<\body> Stories in America: War is hell: "We were taking out women and children"

Monday, January 21, 2008

War is hell: "We were taking out women and children"

“I felt like I was in the middle of a duck shoot and we were the ducks,” said Mr. Smith, who was a SAW - squad automatic weapon - gunner. “I don’t know how many R.P.G.’s we took. One landed about five feet to the right of me and my buddy. I don’t know how it did not detonate, but instead it bounced. Bounced! I can’t believe we’re still alive.”

The fighting did not let up for many hours. “Whether or not I actually killed anybody with my own bullets, I don’t know,” Mr. Smith said. “I suspect so. But there were two to 12 guns going off at once, and only the snipers knew for sure.” At a certain point, the Iraqi fighters commandeered civilians’ cars, taking them hostage and ordering them to drive straight at the Marine positions. The marines were forced to shoot at everything headed their way.

“We were opening fire on civilians,” Mr. Smith said. “We were taking out women and children because it was them or us.”

Sergeant Major Lopez, his superior officer, said that his marines were “put in that position” and “trained to protect themselves first.”

“Our marines tried to limit civilian casualties,” he said. “Not a person there didn’t feel bad. But it had to be done.”

That day traumatized the reservists. Mr. Quiñones recalled a father carrying toward them the limp body of a young child. His voice cracking, he described a 5-year-old boy screaming as his car “turned into Swiss cheese.”

“I called cease-fire and I wanted to run and grab him, but there were machine gun rounds flying all around,” Mr. Quiñones said. “I watched this kid’s head get blown away, his brains splattering while his screams still echoed. Those images haunt me - haunt many of us - to this day.”


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