American Soldier’s guilt

A memorable bus journey of a Kashmiri boy in the US



It was my Christmas break, back in December 2007.  I was a Post-graduate business student at a University in Pennsylvania and I planned to spend my holidays with my relatives in the state of Indiana. I chose the most popular ‘Greyhound bus service’ for almost a 10 hour journey. It was windy with freezing temperatures and it was snowing. Since I was alone, so I could only hope for an interesting fellow-passenger on a seat next to me. I was alone till we reached Cleveland, Ohio and that is where a tall, white Caucasian American boarded and sat to my left. We began conversing  without a formal introduction. For about two hours, this man cursed himself for living a life against God and opined that no penance can relieve him of his guilt, without revealing what his regret was about. Although, I did try to enquire from him what wrong had he done for which he was feeling so low, but of no avail. I did not find it germane to importunate him, on seeing his reluctance to share his sorrow with me, as he was a stranger to me. After sometime, I saw tears trickled down his face and instinctively I asked him for the reason again, as I was intrigued to know about it. There was a newspaper in his hand and all he did was to keep his finger on the word ‘Pakistan’ in one of its headlines.
I could somehow sense that his secret has much to do with US invasion of Afghanistan. After smoking a cigarette at one bus stop, he began narrating his story. Now, he told me that he is an ex-US Army man and was posted on volatile Pak-Afghan border. He said that one fine morning they saw few people crossing into Pakistan from Afghanistan. Seeing them through binoculars, this group consisted of an unarmed woman and three small children. His superior ordered him to fire, which he resisted by saying that the target was not of any potential threat to them and there was no such need, but his commander did not agree to his repeated pleas and asked him to shoot to kill. He fired only four bullets to eliminate all the four innocent targets. Unlike many of his colleagues, he could not get over it. After this gory incident, his health deteriorated, drastically. He began seeing blood on his hands and eventually decided to relinquish the army services. On seeing a doctor, when he was back home, he was diagnosed with a lung cancer. He was remorseful of the fact that he obeyed his senior for something grossly inhuman. Now, he was in his final stage of cancer and was planning to travel to Russia to live his final days with his Russian partner. I was flabbergasted and dumbfounded as I did not know how to console a murderer of conspicuously innocent poor mother along with her children. He could have disobeyed and left the services instead of complying with the brutal commander and leaving the services after few days. I somehow managed to gather some courage and told him about the mercy of God for those sinners who repent with a broken-heart, but as we reached our destination, his final statement was ‘Even if God forgives me but I will never forgive myself’.
The two wars which America is fighting has not just killed 109,032 human lives including 66,081 civilian deaths in Iraq and thousands in  Afghanistan (as per CNN report)  but has annihilated the morale of the soldiers of US and its coalition partners, which is evident by the increasing number of their suicides, thousands in number, and as reported by The New York Times, in June this year that suicidal deaths have outpaced war deaths of their troops.  It astounds me that even Pentagon admits that more than 8,000 soldiers have gone absent without official leave, many of them going to Canada. Many anti-war organisations have emerged within the U.S like IVAW (Iraq veterans against War), Military families speak out, to name a few.

(The author has a research degree from England and is a member of ‘American Marketing Association’. Feedback at

Lastupdate on : Fri, 14 Dec 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 14 Dec 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 15 Dec 2012 00:00:00 IST

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