I often think about firing engagements. If I think hard, I believe I can remember most of the times I shot my weapon in combat. With all the action in Fallujah heating back up, I have been replaying a few in my mind. American forces are no longer in Fallujah (that I know of), yet there is still tremendous violence flaring up. I cannot help but think of civilians in harms way now, or civilians in harms way then, or what we accomplished, or didn’t. Worse yet, I shudder over the rippling effects of our actions.
The account below is fiction (mostly). After one raid we came upon a teenager that had shrapnel of some sort in his leg. I can’t say for sure I shot him, but I definitely shot at him and in his direction. Then again, a few of us did. Hindsight and an overactive imagination can be such a mother fucker.
“Yousef, get your gun.”
Papa woke me from a half sleep. We had barely finished working the field for the night and I was trying to rest before the heat of the day arrived. I knew something was wrong because it was odd for him to come to the roof.
Times were no more tight than normal, but there had been more food available on occasion. It was not until now that I started to piece the two together. Some parts happened so quickly. Others lingered in agony.
The rumble of the American tanks was constant each day, but this time was different. Rubbing the dust from my eyes and still waking up, I didn’t realize the rumble was louder until Papa yelled.
“Yousef now!” The urgency in my father’s voice quickened my step as I stumbled for my gun.
On occasion people would visit late a night. Papa would tell stories about hard times when the Mujahideen would pull people from their bed’s during Saddam’s Qadisiyya. We started to hear more of those stories since the American’s invaded.
I fumbled my gun in my hand as Papa pushed me out the door. My brothers had already started to run into the field ahead of me. I followed quickly. I didn’t have a limp then. The American vehicles were very close and in my haste I tripped a few times over the ruts in the field.
I caught up with my brothers and Papa was right behind me. There were six of us total. Now that we stopped, I started to panic as I heard lots of footsteps. The air was cool but burned my lungs. My heart raced. I turned around and the light from our front door cast long shadows.
Suddenly, shooting erupted all around us like fiery rain. Hussein and Hakim hit the ground and I quickly ducked and started to crawl away. The ground spat dirt as the sounds of large machine guns and bullets cracked all around me. A large and terrifying cannon shot fireballs. I lost track of Hussein, Hakim and Pappa. I clawed my way into the ground as deep as I could scratch. Then, hot deep pain leapt through my thigh. I was hit!
As quickly as the gunfire started it stopped. I dare not move though my thigh burned. It felt like I laid there for days. It was quiet except for the muffled sound of the American tanks.
Eventually I could hear the Americans. They were trying to find us. My terror grew. Would they shoot me? I was wounded. We never even saw tanks that shot at us. The rumors of American weapons was stuff of magic. They could see and shoot at night. Their drones dropped bombs without warning. I heard a few boys say they would hire Jewish militants to torture you for information.
There was no moon and I could hear them just a few meters away. Hakim was moaning though I could not see him.
After a while longer, as the sun started to rise the Americans found me. I could hear them before one of them climbed on my back. They put plastic hand cuffs and a blindfold on me and yanked me off the ground. While they walked me over to their trucks they noticed I was limping and called their doctor over to look at me. They walked me over to the doctor tank where their doctor put a bandage on my thigh. As the doctor worked on me he took off my blindfold. I could not understand what he was saying, but I heard a few Americans say Hadji in some broken Arabic. While I sat, they took pictures of me and a gun that was not mine, but never asked me a question.
Pappa and some others sat on the truck with us, but Hussein and Hakim did not join us. The doctor was now near them on the ground. I was not scared they would kill me now, but the fear of going to jail began to grow. The stories of Abu Gharaib were worse than the Zionist torture.
With my blindfold off I could see dozens of Americans climbing around our house. Two were using a long red and white stick to poke through the cow feed. One had a long device with a circle on the end whom many followed. My blindfold was put back on as they put me back on the truck. Mama would tell me later they did not find anything.
Hussein and Hakim did not come to the truck before we drove away. It was not until a few days later that I learned they were killed by the Americans. That was the day I joined the jihad.