It is always frustrating to be a military guy. Some days, you want to reach out and help, make a difference, do the right thing for the right reasons. Other days, you just want to start shooting and keep firing until nothing moves around you. That was what it was like today.
It really started out as a pretty good day. There were lots of children on the street, which is always a good thing, because the insurgents would never kill children. Even the most heartless people have a problem doing that. So, with the streets full of kids, we went about our business making friends, connections, traveling with out Iraqi police and soldier counterparts. It was a little rainy, but not to bad for this late in the year. I had brought out some lollipops and some other stuff that I couldn’t eat, and I was planning on giving some to the children. We had just moved off of the freeway, and had turned north up one of the cities main roads.
We slowed down and stopped because our lead vehicle had spotted something in the road. So, we all got out, and got into decent positions, to block the road in case it was something dangerous. It wasn’t, but it was something equally disturbing.
In the middle of the road, was a woman. She appeared to be about 50, a little heavy, with a full head of hair and local Arab dress. We were going to move up to her to see if she needed help, but there was a vehicle sitting about 10 feet from her. We did the quick conference to decide on a plan, the approached the car. It appeared pretty safe, so we moved up and checked it out. All good, no problems. Well, there was a small problem. The woman, it appears was dead. Not just dead, but murdered.
She had been shot twice in the head, at very close range. The local people said the body had been there for about two days. They had put a blanket over her face to keep the flies away, because, they said, she was starting to smell.
I thought back to the pictures from New Orleans. Bodies’ were lying on the street corner, roof tops, and buildings. Covered with tarp, newspaper, anything that could be used. I could understand, because, at the time, there was no place to go and nothing that the people of that city could do. But this, however, was unreal. Nobody called the police; nobody moved the body and nobody did anything at all. Kids were playing right in the street not 5 feet from this body, and they just ignore her, like she wasn’t even there. People were shopping at the market, walking on the street. Walking passed the body 10 or 15 times a day. This from a culture and religion that preaches about the sanctity of the dead and the treatment of the body after it has passed. This from a society that doesn’t strike at women or children. My revulsion got even greater when we found out that they all knew her. She apparently lived about three buildings over. She was shot in cold blood by insurgents. Not for robbery, rape, or anything that would even remotely make sense. Nothing more than cold blooded murder. And she was left in the street by her friends and neighbors.
I had always believed that Americans could be some of the cruelest people. We have people who murder for no reason; we have child molesters, serial killers, rapists, gangs, and thieves. We have white collar criminals who kill to cover up their crimes. We have gangs that kill for the color on the shirt. Sure, we are not a perfect society, but even at our cruelest, we are not for the most part, apathetic.
For some reason, this crime, this apathy, seemed to me worse than the murder itself. Because, I felt that it was more than the woman dying in the street, which is particularly bad. It was the part that separates us from animals. It felt like watching a part of our humanity die.
For a moment, I wanted all these people to rot in hell. I wanted to make sure they got there.
Sidebar: It took three hours for the Iraqi police to come by and remove the body. They said it wasn’t a priority, and they would get to it some time before the end of the day. When they did show, they tossed the body on a truck and sped away.