An Iraq War veteran who served with the company shown in the “Collateral Murder” video released by whistleblower web site Wikileaks says the military trained him to dehumanize Iraqis.
In a videotaped interview released Wednesday, Josh Stieber told The Real News Network things that troops did on a regular basis in basic training, including chanting during marches, were the start of his loss of faith in the US military.
Josh Stieber enlisted in the army after graduating high school. He was deployed to Baghdad from February 2007 to April 2008 with the military company shown on the ground in the Collateral Murder video. He was granted conscientious objector status upon his return home from Baghdad.
In an interview with Real News Network senior editor Paul Jay, Steiber said he was alarmed in basic training when the chants “even joked about killing women and children.”
STIEBER: One that stands out in my mind isÃ¢â‚¬â€it goes, “I went down to the market where all the women shop/I pulled out my machete and I begin to chop/I went down to the park where all the children play/I pulled out my machine gun and I begin to spray.”
JAY: That’s as you’re marching.
JAY: So this is, like, an authorized chant, you could say.
STIEBER: Yeah. I mean, the training, they focus on the physical aspect, or, you know, they say that’s the challenging part, but then they slip all these psychological things in along with it.
JAY: Well, that’s got to be shocking for you to hear that the first time.
STIEBER: Yeah. And so I started writing home to religious leaders at my church, saying what I’m being asked to do doesn’t really line up with, you know, all these religious beliefs I had. And I would get letters back with explanations that I needed to have more faith in God, or this is just how the military works.
The common mindset was that Iraqis were always referred to as “Hajis” in a pattern he said dehumanized people, making it more difficult for soldiers to empathize with civilians.
“So there was that mindset, combined with this mindset, that if you don’t do everything you’re trained to do and if you’re not being the best soldier that you can be, then these Iraqis, you know, at some point or another, are going to attack you,” he said.
“You know, if you’re in a combat situation and you’re not doing everything that you were taught, then you’re exposing yourself and your friends to being open to attack. So that was very much fear mongering, from that point of view.”
US military personnel apparently mistook the cameras slung over the backs of two Reuters journalists for weapons when they opened fire on them and a group of people in a Baghdad suburb in 2007, according to video footage released in April by whistleblower Web site Wikileaks.
As RAWSTORY reported at the time, the video showed the deaths of Reuters journalists Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22 and Saeed Chmagh, 40, along with six other people on a street corner. It also shows US forces firing on a minivan in which two injured children were found.