This is a very moving first-hand description of combat in Iraq. It was difficult to selectively excerpt from it, because it is all worth reading. Nonetheless, here are some rather extensive excerpts:
Q: What experiences turned you against the war and made you leave the Marines?
A: I was in charge of a platoon that consists of machine gunners and missile men. Our job was to go into certain areas of the towns and secure the roadways. There was this one particular incident – and there’s many more – the one that really pushed me over the edge. It involved a car with Iraqi civilians. From all the intelligence reports we were getting, the cars were loaded down with suicide bombs or material. That’s the rhetoric we received from intelligence. They came upon our checkpoint. We fired some warning shots. They didn’t slow down. So we lit them up.
Q: Lit up? You mean you fired machine guns?
A: Right. Every car that we lit up we were expecting ammunition to go off. But we never heard any. Well, this particular vehicle we didn’t destroy completely, and one gentleman looked up at me and said: “Why did you kill my brother? We didn’t do anything wrong.” That hit me like a ton of bricks.
Q: Who gave the order to wipe the demonstrators out?
A: Higher command. We were told to be on the lookout for the civilians because a lot of the Fedayeen and the Republican Guards had tossed away uniforms and put on civilian clothes and were mounting terrorist attacks on American soldiers. The intelligence reports that were given to us were basically known by every member of the chain of command. The rank structure that was implemented in Iraq by the chain of command was evident to every Marine in Iraq. The order to shoot the demonstrators, I believe, came from senior government officials, including intelligence communities within the military and the U.S. government.
Q: What kind of firepower was employed?
A: M-16s, 50-cal. machine guns.
Q: You fired into six or ten kids? Were they all taken out?
A: Oh, yeah. Well, I had a “mercy” on one guy. When we rolled up, he was hiding behind a concrete pillar. I saw him and raised my weapon up, and he put up his hands. He ran off. I told everybody, “Don’t shoot.” Half of his foot was trailing behind him. So he was running with half of his foot cut off.
Q: After you lit up the demonstration, how long before the next incident?
A: Probably about one or two hours. This is another thing, too. I am so glad I am talking with you, because I suppressed all of this.
Q: Well, I appreciate you giving me the information, as hard as it must be to recall the painful details.
A: That’s all right. It’s kind of therapy for me. Because it’s something that I had repressed for a long time.
Q: And the incident?
A: There was an incident with one of the cars. We shot an individual with his hands up. He got out of the car. He was badly shot. We lit him up. I don’t know who started shooting first. One of the Marines came running over to where we were and said: “You all just shot a guy with his hands up.” Man, I forgot about this.
A: Oh, yeah. They [cluster bombs] were everywhere.
Q: Dropped from the air?
A: From the air as well as artillery.
Q: Are they dropped far away from cities, or inside the cities?
A: They are used everywhere. Now if you talked to a Marine artillery officer, he would give you the runaround, the politically correct answer. But for an average grunt, they’re everywhere.
Q: Including inside the towns and cities?
A: Yes, if you were going into a city, you knew there were going to be ICBMs [cluster bombs].
Q: Cluster bombs are anti-personnel weapons. They are not precise. They don’t injure buildings, or hurt tanks. Only people and living things. There are a lot of undetonated duds and they go off after the battles are over.
A: Once the round leaves the tube, the cluster bomb has a mind of its own. There’s always human error. I’m going to tell you: The armed forces are in a tight spot over there. It’s starting to leak out about the civilian casualties that are taking place. The Iraqis know. I keep hearing reports from my Marine buddies inside that there were 200-something civilians killed in Fallujah. The military is scrambling right now to keep the raps on that. My understanding is Fallujah is just littered with civilian bodies.