Revolution #134, June 29, 2008
Testimony from Veterans
Winter Soldier Investigation:
Iraq and Afghanistan
March 13-16, Winter Soldier Investigation: Iraq and Afghanistan was held in Washington, D.C. At these hearings, organized by the Iraq Veterans Against the War, almost 50 American veterans testified about what they had done to the people and land of Iraq and Afghanistan. The audience, about 350 people at any time, were mostly American veterans, military families, and parents whose children were killed in the war.
The four-day event brought together veterans from across the country to testify about their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan—and present video and photographic evidence. In addition, panels of scholars, veterans, journalists, and other specialists gave context to the testimony. These panels covered everything from the history of the GI resistance movement to the fight for veterans’ health benefits and support.
The following excerpts are from the testimony of Jon Turner, one of the veterans who spoke at the second panel on “Rules of Engagement.” Excerpts from two other veterans at this panel appeared in Revolution #126, and a correspondence from a Vietnam vet on the hearings appeared in issue #125. Readers can listen to the testimonies from the hearings at ivaw.org/wintersoldier/testimony.
Jon Turner: “I am sorry for the hate and destruction that I have inflicted on innocent people.”
I served three deployments with Kilo Company, Third Battalion, Eighth Marines. One of which was in Haiti, the other two were in Iraq—in between Fallujah and Abu Ghraib the first time, and in downtown Ramadi at the government center, the second time. I do have some video footage and pictures that I’ll be sharing with you. The videos that I do have, there are swear words in there, so those that are live feeding this, you might need to turn the volume down. Could you please play the first video… So this is gonna be a video of my XO, Executive Officer, at the time of Kilo Company. And in this video he states, “I think I’ve just killed half the population of northern Ramadi, ‘f’ the red tape”….
This video is the aftereffects of what my XO had stated: we had gone into a two-hour-long firefight. It was over for quite some time but he still felt the need to drop a 500-pound laser-guided missile on it, and this is the aftereffects of it.…
Upon arrival to Ramadi in March 2006, we had gotten our Rules of Engagement brief at Camp Ramadi. Just after we had gotten that brief, our First Sergeant had pulled my platoon aside and stated, “If you feel threatened in any way, shape, or form, take care of the threat and we’ll deal with it later.” With that being said, mistakes were made on several occasions. One incident was this guy we called Mr. Wilson. My post was Post Alpha at the government center, in SW corner. And his house was directly across the street. We had a high suicide vehicle-borne IED threat that day. And this car came running around the corner and I fired one 50-caliber machine-gun round at his direction and it ricocheted off the ground, through the floorboard of the car, through his shin, and then through the roof. The car immediately came to a stop and outside of the car came seven of his daughters, including Mr. Wilson himself....
This is another video of a laser-guided bomb.... That was done on the Ministry of Health building. This building was still in use. There was still people that went there and that was a missile that just went into it...
Please go to the next picture. That is looking down the sight of a 50-caliber machinegun. For those of you who don’t know, the round is about six inches long, and the projectile is about one and a half inches long. There are many different types of rounds. The one that was shot at Mr. Wilson was a slap round, which has a polyurethane base and a titanium tip. When the projectile exits from the barrel of the 50-caliber machine-gun, it spreads open like that, so it’ll go into your body leaving a hole about four inches and exit leaving you with nothing.
This will bring me to my next point. When mistakes were made, we carried drop weapons. Please go to the next picture. These weapons right here were taken from the Iraqi police back during our first deployment. This is just an example that we would take their weapons and carry them around with us in case we did mess up and shot the wrong person. What we also did was, anytime we went into a household, we would take the firing pins out of the weapon. Every household is allowed to have one AK-47 for their own protection, and by taking out the firing pins, the weapons would not fire. Therefore they had no protection against themselves or us.
Please go to the next picture. This is what happens when you get hit with a 50-caliber. Next picture. For those of you that don’t know, that is brains. That was not my kill, that was one of my friend’s, but that did happen on my deployment to Iraq. Afterwards it just goes to show you, the mistakes we did made, we had no respect for their bodies afterwards.
Please go to the next picture… That is a man’s face. On April 2, 2005 at Abu Ghraib we had a very highly coordinated attack on us, and the next day we went ahead and had to search the premises for any remains. And obviously that face, or that part of the face, was found and put on top of a Kevlar [helmet] so that a picture could be taken of it.
Next picture please. This picture is kinda hard to see. But we had a mortar attack at Camp India which is right in between Camp Fallujah and Abu Ghraib. And this was a 12-year-old worker who was building our camp for us. And he took a piece of shrapnel to the head....
Next image please. On April 18, 2006 I had my first confirmed kill. This man was innocent. I don’t know his name. I called him the fat man. He was walking back to his house and I shot him in front of his friend and his father. The first round didn’t kill him. After I hit him up here in his neck area and afterwards he started screaming and looked right into my eyes. So I looked at my friend who I was on post with, and I said, “Well, I can’t let that happen” so I took another shot and took him out. He was then carried away by the rest of his family. It took seven people to carry his body away. We were all congratulated after we had our first kills and that happened to have been mine. My company commander personally congratulated me as he did everyone else in our company. This is the same individual who had stated that whoever gets their first kill by stabbing them to death will get a four-day pass when we return from Iraq.
There was one incident where we got into a firefight just south of the government center, about 2,000 meters. We had no idea where the fire was coming from and the way our rules of engagement were: pinpoint where the fire’s coming from and throw a rocket at it. So with that being said, we still didn’t know where the fire was coming from and an 84 mm rocket was shot into a house. I do not know if there was anyone in it. We do not know if that’s where the fire was coming from, but that’s what was done.
Please go to the next image. This man right here was my third confirmed kill. As you can see he was riding his bicycle. Later on in the day we went ahead—and we had CBS [reporter] Laura Logan with us, but she was with the other squad and so she wasn’t with us—and so myself and two other people went ahead and took out some individuals because we were excited about the firefight we had just gotten into and we didn’t have a cameraman or woman with us. With that being said, anytime we did have embedded reporters with us, our actions would change drastically. We never acted the same, we were always on key with everything, did everything by the books.
Please go to the next image.… The man on the bicycle, he was left on the street for about ten minutes until we realized that we needed to leave where we were; and his body was dragged about ten feet to the right of him, where his body was thrown behind a rock wall and his bicycle was thrown on top of him.
Another thing that we used to do a lot was “recon by fire,” where we would go ahead and try to start a firefight if we felt threatened in any way, shape, or form. There was one particular incident where we were working with the Iraqi army and the Iraqi special forces in downtown Ramadi. And with our squad and the Iraqi army there was also Lieutenant Colonels, Majors, First Sergeants and Sergeant Majors, sorry Sergeants Major. With that being said, the Iraqi army would go into the house, kick in the doors, and then go ahead and shoot. And there were loud bursts of machine gun fire, we thought we were taking fire, but then we later found out that it was them.
House raids. Because we were a grunt battalion we were responsible for going on several patrols. A lot of the raids and patrols we did were at night, around three o’clock in the morning, around there. And what we would do is just kick in the doors and terrorize the families. That [looking at photo] was an image taken around three o’clock in the morning through night vision goggles and that is the segregation of the women and children and the men. If the men of the household were giving us problems, we’d go ahead and take care of them any way we felt necessary, whether it be choking them or slamming their head against the walls.
If you go back to that one picture. That was one man that was taken care of in a very bad way. Because of all the wiring that he had, it would be considered IED-making material.
On my wrist there’s Arabic for “F you.” I got that put on my wrist just two weeks before I went to Iraq because that was my choking hand and anytime I felt the need to take out aggression I would go ahead and use it. Please go to the next picture. This is an instance of detainees and how they were treated—in a nice manner. [Two men sitting against a wall with hands bound and black cloth covering their entire upper bodies.]
Next. That is the Fatima Mosque minaret. As you can see, it is ridden with bullet holes and holes in the top of it. Those were from mortars. And the next video that I’m going to show you is a tank round that went into that minaret where we weren’t sure if we were taking fire or not….
This is after one of the guys in weapons company had gotten shot. This is a way that we take out our aggression [video of shots going into a mosque]. For those of you who don’t know, it is illegal to shoot into a mosque unless you are taking fire from it. There was no fire that was taken from that mosque. It was shot into because we were angry….
There are many more stories and incidents for me to talk about, although we don’t have the time to but this just goes to show you that … everyone sitting up here has these stories and there’s been over a million troops that have gone in and out of Iraq so the possibilities are endless… The reason I am doing this today is not only for myself and for the rest of society to hear but it’s for all those who can’t be here to talk about the things that we went through, talk about the things that we did…
Next image. Those four crosses and this memorial service were for the five guys in Kilo Company Third Battalion Eighth Marines that we lost. Throughout our unit we had 18 that got killed.
With that being said, that is my testimony. I just want to say that I am sorry for the hate and destruction that I have inflicted on innocent people, and I’m sorry for the hate and destruction that others have inflicted on innocent people. At one point it was OK, but reality has shown that it is not, and that this is happening, and that until people hear what is going on with this war it will continue to happen and people will continue to die. I’m sorry for the things that I did. I am no longer the monster that I once was, thank you. [standing ovation]
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