Saturday, March 31, 2012

Killing Babies

It was 1994 and I had been patrolling nightly in downtown Port-Au-Prince.  By patrolling I mean walking up and down hills, smelling shit in the air, avoiding dead bodies that were mutilated and lying in heaps of garbage, carrying more weight than I should have had to, and being glad that I was walking all night instead of all day.  I kept telling myself "good friends, guns, some occasional Black Sabbath when we were hitching a ride in a hummer, nighttime in the Caribbean…how could it be any better".
So on the 25th straight night of patrolling…the "new" Sgt Major walked with us to see what we do.  Because of this…we had done MANY more hills than normal and moved much faster.  I was smoked…but the Sgt Major was even more smoked, and we played it off as if this was what we always did.  Sweat rolled off of my brow as he asked me if this was "normal", and I actually kept a straight face when I said "what do you mean Sgt Major?  This isn't "normal", but this is what we do every night.  I'm just glad we're taking it easy since you're with us.  I wish you'd patrol with us every night so we'd get to keep taking the easy routes."
It was daylight and we were moving to the extraction point.  Along the way, a citizen waved us down and told us about a very large cache of grenades, weapons, and ammo.  He told us that they belonged to an anti-US militia group, but were presently only being guarded by a couple of guys.  He says he will show us where they are.  My LT was salivating so much that we had to re-hydrate him with an IV, and after conferring with the Sgt Major and our Platoon Sgt, we moved out to take the cache.  I want to believe that my Platoon Sgt advised against it, saying that the intel should be passed up first, but the Sgt Major and LT said "no…this is "hot" intelligence, this is a "willing" informant, and we need to capitalize and go NOW."  So we went.
We get to a hillside maze of buildings, you could almost think of as apartments, but if you've seen the beginning of Blackhawk Down where the SF guys are in the marketplace, with the stone buildings with hanging cloths for doors, winding alleys that are about 6 feet wide, and stairways leading into other portions of the maze, you have an idea of what it looked like.  We were at the top of it and the "villa" area was down the hillside into a kind of ravine.  The guide explained which doorway it was, but refused to go any further. 
My two partners and I were assigned to find a way down to the bottom of the ravine and wait there, in case anybody tried to escape out the back.  So we're conducting some building clearing down the villa and trying to get to the bottom without getting ambushed.  Did I mention how windy the alleys were??  Think of them as hallways with no roof, open to the air.  Fairly steep downhill with stairs intermixed.  We make people face the wall and place their hands up, palms to the wall as we pass them.  One lady is glancing VERY nervously at a doorway where the standard issue blanket is acting as a door…and I notice that the blanket is moving as if somebody has just been peeking out at us.  I alert my partners and we make entry.  Safety is off of my m16/203 and I am mentally already killing the Haitian inside that is preparing to kill me.  I am first through the door and am pointing my rifle at two Haitian kids, one about three years old and the other in a crib, probably 8 months old.  There is nobody else in the room, not even another doorway out.  I almost killed those babies and am only glad that I made entry and looked instead of just squeezing the trigger and sending rounds into the doorway and room.
We come back out and finish clearing to the bottom of the ravine.  At the bottom of the ravine I am standing in ankle deep water, and about 30 feet away is a 400 pound pig on a rope that is trying everything it can do to tear itself loose and get to me and my partners.  I can't tell if it wants to eat me or make me "squeal like a pig" like in the movie Deliverance.  Whichever it is, I'm thankful for whoever tied the knot to whatever the anchor is, because if it wasn't a good knot, or a good anchor, I'd be in big trouble.  The other side of the ravine is about a 15 foot cliff straight up, and people keep poking their heads over to look down at us.  I simply wait for the grenade to drop.  I contemplate (several times) just shooting the pig, because it's scaring the hell out of me, and using it as cover in case grenades start dropping on us.  There is nowhere to hide.
After we stand in the water for about a half hour, we are recalled up the exact same route that we came down.  I pass the fateful doorway and think again how close I came to killing those babies.  When we get back to base and debrief, I find out that the "informant" had made the story up.  His girlfriend had just left him for another man, and he wanted that man to get killed, so had sicked us on him.  My LT  (and all of us) bit when he put out the line.  We later were given a class about how intelligence and information works, and why it is soooooo important that you get confirmation before you do a DAMN thing.  We had just learned that point without the class, but I think they wanted to rub it in on our LT. 
I think about what I would've done had I killed those babies on a bogus mission.  Would I have gone AWOL, tracked down the guy who sicked us on his girlfriend stealer/enemy, or would I have gone after the LT, who accepted the mission without real intelligence.  I would've been killing somebody for that, the babies would've needed a sitter, and I would've felt obliged to provide it.

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