March 06, 2012

For those on the receiving end, if you hear the crack of the bullet breaking the sound barrier, you”€™re still alive. If you don”€™t hear it, it won”€™t matter to you anymore.

The target goes down. You”€™ve done it. You”€™ll smile. You”€™ll laugh. You”€™ll look at the corporal and think, “€œI can be like him one day.”€ You”€™ve killed the enemy.

You”€™ll do this hundreds of times. You”€™ll shoot until it gets boring, monotonous, and routine. You”€™ll have to clean the weapons upon getting back, and all that hardened carbon is a real bitch to remove. Corporal won”€™t let you go until it’s spotless. You”€™ll cheat by dipping rifle parts in Coca-Cola or spray them with WD-40, and the corporal will catch you. He”€™ll make you do push-ups “€œuntil your eyes bleed”€ and then he”€™ll make you clean your rifle properly.

Some will fall in love with this. Some will become snipers and join the Special Forces. Others will tire of it. Others will barely pass weapons tests.

When you get closer you”€™ll use a pistol and the range will go from three hundred meters to thirty. You”€™ll see that guy screaming at you close-up and you”€™ll put 9mm holes in his head or his heart. You”€™ll do this hundreds of times.

Closer still, you”€™ll use a bayonet to kill a sandbag. You”€™ll stab him screaming from a meter away.

Let’s now remove ourselves from all this intimacy. Mortars can be fired from thousands of meters away. You won”€™t even see the enemy.

During the Iraq War in 2003, I reported to my boss about enemy transmissions I”€™d picked up. Someone I”€™d never met used some equipment to find where these soldiers were. Somebody else I never met then ordered these people killed. Someone else bombed them.

A few days later I was told twenty or so Iraqi soldiers were dead as I made myself a brew. I remember thinking that I preferred the tea from the ration boxes over the coffee. I remember thinking it was weird that it was cold at night in Iraq. I remember thinking how boring it was at times.

So there you are, a Syrian soldier. Someone who is paid a lot more than you are shows you a map with targets marked on it. You nod that you understand and then go and mortar the targets. You may never see the people you”€™re bombing.

They may be innocent, guilty, civilian, military”€”none of that may ever register. You”€™ll aim, breathe in, hold steady, fire, wait, breathe out. Aim, breathe in, fire, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out.

What are you thinking?



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