Independence Hero?
A: Yes, I do. In the Marine Corps they spoke
of Cuba as a US colony and they taught us some history. As part
of his training, a marine must learn facts about the countries
he is expected to invade, as the song goes.
Q: What song, the marines´ song?
A: (singing) "
From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli…"
Q: That means
that the marines want to be in all parts of the world?
A: Their dream is
to control the world…, no matter if in that effort we all are
turned into murderers.