by Bob Ciminel
March 05, 2005
Out of the dark, a vehicle comes racing toward your checkpoint at high speed. You and your fellow troopers flash lights and fire shots into the air, warning the driver to slow down and stop. The driver ignores your warnings, and the car is getting closer. The rules of engagement require you to shoot at the engine to try and stop the car without specifically targeting its occupants. Innocents have been killed in the past by indiscriminate shooting.
You aim for the engine as the car flies toward you. You are nervous because it could be a suicide bomber who only has to get close enough for the kill zone to take out everyone at the checkpoint. Your aim isn't perfect; the verticle distance between the engine and passenger compartment is only a matter of inches. The car stops. You cautiously approach; expecting a massive explosion at any second.
You learn that the car was carrying an Italian journalist and her bodyguards. She was just released by the insurgents. No one told Coalition Forces she was being rushed to the airport; to be on the lookout for a specific vehicle; to let it through the checkpoint as quickly as possible. You call for medics and and ambulances. You try to render first aid, but one of the passengers is already dead. Was it your bullet? Why didn't they stop?
You read the papers the next day and the Italians are calling you an assassin. The journalist's own newspaper, an organ of the Italian communist party, is the worst, demanding your head on a stick. Your side of the story doesn't count because it might justify your actions and that would douse the fires of outrage. You shrug. If you had not stopped the car and it was a suicide bomber, your death may have warranted a single line on the morning news, "A soldier manning a checkpoint on the Baghdad Airport highway was killed by a suicide bomber today, bringing the U.S. death toll to 1,505."
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