He says he has to release the tape in service to the truth. I think he means The Truth, but the truth is the story’s not his to tell. He’s embedded with us again, running tape while we clear this mosque again of insurgents and search it again for weapons. Like changing shifts, we enter the mosque as other marines depart. Our enemy works in shifts too. At 500 meters he’s a target returning fire; at 10 meters he’s a guide with pointing fingers giving up rebel enclaves; closer than that and he’s hostile again, hopped on uppers, suddenly armed. We do our best to kill him before he turns civilian again. We left you some wounded in there, the other grunts tell us as we enter the mosque. Any weapons? we ask, but they’re already gone. You hear it on the tape, that silence of no answer. We enter the murk and follow the moans of men who want to do one more thing. Dead and wounded awaiting transport line the walls, none of them standing. The camera picks out two, one dead, one shot and breathing fresh bubbles of blood. I enter the frame, still bloody myself from the shot I took to the face, and raise my rifle to the one who’s faking death and do my job. I think of how that looked on tape as I lift this casualty into the ambulance come to collect him. It’s hard work hauling a city away to hospitals and cemeteries when they don’t want to go. He feels too heavy for his size and I worry how well he was scanned for whatever he might be concealing. We touch these people every day in ways we may not understand and sometimes when we touch them, they explode.

Copyright © October 25, 2007 David Hodges