IAMA ex military whistleblower who turned in most of his squad for the rape and murder of a civilian family in Iraq. Ask me anything.
I spent about a week and a half or so talking to jim about my time in the desert. We are still friends and talk from time to time. I think I am going to come to his signing if he ever makes it out my way =)
That is cool!
Did you ever meet anyone or get a chance to talk to anyone from Abeer's extended family? Do they know what you did? Do you know if they feel that justice has been done?
Ok, a few more questions - you don't have to answer any if you don't want to:
What do you think gave you a different perspective on 'the enemy' to others in your platoon - how were you able to retain your humanity?
Were you aware that the family was concerned for Abeer before the rape and killings?
How did you go about deciding how to reveal what had happened? Was it a tactical choice to go to a counsellor?
Do you still receive threats?
Has anyone publicly honored you for coming forward?
How do you feel about the retaliation by Iraqis for the deaths? This seems to me to be equally horrific.
How did you feel about Green and co before the killings happened?
How do you feel about the sentence Green received?
I met the son who found the family murdered only once, and it was when he reported it to the tcp. One of my biggest regrets is that I never got a chance to talk to that kid. I really wanted him to know that I did it so he would know the people who did that to his family got the punishment they deserve - I just didnt want him to join the fight against us and get filled up with hate. I never got a chance to though. Security was very tight at the last trial for green.
lemme get back to you on the rest. I think I need to confirm my identity somehow..this is getting a little annoying. Actually, can I text you a picture for you to upload?
Hopefully you will find a way some day to let him know that. And this answer has only increased my respect for you - I really think that what you did, most people wouldn't have done.
thank you, it means a lot - honestly.
Thank you so much - it really means a lot.
I thought about it for a single night I think. To be honest, making the decision was pretty easy - I was not willing to live with letting that slide for the rest of my life. The hard part was after I did report it, realizing that I was pretty much dead meat. After seeing how everything has panned out for the survivors of my platoon - ( I think I am roughly one of 7 guys or so that are out walking around with semi normal lives) - I can say that one of the biggest reasons for my "successful transition" is that I didn't demonize the enemy or do things I knew I would regret.
Did you receive any punishment, or were you rewarded?
All awards for valor in combat were stripped from my platoon.
I don't think there's a medal good enough to honor what you've done. The military needs more people like you in it.
honestly this beats any medal. thank you.
It's people like you that restore my faith in this country. (Secret spelling/grammar edit.)
thank you, I do not deserve that.
That's the punishment for rape and murder in the military? Didn't anything else happen?
ya...I think some of them got off pretty light.
God I am so terrible at reddit.
11b, we were in the suni triangle at the time. 2005/2006. 1 out of every 3 died, one out of every two got wounded. I think the easy answer is, after burying so many friends and spending that many hours in intense combat, people went nuts.
1 out of 3 what died? Infantrymen?
Can you give us a summarized timeline of the events in the suni triangle and how you feel they affected the mentality of your platoon and ultimately lead them to the killings?
yes, but i will have to get back to it later if thats ok.
btw, wtf is a downvote? and why do I have so many? Is that bad? hahaha.
The reddit system occasionally fakes "downvotes" for some technical reason, I believe it relates to trying to defeat bots that try and autovote on things.
And some people downvote if they disagree with you, or don't like you, or had a bad day, or can't work their mouse correctly, or let their cat operate their computer. Don't sweat it.
haha thanks bud =)
As a survivor of rape, as an American, as the child of a marine, and as a human, I want to thank you so much for what you have done. I know this is probably echoing a million different thank-you's, but learning about you has really touched me.
honestly I have never been thanked so much. It means a ton to me. Thank you for taking the time to write me.
Umm somebody wanted me to say skittles. Guys - there is actually a lot of interest here - and I was not expecting that. This really means a lot to me and I promise I will answer every question - I was just not expecting such a crazy response so fast.
holy crap you read the book? hahaha I had no idea anybody was reading it. It is me, feel free to send me a msg on here.
Would you have any interest in speaking at West Point? I'm a cadet (seems to be a lot of us on here) and there would be MASSIVE interest in having you here. I would say about half of everyone here has read, or is in the process of reading Black Hearts, and certainly everyone has been involved in some sort of discussion about what happened.
And thank you for everything.
I would LOVE to. Honestly I dont know what to say. I hated going to every trial, I hated the whole process, every interview with jim was hard - the whole thing I hated so much - but at the same time it made me feel so much better that somehow every time this got out, the chances of another soldier getting put in my shoes might be less - it made me feel better. PLEASE - I have a lot to say.
You should totally do it. Help promote the future officers that your behavior is the type of behavior they should encourage in the men under them. And thank you for doing the right thing.
If they would have me, I would love to. Justin at geekbox dot com. Ill pay my own way if I have to.
What book are you talking about?
blackhearts by jim frederick
What was the reaction within the chain of command to your whistleblowing? Had your superiors attempted to cover the incident up?
It was covered up by my team leader at the time of the incident. Once it was made public....gah, this is my point of view, but yes, I do think they tried. Somebody - I have no idea who, let Ryan Lenz (from the AP) know about what happend - and the cat came out of the bag. I believe to this day that had it not hit the media I would have been fucked.
What happened after the AP found out? What was going to happen before?
Col kunk told Col Bowler that he wanted me chaptered out of the army and charged with false offical sworn statement/perjury.
I dont know, I can only tell you what I think. It seemed to me like I was about to get railroaded. I had no proof at all. It was my word against everybody with no crime scene techs, evidence or anything. One guy honestly just cracked on the day of the funerals for tucker babs and chaka.
I just want to reiterate what wonderful man you are. I know your job was not an easy one- I applaud your high moral standing even more than your service (which is also in high regard). May you and your family find comfort amidst any threats that you endure(d) knowing that many like me are so proud to have a MAN such as yourself fight for what's right. You, are everything that is right in this world. Sacrificing yourself for your country, sacrificing your squad to human morality. You. Are. Awesome.
dont know what to say - thank you.
You're a hero.
I was wondering if you had any thoughts on Bradley Manning/his treatment.
manning was the wikileaks guy right? Ill get back to this later - this is not a easy answer question for me.
Im not going to say I understand - because I dont. But I do know how people can break now. I know that we as people are nothing better than anmials - and when the gloves come off, you would be shocked at what we are capable of.
I often ask myself why I didnt break like that - and be it genetics, childhood, outlook - whatever it is - I couldnt tell you. All I can say is people break, and when they do - look out.
'I know that we as people are nothing better than animals - and when the gloves come off, you would be shocked at what we are capable of.'
As a westerner who has been isolated from the 'realities' of the world... I find this statement to be quite unnerving and powerful at the same time.
People ask me all the time about what political affiliation I hold, or what I think about the war in iraq when they see my kia bracelet or whatever - honestly, there is such a discrepency between peoples perception of reality and how we are, and how we really are - its shocking.
Not many people understand me when I say I feel bad for the murderer because I know I'm not really that different than him, and that I could be him given other circumstances.
I would wholly echo your perception that people are a hell of a lot more "base" than they realize.
What type of whistle did you use?
rape of course. whammy.
You are getting the hang of this place.
haha thank you. im so depressed nobody lold at my troll pic!
First, thanks for preserving the honor of the U.S. military and the country as a whole. We need more soldiers like you.
That being said, and noting that I am to be deployed next year, I want to know what is the best way to go about reporting such an incident, if I witness one.
Who should you tell first? Lowest ranking superior (that was not involved, of course). Chaplain? Someone outside the unit? First Sergeant?
Also, what you said about not demonizing the enemy, or those who commit atrocious acts, really makes sense to me. It makes others perceive you as grandstanding to demonstrate moral superiority, which makes you a target.
Thanks again. BTW: a major motivation for my enlistment was to be the man strong enough to do something like what you have done. I know you don't want to hear it, but you are my hero.
Also, this is a throwaway account, for obvious reasons
FUCKKKKKKKK haha...great question. PLEASE let me get back to this.
Yo man... Just wondering if this took place in mahmudiyah or yusifiyah.... I was in the 10th mountain and we replaced 101st in 07
yusifiyah. about 250 meters from checkpoint two.
This was where dudes went in there silks and raped and murdered a whole family or some shit right....
Not for nothing we caught a lot of shit during our 15 months for that...
I know its not ur fault....
But the locals hated your unit patch... We got relieved by 101 and the locals pointed at the unit patches and "cursed at the chickens" thinking that the screaming eagle was a chicken....
Crazy man it's a small Internet...
Just for proof that I'm not trolling you... I stayed in the potato factory my Terps name was jaguar and chost... One of the buildings burned down on the fob and the shitters were in 2 rows in the middle of the fob
verified. Ya, I felt terrible for you guys that came in after us (10th.)
Crazy shit man small Internet I guess
no shit right?
I'm a Middle Eastern. Thank you for doing that.
Why did they do that, and what happened to them?
No need for thanks - soldiers are supposed to do the right thing. 99.999 percent of us do, all the time - in situations most people cant even imagine.
They are all in jail.
Why? Ill have to fill out some lengthy answers tonight.
Do you have any favorite recipes you could share?
YES! ill get back to this one.
Thank you for your courage and respect for truth and justice.
thanks for the kind words.
You're a true hero. Thank you.
thanks for the kind words, but not a hero.
tattoo shot w. reddit sign coming up...sorry I didnt think it would be this hard to verify. I didnt even think anybody would care hahaha
We get fake AMA's all the time. A recent one got a lot of attention so people are just a little cautious about being caught out again.
ya, I just wasnt expecting it - sorry if I was a little short.
Thank you for doing what was right.
Lots of good questions. I haven't seen this one asked:
Q:What would you recommend (either training or whatever) to make sure things like that do not happen again?
I would say a case study would have to be done on the people who transition into the civilian world after intense combat well - and find the traits that with development could help others prepare for combat. If I had to give advice to people going into harms way - I would say this.
- Dont take it personal, you signed up for a big boys game. People die, thats war.
There is no such thing as good guys and bad guys. Do you know what a hardcore jihadist looks like when he is dying? shocked. He woke up and believed that what he was doing was right. Dont demonize your enemy. Its not personal. They are people just like you - mostly poor and uneducated. If you couldnt feed your family and osama himself offered you fifty bucks to plant a IED and blow up some patrol car, most of you would do it to prevent your family from starving. Its just life.
Remember - its not you. I just said, what I have to do here is not justin. Its justin when you put him in a corner and try to take his life. Im not the guy I was over there. I mean I am, but Im not. Does that make sense? Dont try to apply what happens in combat to who you are in this world.
Also - they should never send a single bat. to cover the entire suni triangle - or EVER leave 2 people in a position where that is the max number of people you have to run a checkpoint. The stress, lack of sleep and increased risk of being killed will drive people crazy.
To you i say, wish more people had your sense of honour and morals. (Canadian, excuse the British spelling)
thank you - I really do appreciate it.
Guys, Headed home from work, Ill try to answer more questions before I head out for the night. Ill be updating this thread as much as I can. I promise I will answer every single question and I really appreciate the interest. Ill be back soon. Thank you again for all the kind words.
You are a very brave man. I'm glad to have made your electronic acquaintance.
Take good care of yourself because we need more like you.
thank you - honestly.
Wiki page says you received death threats. Can you expand on that?
people threatened to slit my throat, kill me, murder my family - you name it.
did they give any reasoning as to why? obviously because you did that, but why they disagreed with it?
abandoning the brotherhood so to speak - some people are nuts, some people feel i tarnished the units reputation.
Were you ever worried about any sort of retaliation from the guilty over any of this?
I hope not, but Im pretty sure there will be some - but I survived what hardly anybody did. If somebody wants to take a crack at me, they wouldnt be the first. As it turns out im not the easiest person in the world to kill though, so they will have to roll the dice.
Holy shit you are cool.
You must pull ridiculous tail.
hahahahahaha - honestly nobody outside my closest group of friends know. well - and you guys now.
Hey man, soldier to soldier, I appreciate what you did.
thank you for serving - you are out there doing the damn thing, I just sell gaming computers now haha. The people who carry the torch into harms way deserve the thanks, not those of us eating icecream =) I tip my hat to you sir.
How often would you say this type of thing happens?
Man you guys have some good questions - If I dont answer you right away I promise I will get to it.
Even once is too often - that being said, I know there is a guy right now going through what I just went through - only he is serving in a-stan.
what's his name? is there any journalism on this story?
It was on the army times a while ago- basically his squad was fragging innocent civilians and trying to make it look like they were bad - Im sorry i dont know his name, but I feel for the guy. Its going to be a long road.
What is your view on Islam ? Has it changed since? and are you religious?
its a religion - religion is good in the right dosage.
have you recieved any threads for what you did?
What kind of threats? Emails and letters? Or actual in-your-face threats to your life?
I got jumped once at campbell, I have gotten emails, letters - you name it.
What's your opinion on the War now that you're out? Have you ever had any interaction with IVAW?
I really like this one - please let me get back to it.
My cousin went to Iraq a couple of years ago. I don't know the technical details, but he volunteered for the unit that goes in first to dangerous areas to make it safe for everyone else. He was there for a month, before he was sent home and was put into "the brig" (again, my loss of technical terms) for some unspecified amount of time. Nobody in my family will talk about it. What do you suppose he could have done to have been put in that sort of situation?
I honestly dont know...I wouldnt want to speculate and tarnish his reputation in your eyes.
What kind of threats have you received afterwards? Do you expect your former teammates to revenge?
well see. I dont spend my time worrying about it. I do spend plenty of time at the range keeping the skills up, so - they can do what they want. Im not going to let them dictate how I live my life.
Thank you for what you did.
I want to ask why did you turn in your squad? Why do you think you came forward instead of helping them keep what they did a secret? What was it in your background or thinking?
And a related question what were your squadmates like? Why do you think they did what they did? Why do you think they didn't stop themselves?
I believe in what it means to be a infantryman in this country. We are supposed to be better and we are not supposed to break - we signed up to do and see the horrible this world has to offer. That is a burden we carry alone, and why people say thank you. Even now, out of the army, I always try to carry myself in a way that would make the people I served with proud.
Didn't you meet anderson cooper? If so, how was it?
HAHAHAH I WAS SO WAITING FOR THIS. I know this sounds retarded - but i had no idea who he was. So this guy is waiting for me when I land coming back from iraq. They gag ordered me (the military) so, I couldnt talk to him, but he took me out for dinner and drinks. I thought he was some local cnn guy. I got shitty with him and gave him my watch. Crazy night. I had no idea how big a deal he was until like 3 years later and i was like....ya, HOLY FUCK i gave that guy my watch!!! he didnt need my watch!! hes fucking RICH!! WTF!!!
the watch had special meaning - at 1325 every day it would go off - it was a sunnto and I had no idea how to use it. It was like a supercomputer. I never figured out how to turn this alarm off - but after a lot of the deaths happend, it would go off and id say, 1325, im still alive - and I would take a moment and appreciate it....
stupid story, but ya - super cool guy.
Why'd you give him your watch? Have you guys spoken/met since?
because I felt bad he came all that way and I couldnt tell him anything on the record. He also bought me dinner. And I was drunk. I have not spoken with him - I tried once, but he is a hard dude to get ahold of.
What do you do today? And what kind of respons have you gotten from the public. Do people recognize you and do people think you did the right thing?
It's awesome that you are doing this and what you did are millions times more awesome.
I have yet to be recognized by anybody haha - I own a small computer company in salt lake with a childhood friend. Thank you for the kind words =)
What did you get a medical discharge for?
injuries and conditions stemming from my deployment.
yes, and if you will all have me I would love to share everything I have.
Oh my god. I hope this is real and not troll (why anyone would fake this I don't know) - but if you are the Justin Watt that reported the Mahmudiyah killings, you are my fucking hero. I talked about you in an academic conference once. What you did was so brave, I always wished you'd gotten more recognition for it - you deserve to be recognised alongside people like Hugh Thompson Jr. The rape and those killings were truly horrific, and should have been a source of incredible outrage. I can't imagine the burden you had to bear knowing about them. You deserve everything good in life for what you did and your courage.
Question: how much involvement did you have in the 'Black Hearts' book?
(If this is a faker, whatever, Justin Watt does deserve more recognition by everyone.)
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