Iraq vet: ‘You can’t wash your hands when they’re covered in blood’


Richard Moore

From: "Judith" <>
Subject: 'You can't wash your hands when they're covered in blood'
Date: Mon, 3 Oct 2005 18:04:05 -0400

Hart Viges: 'You can't wash your hands when they're covered in blood'

Published, The Independent UK, 24 September 2005

My name is Hart Viges. September 11 happened. Next day I was
in the recruiting office. I thought that was the way I could
make a difference in the world for the better.

So I went to infantry school and jump school and I arrived
with my unit of the 82nd Airborne Division. I was deployed to
Kuwait in February 2003. We drove into Iraq because Third
Infantry Division was ahead of schedule, and so I didn't need
to jump into Baghdad airport.

As we drove into Samawa to secure their supplies my mortar
platoon dropped numerous rounds on this town. I watched Kiowa
attack helicopters fire Hellfire missile after Hellfire
missile. I saw a C130 Spectre gunship ... it will level a
town. It had belt-fed artillery rounds pounding with these
super-Gatling guns.

I don't know how many innocents I killed with my mortar
rounds. I have my imagination to pick at for that one. But I
clearly remember the call-out over the radio saying "Green
light on all taxi-cabs. The enemy is using them for

One of our snipers called back on the radio saying "Excuse me
but did I hear that order correctly? Green light on all taxi
cabs?" "Roger that soldier. You'd better start buckling up."
All of a sudden the city just blew up. Didn't matter if there
was an innocent in the taxi-cab - we laid a mortar round on
it, snipers opened up.

Next was Fallujah. We went in without a shot. But Charlie
Company decided they were going to take over a school for the
area of operations. Protesters would come saying "Please get
out of our school. Our children need this school. We need

They turned them down. They came back, about 40 to 50 people.
Some have the bright idea of shooting AK-47s up in the air.
Well a couple of rounds fell into the school ... They laid
waste to that group of people.

Then we went to Baghdad. And I had days that I don't want to
remember. I try to forget. Days where we'd take contractors
out to a water treatment plant outside of Baghdad.

We'd catched word that this is a kind of a scary place but
when I arrive there's grass and palm trees, a river. It's the
first beautiful place that seemed untouched by the war in
Iraq. As we leave, RPGs come flying at us. Two men with RPGs
ran up in front of us from across the road.

"Drop your weapons". "Irmie salahak." They're grabbing on to
women and kids so [we] don't fire. I can't take any more and
swing my [gun] over. My sight's on his chest, my finger's on
the trigger. And I'm trained to kill but this is no bogey man,
this is no enemy. This is a human being. With the same fears
and doubts and worries. The same messed-up situation.

I don't pull the trigger this time ... it throws me off. It's
like they didn't tell me about this emotional attachment to
killing. They tried to numb me, they tried to strip my
humanity. They tried to tell me that's not a human being -
that's a soft target.

So now, my imagination is running ... What if he pulled his
trigger? How many American soldiers or Iraqi police, how many
families destroyed because I didn't pull my trigger. After we
leave this little village we get attack helicopters, Apaches,
two Bradley fighting vehicles, and we go back. And we start
asking questions. Where are they? Eventually they lead us to
this hut where this family is living, and myself and [another
soldier] started searching for AK-47s, for explosives, for
RPGs, you know ... evidence. And all I can find is a tiny
little pistol, probably to scare off thieves

Well because of that pistol we took their two young men ...
Their mother is at my feet trying to kiss my feet like I
deserve my feet to be kissed. Screaming, pleading. I don't
need to speak Arabic to know love and concern and fear. I had
my attack helicopter behind me, my Bradley fighting vehicle,
my armour, my M4 [semi-automatic] with laser sight. I'm an
82nd Airborne killer. But I was powerless ... to ease this
woman's pain.

After I came home I applied for conscientious objector
[status]. I'm a Christian, what was I doing holding a gun to
another human being? Love thy neighbour. Pray for those who
persecute you, don't shoot them.

I get my conscientious objector packet approved. I'm free.
It's all gone now, right? No! I still swerve at trash bags ...
fireworks ... I can't express anything. All my relationships
are falling apart because they can't fucking understand me.
How do they know the pain I've gone through or the sights I've
seen? The innocence gone, stripped, dead? I couldn't stand the
pain. People were leaving me.

I couldn't cut my wrists. So I called the police. They come
stomping through my door. I have my knife in my hand. "Shoot
me." All of a sudden I was the man with the RPG, with all the
guns pointed at him, thinking "Yes, we can solve the world's
problems by killing each other". How insane is that? Lucky I
lived through that episode. See, you can't wash your hands
when they're covered in blood. The wounds carry on. This is
what war does to your soul, to your humanity, to your family.


"Apocalypse Now and the Brave New World"