Monday, July 31, 2006
"I came over here because I wanted to kill people"
At the time, the soldier's matter-of-fact manner struck me chiefly as a rare example of honesty. I was on a nine-month assignment as an embedded reporter in Iraq, spending much of my time with grunts like him -- mostly young (and immature) small-town kids who sign up for a job as killers, lured by some gut-level desire for excitement and adventure.
Spending months keeping your head down, waiting for that one shining moment when you can make the military look like a bunch of psychos, just like your personal heroes did back in the glory days of protesting the Vietnam war. John Kerry will notice you now! But wait, shit ...there's one last molecule of integrity remaining in this poor hippie wannabe's soul, and the poor guy can't help himself telling the rest of the story:
When I met Green, I knew nothing about his background -- his troubled youth and family life, his apparent problems with drugs and alcohol, his petty criminal record. I just saw and heard a blunt-talking kid. Now that I know the charges against Green, his words take on an utterly different context for me. But when I met him then, his comments didn't seem nearly as chilling as they do now.Let me just remind everyone that the reason the Post printed the story in the first place is that the US military, unlike the majority of others in the world, arrested Pvt Green and his companions and charged them with the horrific murder of an innocent family in Iraq. Setting aside everything else, that's something to be proud of. Something we Americans can honestly point to and say that's part of what makes us special. Something this reporter and 99% of his colleagues just plain don't get. You wonder why I avoid the MSM??
Maybe, in part, that's because we were talking in Mahmudiyah. If there's one place where a soldier might succumb to what the military calls "combat stress," it's this town where Green's unit was posted on the edge of the so-called Triangle of Death, for the last three years a bloody center of the Sunni-led insurgency. Mahmudiyah is a deadly patch of earth that inspires such fear, foreboding and uneasiness that my most prominent memory of the three weeks I spent there was the unrelenting knot it caused in my stomach.