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GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

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FORGIVING |

June 15, 2007

FORGIVING
Name: Tadpole
Posting date: 6/15/07
Returned from: Afghanistan
Milblog url: armysailor.com

I give a lot of thought to the suicide bomber who detonated himself less than 30 feet in front of my truck. I see it all over again in dreams. I imagine it instantly when I hear any loud bang. When I tell people about the incident I feel strange, because it seems so alien. People must think I am telling a tall tale. I wish I were.

I re-live the moment in my head every single day without fail. At some point, if only for a moment, I will give it some thought. And I always feel thankful that I am alive, because if he had gotten his way I would not be.

It can be hard to deal with, that this man killed himself in an attempt to kill me and my friends. I just can't wrap my head around it. What drives someone to such a deep level of hatred that they are willing to blow themselves up, just for the chance of killing another person? A person they've never met.

I can understand those who wish to engage us in battle. That's what war is all about. If you want to take a shot at me, I get it. But blowing yourself up? I can't fathom the idea.

After it happened I remember feeling very angry, and also very lucky. At the time we believed one of the trucks in front of us in the convoy had been destroyed. I hate myself sometimes because one of my initial thoughts was "Thank God it wasn't me." What an awful thing to think. Everyone tells me that it's a normal reaction, but that does not make it any less awful. In fact, it is the very sincerity of the feeling, the depth of it, that makes it so awful.

I used to get so mad at the suicide bomber who had caused me to have that awful feeling. I remember the image of his corpse when we went back to the scene. His body had been blown to bits. First we found a hand, still curled in the position it was in around the steering wheel. One finger was slightly extended, pointing in the direction where we would find most of his torso.

Then we found a chunk of flesh that was once his thigh. It still had wires attached to it, and the flesh was peeled from the bone in a most peculiar way, leaving one jagged edge of bone well exposed. There was no blood. How remarkable. The heat of the blast must have instantly cauterized the flesh; though there were some splatters of blood on the ground, there was no significant amount on any of his "parts".

His torso was a sight to behold. His face was unscathed. It was clear that this man was not an Afghan. He was an Arab, probably a Saudi. His teeth were perfectly straight and very white. His teeth were in better condition than my own. His face was stuck in a semi-smiling distant gaze, and though you could see there was no life in his eyes, you could see that there was no fear either. His one arm was still attached to his torso, his head lying on it almost as if he were napping. His chest was blown open, exposing his bloodless ribs to the dust-filled air. As you continued around the corpse, absorbing its awful position, you could see that his scalp had been peeled back by the explosion, with a large chunk missing. I remember later using a stick to remove that chunk from the passenger sideview mirror of a German vehicle that was ahead of us in the convoy. His scalp had become wedged in the mirror's hinge.


My own truck was sprayed with blood, and guts, and burning chunks of tire. The explosion was so powerful that it threw the entire engine of his vehicle clear of the scene. Again the thought occurs to me; I should be dead. A large piece of shrapnel hit the driver-side door of the soft-skinned SUV I was driving, and went through it like butter. It should have pierced my left lung, but it hit something inside the door and was deflected downward. I was saved by fate.

I was so angry. Angry because he wanted to kill me, and by all accounts should have succeeded. What had I ever done to this man? I wasn't even in his country. He had come from a distant country to carry out this heinous act of cowardice.

As time went on I sat and looked at the photos taken at the scene. I looked at them over and over. I looked at them until I had his face memorized. I looked at them until the grotesque nature of the scene no longer bothered me.

The more I looked at those pictures the less angry I felt. Not only did I begin to realize how truly lucky I was, but also how truly pathetic he was. I began to not take it personally. He wasn't trying to kill me and my comrades specifically. He was trying to kill any member of the coalition that he came across. His was an act of cowardly desperation, not only because of the nature of the act itself, but also because of how indiscriminate it was. He detonated himself in the middle of a busy intersection, one where there were many children. Children love to run along side our convoys hoping for chocolate. He showed no concern for those children, or anyone else.

The more I thought about it the more it seemed to me what a sad life this man must have lead. What a shameless follower of absolute lunacy he must have been. After all, who in their right mind would blow themselves up? There are better ways to fight for a cause. I almost began to pity him. I could not imagine living such a life.

Though this man tried to kill me, though he did cause me and several of my comrades injury, though he was an incredibly selfish coward, I committed myself to forgiving him. I forgave him because I did not want to spend the rest of my life with such hate in my heart. I saw what hatred had driven him to.

So now, almost a year after his attack, here I am. I am left with no hatred in my heart towards this man, but many frightful, grotesque images in my head. I will never forget his face. I will never forget the suddenness of the explosion. I will never forget that horrid feeling of the joy of survival. I fear that I may never forgive myself for feeling that way.

I want to move on. But I will never forget.

Comments

Tadpole,
No matter how you try to figure it out this is what they believe in, taking people with them. In Iraq they put bombs on the children and send them to the troops. Very sick and sad.
You are wise to forgive-your heart will be lighter years down the road. I am so glad you and yours are ok!
Wonderful writing.
Take care and keep safe!!

I hope...that somewhere down the road...in some years....that the images will fade. Please God.

Tadpole,

You are right to forgive, you have to move on. You will probably never forget, unfortunately. My heart goes out to all of you.

Thank you for your account of this terrible incident of war. I am glad you could move past the anger and hatred---such a thing, long-carried, truly is poison. Not only hatred motivated your would-be killer, but fanatic belief and a sort of self-worthlessness, as well. After all, how sad a life it must be, to consider oneself better off dead as a weapon, than alive? I am glad he didn't succeed in killing you!

your words;
"It can be hard to deal with, that this man killed himself in an attempt to kill me and my friends. I just can't wrap my head around it. What drives someone to such a deep level of hatred that they are willing to blow themselves up, just for the chance of killing another person? A person they've never met."

It isn't hatred, it's brainwash. He's been told that he's a sinner, bound for Hell, and can only redeem himself by this act of suicide and destruction. And, BTW; 73 virgins await him in heaven.

Big load of crap, as he will find out when he gets to where ever he's really bound. Joke is, I don't really believe Gawd (the God of my understanding, not necessarily anyone elses) is that pissed off at him. But he sure is pissed at the SOB who fed him this line of crap; wound him up and sent him off after you guys.

I mean, here's the rough part. I went through something like this a long time ago. Well, it was a long time, but some times it seems like just a moment ago. That's the rough part. It never completely goes away.

Good news; you'll probably live through it. All of it. Ghosting out is the worst that can happen to you now. That will get you killed. Which would be bad news. For, like, the people who care about you.

You will get over it. It just happens. You play the movie over and over. Hating, fearing, wishing, denying, screaming silently in your sleep. After a while it comes sad and burning hot into your soul; You had about as much to say about what happened as an ant on the freeway has to say about speed limits.

It just happened to happen to you. All I can say with this babbling is; You're not alone. You will get better (I can see this in you, you are a survivor). You will get by.

HTH

R

you can see your unanticipated strong sense of joy at survival as the joy of your loved ones being felt by you. they have a right to feel joy at you being alive, and you definitly don't hold that against them, do you?

I understand why this guy chose to blow himself up. It's called patriotism. He is Afghanistan's Nathan Hale. If he'd had a second life, he'd have done it again.
In 1991 my boss, Hiro Mishima, had been a kamikazi
pilot at the end of World War II. He was all set to crash his plane into our battleship when the Tenno, Hirohito, announced Japan's surrender. I had been a teenage Marine during the war. We had been mortal enemies. When I worked for him, he was director of the Tesco English Language center in Tokyo with 18 schools throughout the country. I managed the center and developed curriculum. After the war he served as an advisor at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
There was nothing strange or abnormal about Mishima. Nearly every evening after work we went to a nearby bar and got stoned. He'd have done it again if his country were threatened.

We are the uninvited invaders of Afghanistan and Iraq. The Taliban did nothing to deserve such treatment. They are poor ignorant nomads that have no idea where New York is let alone the World Trade Center. I trekked in Afghanistan in 1971. They were kind gracious people who opened their doors to me, a stranger.
No there is nothing odd about a suicide bombers. He in the eyes of his people is a hero, a martyr.

Tadpole,

You forgave the man who tried to kill you, but you may never forgive yourself for how you felt?

If someone else felt that way, would you be able to forgive him?

I am glad that you're back. Thank you for your service. Please take a good care of yourself.

H

to eagleye.
your words;
"No there is nothing odd about a suicide bombers. He in the eyes of his people is a hero, a martyr."

Not exactly. There is a whole nasty sect of these folks pushing for OTHERS to commit suicide as a guidance system for an IED. The Taliban ain't exactly the good guys by any stretch, contortion, or abuse of the imagination.

The T'pole here is one of us. When our guys are in the field, no matter what I think of how they got there, they are US. No matter who sent him out there, or why, I want him back home in one piece.

Right now, (IMHO), T'pole needs to survive. All the rest is bull.

R

Wow! I have heard some rational arguments that claim we shouldnt have gotten involved in Iraq, but never heard one rational reason why we shouldnt havent gotten involved in Afghanistan.

Eagle Eye continues the tradition.

The people of Afghanistan were never our enemies. It was Al Qaeda and the Taliban regime. We didnt bomb the Afghani people that lived in the territory of the Northern Alliance.

When such activists argue that we are fighting a war against the people of Afghanistan they are merely propagandizing.

Only terrorists benefit from such lazy intellectual thought.

Eagle Eye:

A minor quibble. Nathan Hale and your boss were both from their respective lands, America and Japan. It's Tadpole's judgment (and who are we to second-guess him?) that the suicide bomber wasn't. He was a Saudi, not an Afghan. He was most likely there not because it was Afghanistan per se, but because that was where he could get at us. He may be a hero to a certain class of person, but to the "Afghan people", inasmuch as such a thing can be said to exist? I wouldn't be so sure.

Best,
Josh

Tadpole...
I knew what I wanted to say to you, then I read the other posts, and now it just sounds trite...
You were able to forgive... God asks us to forgive and he will do the rest... I like to think, eventually, he will slowly help the memory fade away and you will be left with a healthy, non-hating heart... There is a reason God asks us to forgive and not hate, hate slowly poisons us... Justifing in your mind what that man did is part of the forgiving/healing process... You are on your way... God bless you...

April 16, 2006

The Suicide Bomber

By Jim Bush

The Suicide Bomber

The suicide bomber
Writes
A scarlet letter
To the world

His obsession
Is our fear

He uses his bones
To pry his way
Into the stories
Of our lives

His sacrifice
Is our anger

He places
His flesh
On the margins
Of our souls

His madness
Is our frustration

He spills his blood
Over the surfaces
Of the pages
We love

His reason
Is our ignorance

He inscribes
Himself
Into the walls
That surround us

His cruelty
Is our revenge

He flings
The edge
Of his message
At our hearts

His future
Is our failure


Jim,
Great poem!

Very good account of your experience to covney feeling. Thanks

What a powerful acount! Your thought process as you dealt with an insane act in a sane way says such a great deal about you, Tadpole. It was right of you to forgive this man if that could bring you some peace. Yet you have been unable to forgive yourself for being glad to have lived through an act that was intended to deny you life. You are clearly a good and decent man. You are not in want of forgiveness, Tadpole. To be in need of forgiveness you must first have sinned. You did not wish others dead, only rejoiced in your own deliverance. God, in His Infinite Wisdom, can see this clearly. I am only another human being, but it also reaches my understanding. You are forgiven for being human and I am granting you absolution for being part of the human condition. You are free. Be at peace.

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