I Want To Hurt Somebody
By Greg Palast
11/03/06 for The Guardian (London) -- -- It was pure war-nography.
The front page of the New York Times yesterday splashed a
four-column-wide close-up of a blood-covered bullet in the
blood-soaked hands of an army medic who’d retrieved it from the
brain of Lance Cpl. Colin Smith.
There was a 40 column-inch profile of the medic. There were
photos of the platoon, guns over shoulders, praying for the
fallen buddy. The Times is careful not to ruin the heroic mood,
so there is no photograph of pieces of corporal Smith’s
shattered head. Instead, there’s an old, smiling photo of the
The reporter, undoubtedly wearing the Kevlar armor of the troop
in which he’s “embedded,” quotes at length the thoughts of the
military medic: “I would like to say that I am a good man. But
seeing this now, what happened to Smith, I want to hurt people.
You know what I mean?”
The reporter does not bother — or dare — to record a single word
from any Iraqi in the town of Karma where Smith’s platoon was,
“performing a hard hit on a house.”
I don’t know what a “hard hit” is. But I don’t think I’d want
one “performed” on my home. Maybe Iraqis feel the way I do.
We won’t know. The only Iraqi noted by the reporter was, “a
woman [who] walked calmly between the sniper and the marines.”
The Times reporter informs us that Lance Cpl. Smith, “said a
prayer today,” before he charged into the village. We’re told
that Smith had, “the cutest little blond girlfriend” and “his
dad was his hero.” Did the calm woman also say her prayers
today? Is her dad her hero, too? We don’t know. No one asks.
The reporter and his photographer did visit a home in the
neighborhood — but only after the “hit” force kicked in the
door. I suppose that’s an improvement over the typical level of
reporting we get. In dispatches home by the few US journalists
who brave beyond the Green Zone, Iraqis are little more than
dark shapes glimpsed through the slots of a speeding Humvee.
Last month there was a big hoo-ha over the statistical accuracy
of a Johns Hopkins University study estimating that 655,000
Iraqis have died as a result of this war.
I doubt the Iraqi who fired that bullet into Lance Cpl. Smith
read the Hopkins study. Iraqis don’t need a professor of
statistics to tell them what happens in a “hard hit” on a house.
Of civilians killed by the US forces the Hopkins team found 46%
are younger than fifteen years old.
I grieve for Lance Cpl. Smith and I can’t know for certain what
moved the sniper to pick up a gun and shoot him. However, I’ve
no doubt that, like the Marines who said prayers before they
invaded the homes of the terrified residents of Karma, the
sniper also said a prayer before he loaded the 7.62mm shell into
And if we asked, I’m sure the sniper would tell us, “I am a good
man, but seeing what happened, I want to hurt people.”
Greg Palast is the author of the New York Times bestseller, “Armed
” Visit his website www.gregpalast.com.