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I smile because this time, we know—know—what this man has done. There are no more guesses; we just need him to document his confession with a smudgy thumbprint.
Shoeib is broken and will confess at any moment. I just know it. All of Saedi’s hitting and kicking serves to quicken the inevitable, to turn Shoeib’s thoughts away from the inner sanctum of self-pity where selfish killers retreat under interrogation. Today, Saedi’s abuse is not only a tactic to get a confession. He is also taking personal satisfaction from it.
I smile and nod to my partner.
“Speak!” Saedi screams. “If you talk, I may not spend all my time focusing on you.”
“I have done ten operations,” Shoeib says with lowered eyes and pitiful sobs.
“What type of operations?” demands Saedi.
“Cutting off the heads, or killing them by a bullet to the head.”
Saedi and I just sit there and glare—for almost a minute we let the silence become a deafening roar—and then the questions start again. “Describe to me your operations.”
“In four operations, my job was to hold the legs of the person. I was to keep them still and to stop them from kicking. Six times I was told to do the killing myself. I would either cut off his head or shoot him in the back of the head.”
“Who were these people you killed?” Saedi asks with quiet loathing.
“I don’t know. I would get a call from Mohammed. He would tell me to be at a certain house. Mohammed and some other people I don’t know would kidnap someone and bring them to the house. I would either hold the legs or do the killing myself as they made a videotape.”
Shoeib starts to cry. Then he raises his hands above his head and wails, “Wa-allah, Saedi, Wa-allah!” From only a few feet away, I feel the shimmers of evil come off this man who dares to sit here and plead for God’s help. Well, God is not here.
Night after night, these men confound me with their acts of inhumanity. I try to stop my slide into their darkness, and so far I’ve succeeded, barely, but tonight is different. When Shoeib wails for some higher power’s assistance, I feel a fracture slide down the center of my chest. For the first time in my life, I fervently want to kill another human being. I want to reach across this small prison cell and let my shadow fly.
As I feel my darkness intensely and taste this killer’s pleas, I can hear everything, even the now-silent prayers of his victims. I can see everything, every drop of moisture that slides down the cinderblock walls. I hear perfectly every breath, every heartbeat, and every shuffle of booted feet. I’m conscious of every scent, and the odors speak of the excitement, the anticipation, the fear, and the hatred that we all feel. Then suddenly it vanishes.
I open my eyes, and Saedi is bent over the still crying prisoner. He whispers in his ear, and cigarette smoke escapes his nose to float up in the air and twirl around the one hanging light bulb. I hear more sobs, which become suckling whimpers.
I feel a deep loss.
I need to escape.
I must escape, or I will become lost.
I quickly leave the cell and climb the stairs to the roof. Outside, the sun is just beginning to rise. Mosul is beautiful in the early morning, and I need only a few minutes in the crisp early light. I desperately need the rebirth of a sunrise because beneath my rage is guilt: This isn’t the first time that I’ve seen Shoeib. Two months ago, he was captured by the Iraqi army and brought to Saedi’s prison, the same prison where he wails in the room below me. But two months ago, I chose a different path. I made the decision to protect him. I told Saedi, “No, on no account.” So, two months ago, Shoeib didn’t confess, and after a few days, Saedi released him back onto Mosul’s streets.
So, today, when Shoeib confessed to those ten executions? Instantly, those deaths became my fault, and those weren’t the first, nor the last deaths, that I’ll have to account for.
Excerpted, with permission, from War and Moral Injury: A Reader, edited by Robert Emmet Meagher and Douglas A. Pryer.
As the US sends 1,000 more troops to Middle East, the Pentagon is a rudderless ship caught in a storm
The Pentagon is sending nearly 1,000 more troops to the Middle East as part of an escalating crisis with Iran that defense officials are struggling to explain.
While the U.S. government has publicly blamed Iran for recent attacks on merchant vessels in the Gulf of Oman, not a single U.S. official has provided a shred of proof linking Iran to the explosive devices found on the merchant ships.
At an off-camera briefing on Monday, Navy officials acknowledged that nothing in imagery released by the Pentagon shows Iranian Revolutionary Guards planting limpet mines on ships in the Gulf of Oman.
Investigation shows Lt. Col. in charge of Corps' 1st Recon was fired for alleged 'misconduct' but has not been charged
The Marine lieutenant colonel removed from command of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in May was ousted over alleged "misconduct" but has not been charged with a crime, Task & Purpose has learned.
Lt. Col. Francisco Zavala, 42, who was removed from his post by the commanding general of 1st Marine Division on May 7, has since been reassigned to the command element of 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, and a decision on whether he will be charged is "still pending," MEF spokeswoman 1st Lt. Virginia Burger told Task & Purpose last week.
"We are not aware of any ongoing or additional investigations of Lt. Col. Zavala at this time," MEF spokesman 2nd Lt. Brian Tuthill told Task & Purpose on Monday. "The command investigation was closed May 14 and the alleged misconduct concerns Articles 128 and 133 of the UCMJ," Tuthill added, mentioning offenses under military law that deal with assault and conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman.
"There is a period of due process afforded the accused and he is presumed innocent until proven guilty," he said.
When asked for an explanation for the delay, MEF officials directed Task & Purpose to contact 1st Marine Division officials, who did not respond before deadline.
The investigation of Zavala, completed on May 3 and released to Task & Purpose in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, showed that he had allegedly acted inappropriately. The report also confirmed some details of his wife's account of alleged domestic violence that Task & Purpose first reported last month.
A Marine Raider convicted in a North Carolina court of misdemeanor assault for punching his girlfriend won't spend any time in jail unless he violates the terms of his probation, a court official told Task & Purpose.
On Monday, Staff Sgt. Daniel Christopher Evans received a suspended sentence of 60 days in jail, said Samantha Dooies, an assistant to the New Hanover County District Attorney.
Evans must complete 18 months of unsupervised probation, pay $8,000 in restitution, complete a domestic violence offenders program, and he cannot have any contact with his former girlfriend, Dooies told Task & Purpose. The special operations Marine is also only allowed to have access to firearms though the military while on base or deployed.