Friday, February 17, 2006

"No F---ing Reason."

One of the many tragedies of the Iraq fiasco is that for the young guys being sent over there, it takes some kind of calamity before it dawns on them that there is no good purpose for their being over there.

As Call sat in the schoolhouse, preparing to go out, he heard two loud bursts from the .50-caliber machine gun on the roof.

Specialist Michael Pena, a beefy 21-year-old from Port Isabel, Texas, had opened fire. Boom-boom-boom. Boom-boom-boom.

Call and his men dashed out the front door. Pena had shot an unarmed Iraqi man on the street. The man had walked past the signs that mark the 200-yard "disable zone" that surrounds the Alamo and into the 100-yard "kill zone" around the base.

The Army had forced the residents of the block to leave the houses last year to create the security perimeter. American units in Iraq usually fire warning shots. The Rakkasans don't.

A few days later, Call said his brigade command had told him, "The Rakkasans don't do warning shots." A warning shot in the vernacular of the Rakkasans, Call said, was a bullet that hit one Iraqi man while others could see.

"That's how you warn his buddy, is to pop him in the face with a kill shot?" Call said incredulously. "But what about when his buddy comes back with another guy ... that and the other 15 guys in his family who you've made terrorists?"

Looking at the man splayed on the ground, Call turned to his medic, Specialist Patrick McCreery, and asked, "What the f--- was he doing?"

McCreery didn't answer. The man's internal organs were hanging out of his side, and his blood was pouring across the ground. He was conscious and groaning. His eyelids hung halfway closed.

"What ... did they shoot him with?" McCreery asked, sweat beginning to show on his brow. "Did someone call a ... ambulance?"

The call to prayer was starting at a mosque down the street. The words "Allahu Akbar" - God is great - wafted down from a minaret's speakers.

The man looked up at the sky as he heard the words. He repeated the phrase "Ya Allah. Ya Allah. Ya Allah." Oh God. Oh God. Oh God.

He looked at McCreery and raised his finger toward the house in front of him. "This my house," he said in broken English.

McCreery reached down. With his hands cupped, he shoved the man's organs back into his body and held them in place as Call unwrapped a bandage to put around the hole.

"He's fading, he's fading," McCreery shouted. Looking into the dying man's eyes, the medic said, "Haji, haji, look at me," using the honorific title reserved for older Muslim men who presumably have gone on Hajj - pilgrimage - to Mecca.

"Why? Why?" asked the man, his eyes beginning to close.

"Haji, I don't know," said McCreery, sweat pouring down his face. An Iraqi ambulance pulled up and the Humvees followed. They followed the man to the hospital they'd raided a few days earlier. The soldiers filed in and watched as the man died.

Call said nothing. McCreery, a 35-year-old former foundry worker from Levering,
Mich., walked toward a wall, alone. He looked at the dead man for a moment and wiped tears from his eyes.

A few days later, Call's commander asked him to take pictures of the entrails left by the man Pena had shot, identified as Wissam Abbas, age 31, to document that Abbas was inside the sign warning of deadly force. McHenry, who was driving, told him, "There's not going to be much left, sir. The dogs will have eaten all of it."

Pena was up on the schoolhouse roof manning the same .50-caliber machine gun. He didn't say a word about the man he'd killed. As he stared at a patch of earth in front of him, at Samarra and its wreckage, he couldn't contain his frustration.

"No one told me why I'm putting my life on the line in Samarra, and you know why they didn't?" Pena asked. "Because there is no f------ reason."

Vaporizing a guy on his way home in a hail of bullets. It's Amadou Diallo all over again.
Except Iraqis don't protest over unjust killings. They respond with bombs.

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