An Iraq War veteran serving five life terms for raping and killing a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and killing her parents and sister says he didn't think of Iraqi civilians as humans after being exposed to extreme warzone violence.
Steven Green, a former 101st Airborne soldier, in his first interview since the 2006 killings, claimed that his crimes were fuelled in part by experiences in Iraq's violent 'Triangle of Death' where two of his sergeants were gunned down.
He also cited a lack of leadership and help from the Army.
'I was crazy,' Green said in the exclusive telephone interview from federal prison in Tucson, Arizona. 'I was just all the way out there. I didn't think I was going to live.'
Green talked about what led up to the March 12, 2006, attack on a family near Mahmoudiya, Iraq, that left him serving five consecutive life sentences.
The former soldier, who apologised at sentencing for his crimes, said he wasn't seeking sympathy nor trying to justify his actions - killings prosecutors described at trial in 2009 as one of the worst crimes of the Iraq war.
But Green said people should know his actions were a consequence of his circumstances in a war zone.
'If I hadn't ever been in Iraq, I wouldn't be in the kind of trouble I'm in now,' Green said. 'I'm not happy about that.'
Green was discharged with a 'personality disorder' before federal charges were brought against him.
Prosecutors sought a death sentence, but a federal jury in Paducah, Kentucky, opted for five life sentences on charges including the rape and murder of 14-year-old Abeer Qassim Al-Janabi and the shooting deaths of her mother, father and younger sister.
Four other soldiers were convicted in military court for various roles in the attack. Three remain in military prison.
Green is challenging the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, which allows the federal government to charge an American in civilian court for alleged crimes committed overseas. He was the first former soldier convicted under the statute. The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has scheduled arguments for January 21.
Green is challenging the constitutionality of that law, saying it gives the executive branch too much leeway over whom to prosecute. Prosecutors say the law should be upheld.
'I've got some hope, but I'm not delusional about it,' said Green, now 25. 'I hope it works. But, whenever they give you multiple life sentences, they're not planning on letting you out.'
Green didn't testify at trial. During sentencing, he apologized and said he expects to face 'God's justice' when he dies.