March 06, 2012

There are over seven thousand dead in Syria now. What are the Syrian soldiers thinking? The last post Marie Colvin made before her death tells us they”€™re “€œshelling a city of cold, starving civilians.”€

Soldiers are taught during basic training if they feel an order is unlawful they need not carry it out; well, they are in the British Army, at least. I can”€™t say the same about Middle Eastern militaries.

Some soldiers will only be following orders, doing what everyone else is. Some of them will be thinking it’s wrong. Some of them will be thinking about their own families. In 2003, I crossed the border from Kuwait with the United States Marine Corps and we were told the Iraqis had to fight because Saddam had kidnapped the generals”€™ families.

Some of them will worry so much about killing innocent people they”€™ll silence their guns. If they”€™re brave enough they may go one step further”€”change sides and fire back on former comrades. Then there will be those who are not thinking at all as they fire metal and high explosives into Syria’s sky. Sometimes you don”€™t have to if you”€™ve been taught properly. All you do is point, aim, and shoot.

“€œYou”€™ll shoot until it gets boring, monotonous, and routine.”€

During basic training a corporal will take you down to the ranges. He”€™ll have been in the army a good number of years and look like he’s done this a million times. You”€™ll look at him and think, “€œI want to be like him one day.”€ He”€™ll look so comfortable with guns and killing. Something of the animal in you will respect him. He”€™ll give you bullets and you”€™ll load your rifle.

“€œREADY,”€ he”€™ll shout.

Three hundred meters in front of you will be a target. In the British Army we used one-and-a-half-meter wooden ones showing a man running and screaming at you. You”€™ll pull back the cocking handle. This puts a bullet in the barrel and makes a satisfying noise. You”€™ll feel nervous and dangerous.

“€œAIM,”€ he”€™ll shout.

“€œShit, this is it,”€ you”€™ll think in English, Syrian, or whatever language you speak where you are being taught how to kill. You”€™ll close one eye and stare with the other through the sights at the man screaming at you. Corporal will tell you that’s the enemy and you”€™re to kill him. You”€™ll play out a situation in your head where that man in front of you is real. “€œCould I really do this?”€ you”€™ll ask yourself. 

“€œFIRE!”€ he”€™ll shout.

You”€™ll squeeze the trigger like it’s a water pistol. Don”€™t snatch at it; remember your training. The bullet will spin violently out of the barrel, staying straight and true on its way to do some damage. It takes less than a second for it to hit cloth, leather, or skin.


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