Before you read this post, I’d like to reiterate my earlier disclaimer. Not everything in this memoir is true, and some of it is intentionally distorted or altered. This memoir is intended to relate my impressions and thoughts on combat and the war in general. It is not a detailed or literal account of exactly what happened in the war. In other words, sometimes I make shit up for literary effect.
My first interrogation was the next day, or the day after, I’m not really sure. It was a junior militia fighter who gave up all his information to direct questioning. No waterboarding needed, no real technique applied, there was no time to do either, anyway. We had Marines advancing and we needed information. Force protection was the priority, which meant finding out where the enemy was waiting for us. I asked questions and he answered.
The next ambush was a few klicks north, and Kilo Company was about to roll into an onslaught of RPGs, mortars and small arms. I gave Nate the grid coordinates of where my prisoner told me the enemy positions were located, he passed them to battalion headquarters who called in an artillery strike. LtCol Mundy had saying, ‘Never send a Marine where you can send artillery.” Hell rained down on the enemy. The artillery strike thundered ahead of us for several minutes as shells destroyed their positions. We killed them all. By the time Kilo Company got there, dozens of Iraqis were dead in their ambush sites.
That evening at the nightly Three/Five staff meeting held at LTC Mundy’s vehicle the Kilo Company commander shook Nate’s hand, and thanked him for keeping his men safe, keeping them alive.
“Hey, Nate, your guys saved my guys today. We would have rolled into that ambush. Thank you.” His eyes glistened slightly and his voice may have caught just a bit, as did Nate’s when he replied. “It’s our job, sir, and you’re our brothers.”
Knowing I played a part in saving Marines still keeps me warm, all these years later. Life is shit sometimes, but somewhere out there are guys who got to go home, love their wives and see their kids grow up because of the questions I asked that Iraqi. That gives me some measure of peace when the walls close in.
What a fucking cliche, ‘when the walls close in.’ It’s not the walls that press in on me, it’s the memories of all the people I’ve hurt. Well, no, that’s not it, exactly. I think I sometimes still struggle with the dissonance between having enjoyed hurting people and knowing I’m not supposed to enjoy hurting people. Which is bullshit, of course, we all enjoy hurting each other, we do it often enough. I shouldn’t feel guilty for enjoying what everyone else enjoys. Right? After the terror of being helpless while taking incoming fire, laying in a hole waiting to die, having control over the enemy was exquisite. Not out of any desire for revenge, but it felt delicious to have power over another human being, have them bound in front of you and answering your questions. Answers which, in turn, killed men and saved lives.