I’ve never told anyone the particulars of this story outside of my grandfather, a WWII & Korean War Veteran, who passed away in 2013 at the age 91. In the spring of 2002 upon completion of my initial training with the US Army I was intigrated into a light infantry battalion and almost immediately deployed to Afghanistan to join my new unit. It all happened so fast, -I’d enlisted in September 2001- I didn’t have a chance to really feel anything up to that point beyond just not trying to fuck up. It was frightening, no question, but it was a fear of failure and not the fear of combat. That would come soon enough. It may have never really left me, in fact?
Our Platoon was at that time designated a quick reaction force, or QRT. The first mission beyond the wire for me turned out to have historical meaning, though this was far from our minds at the time. The mission was in support of a special forces unit who had come across a hostile compound of enemy al Qaeda forces. After a foreign interpreter was killed approaching the walled compound, my unit was transported by helicopter -Chinook- to the vicinity. Combat air support was also dispatched from Jalalabad, including an Apache helo and an A-10 fixed wing jet.
Arriving in between the initial Apache engagement and the A-10 strafing runs I witnessed, it crossed my mind: fuck, fuck, fuck! The SF team breached the compound first, followed by my fire team about 60 seconds later. There was contact including small arms fire and at least 2 minor explosions the likes of grenades. It was surprising considering the damage inflicted by the aircraft, the last of which was a 500 pound bomb let loose from a bone -B1 bomber- How could anyone survive such devastation, let alone be able to fight our assault?
In the confusion an American SF soldier had been seriously wounded in the first 20-30 seconds, the result of shrapnel from a grenade. He later died, sadly. Of the 2 enemy that had survived the air assault, one had been killed upon entry, the other, barely alive, turned out to be a 15 year old Canadian citizen, Omar Khadr. I can’t be too specific, but just imagine the situation? A KIA American, initially thought to have been killed by this kid? Luckily, -if luck has anything to do with this- there were a few ranking soldiers on scene who reminded some of the others of our duty to the laws of war. Omar was cared for and sent off for medical treatment in Khost.
Whenever I come across the subject of Guantanamo Bay and our prison on that island, I cannot help but think of Mr. Khadr in particular. I feel disgusted. If I hear or see someone extolling the benefits of GITMO, or even feigning indifference to the policies the continue, a sickening, queasy feeling of anger often washes over me. How could anyone who espouses the freedoms of America, our so-called exceptionalism of their fantasies, also remain committed to such injurious, demeaning, cruel policies?
I have zero doubt our future civilization will look back upon our current selves with a justifiable contempt. There’s little doubt that this whole messy, deliberate and systematic flaunting of international law will be recorded with regret, but little sympathy. If our people could have quickly modified our positions, held those in power accountable for their blatant criminality, maybe history would have forgiven? What we have done is indemnify or muddle our actions, a sure way to do it all over again the next time we get angry.
That’s all for now