FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

I Should be Dead

by JONATHAN CARP

Today I am a somewhat overweight, bearded suburban dad entering a comfortable middle age, but it was not always thus. Seven short years ago I was a lean, clean-shaven, heavily armored combat medic in Iraq, and today, November 11th, everyone is apparently required by law to remind me of the things I did in my youth. Restaurants offer me free food and everyone who knows about my past feels compelled to thank me for it. I get phone calls from relatives as if it were my birthday. I jokingly ask my wife for presents.

But here is something no one wants to know about on Veterans Day – I ought to be dead. Not that I intend to take my own life as thousands of my fellow veterans have, but I know that I am only alive because innocent people died. And not in an abstract sense. I saw them die, in the explosion that was meant to kill me.

In March of 2007 I was in a Humvee returning from a supply run to an American consulate in Al-Hillah, Iraq. The roads in and out of Al-Hillah were so dangerous that the only way to maintain the outpost was to fly supplies into Baghdad, 90 miles northeast, and then deliver them via heavily armed convoy. We, troops, looked forward to the trip. The food we brought the State Department functionaries was better than the food we had and, so, lunch in their chow hall was an experience not to be missed.

The trip back was always more dangerous than the trip in. The insurgents saw us come in and knew we were leaving that same day, usually, within a few hours. They could, I am sure, monitor the unloading of the trucks from vantage points outside the consulate and determine when we were likely to go. That day they were waiting for us.

The weapon of choice was a form of roadside bomb called an Explosively Formed Penetrator or EFP. These comparatively high-tech weapons were their response to the increased use of armor on our vehicles. An explosive charge would melt a disk of copper and form it into a supersonic slug of molten metal, which would punch through our vehicles’ armor like the fist of an angry god. As we left the consulate, one of these nasty things detonated.

The target was the fuel truck in front of me, which had delivered its load and thus had a container full of fuel vapors ready to detonate. My vehicle was not far behind. The insurgents were lying in wait to machine-gun the survivors. But I was saved.

A white minivan containing two women and their three children happened to pass directly in front of the EFP when it exploded. All five were killed, as was a woman I saw walking down the street. Her body was bisected along a diagonal line from her left hip to her right shoulder. She landed prone in the street. Her one remaining hand outstretched. Her black abaya gently flapping in the breeze. And we drove away. I am alive and six innocents are dead, and every moment of my life was purchased for me with the blood of women and children.

No one was a villain that day. The insurgents were acting entirely within recognized rules of war by attacking a supply convoy; and we in the convoy were acting entirely within recognized rules war by traveling in clearly marked vehicles and interfering as little as possible with civilian traffic. Atrocities happened in Iraq, but these three dead women and three dead children were part of the ordinary, unavoidable butcher’s bill of any war. In their memory I fight and call on you to fight against all wars, and against that which makes war possible – the state.

For Veterans Day, let’s try to stop making more veterans.

Jonathan Carp is a fellow at the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org) and a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. He works as a nurse in Tacoma, WA.

Jonathan Carp is a fellow at the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org) and a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. He works as a nurse in Tacoma, WA.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
Dan Bacher
New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual
Wayne Clark
A Reset Button for Political America
Chris Welzenbach
“The Death Ship:” An Allegory for Today’s World
Uri Avnery
Being There
Peter Lee
The Deep State and the Sex Tape: Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, and Thurgood Marshall
Patrick Hiller
Guns Against Grizzlies at Schools or Peace Education as Resistance?
Randy Shields
The Devil’s Real Estate Dictionary
Ron Jacobs
Singing the Body Electric Across Time
Ann Garrison
Fifty-five Years After Lumumba’s Assassination, Congolese See No Relief
Christopher Brauchli
Swing Low Alabama
Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones
La Realidad: the Realities of Anti-Mexicanism
Jon Hochschartner
The Five Least Animal-Friendly Senate Democrats
Pauline Murphy
Fighting Fascism: the Irish at the Battle of Cordoba
Susan Block
#GoBonobos in 2017: Happy Year of the Cock!
Louis Proyect
Is Our Future That of “Sense8” or “Mr. Robot”?
Charles R. Larson
Review: Robert Coover’s “Huck out West”
David Yearsley
Manchester-by-the-Sea and the Present Catastrophe
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail