A US Soldier's Experience - David I. Hanauer

Being in the Second Iraq War

Poetic Ethnographer: David I. Hanauer

Participant: Former US soldier who fought in the 2nd Iraq War

Project: War experiences

Source:  Hanauer, D. I. (2014). Being in the Second Iraq War: A poetic ethnography. Qualitative Inquiry, 21 (1): 83-106

XII. The Huge Hole

 Driving in the desert there was nothing.


Then there is this huge hole.

This huge hole is lush green.

And a house.


There’s someone who lives in the desert who has a house in the ground with green.


And we couldn’t get in there.

Like I don’t know how the hell he gets in there,

and gets out.


And we were just at the top with our guns

“Get out!”

cause you know everyone’s crazy.


We just see these guys doing nothing.

They could be soldiers who ran already

or they could, do somethin!

We can’t have people walking around right there.

 So we’re like putting out guns at them,

telling them to come out,

because we can’t get there.


And then they come out


Immediately, immediately my sergeant

I don’t know if attack

is the right word

but goes after the man and slams him.

And starts yelling at him.


And it goes back to the language barrier.

If you don’t consider them human

you’re never gonna get to them.

If you don’t know their language,

you’re just looking at a body that’s alive.


He’s goin’ crazy on the ground.

On the, on the sand shaking,

and then screaming.

He’s like,

“where’s the fucking guns?

Where’s your fucking gun?

Where’s your shit?

What are you doin’ motherfucker?”


Calling him like crazy names like

sand nigger


I’m standing there with my gun.


It’s a father that he’s yelling at,

and the son is there.

He’s about fifteen, sixteen.

He’s definitely pre-adult,

                                                    like like teenager.

And he was so confused.


And the look on his face.

It’s like emotionless,

but not really.

It’s like the only emotion he had

was extreme super fear.

Like I’m done.

I’m done.


And it reminded me of how I felt

when I crossed.

I thought I was dead.

Literally, I was like I’m just done.

Mine fields,

                                                    I looked at mine fields,

I was a private.

When you’re the youngest,

you’re the weakest link.

The lowest on the ladder.


I felt for him.

cause that was how I had felt,

how he was feeling,

but I didn’t put my gun down,

I was looking at him.


 The dad’s on the ground.

The truck commander looks,

he looks over at me,

he looks at the boy

and he goes

             “Get the fuck down.”

And he throws him on the ground.


And I look at my gunner, I was the driver at the time, and that was my truck commander


There’s really there’s no one else,

There’s no one to stop us from what we do

unless they find out

and then we deal with it later.

But there’s no one to say stop.

We are who we are.

And he slammed him and I’m like “oh, shit.”


And the chaos is still going on,

and I look at the gunner

and he looks at me like,

             like he’s out of control,

like our guy’s outta control right now,

he’s freaking out.


And then he puts his gun,

he takes his M4 and he puts it

right in the dude’s,

             um right at the dude’s face.

And he’s still screamin at him,

the guy’s screamin at him,

and I’m like I don’t know what the hell you’re doing.

Like I don’t know what’s goin on,

“please stop.”


He says “put your fucking hands up”

but the people don’t understand.

They’re like, they just stay there.


And then,

he told me,

he said,

“put your gun in his mouth.”


He said, “put your gun in his mouth.”


And I felt sick to my stomach

and weak.

 The gun almost fell out of my hand

                                       and I almost collapsed.


Who says that?


And I’m a new soldier so it’s not really in me.

And then I like realize that I’m at war

I’m a soldier.

I definitely went to basic training.

This guy could be an enemy.

He’s really obviously not.

And I, I stuffed my gun in his mouth.

I put, I put it on his forehead.

This much away, about a half inch, inch.

And he said,

“No press it against his forehead.

                          I want to see the white circle on his forehead. “


I looked at him,

and I said Sarge “I can’t do that.”

He said

“Fuckin’ do it.”


I just pushed down a half inch.

And I remember looking at the dude.

And his eyes were just, sooo open.

And his eyes were so watery.

I was like “oh my God.”


And then he told me,

“Stick it in his mouth.”

So I stuck it in his mouth.


And then he said “charge it. “

Which is, you know, put a round in the barrel.


I was just lookin at the boy.

Trying to connect with him,

like this isn’t happening,

 like I got you just trust me,

just go with this act right now.

And he did.


I don’t remember.

I don’t remember what happened at the end of that,


I didn’t shoot or anything.

I just, held off enough,

He was more annoyed at me at that point

than the people on the ground.

I was thinking in my head I have to take his attention.

He’s gonna blow these dudes’ heads off

right here for no reason.


I thought he was gonna shoot me.

He said “If you don’t do it,

you can be shot by your fellow soldier

because now you’re an enemy.

You have to do this.”


And he told me that “I guess we’re gonna be shooting at each other right now.”


That was that.

And that lasted a few minutes.

And I think towards the end when I was feeling,

it was hitting like a red line. 


I’m pretty sure he turned into a terrorist, killed some soldiers after that.

And that was it,

I don’t remember anything else after that until the next major um fight.