I haven’t gotten very far into Black Hearts by Jim Frederick. As in I’ve made it through the first section of the first chapter and have read the most horrifying description of what men who wore our uniform did to an Iraqi family.
I don’t want to read this book because I don’t want to look at the men of that platoon and see them as human beings. I don’t want to feel anything other than loathing for the men who committed one of the most notorious war crimes of the Iraq war, if not the worst. I don’t want to know their names and I don’t want to understand what motivated them.
Reading this book is going to take me to a place I don’t want to go. To confront the true horror that walks among us, simply waiting for the right cocktail of things to go wrong.
I don’t know if I can read this book, but at the same time, to turn away is to turn away from the truth of what our men did. Because as much as I want to view them as murderers and monsters, they were ours. Until the day they walked off that COP, they were ours. But the moment they made the choices they made, they ceased being ours. They ceased being human and they joined a class of other for which there is no repentance. You cannot come back from a crime like they committed.
I don’t believe justice has been served by sentencing Steven Green to life in prison. The horror that he inflicted on one Iraqi family is too great for him to sit in a prison cell the rest of his life. The shame he brought to our nation is too great for him to still be breathing.
Reading Black Hearts is going to be one of the hardest books I’ll ever have to read. The other war narratives I have read have had our boys trying to get home. Black Hawk Down. The Long Road Home. These were stories of soldiers. Of ordinary men.
I don’t know that Black Hearts is going to tell me the story of ordinary men. I don’t want to believe that ordinary men could rape and murder a young girl, then set the body on fire and murder her entire family to conceal the crime. How does an ordinary man do something like this, no matter the stress.
It is easy to sit back and call the monsters. I never walked in their shoes. I am comfortable in the thoughts that I would never walk in their shoes. I would never look at a child and dream up the most horrific crime.
In the end, not to read this book would be an act of cowardice on my part. So I’ll read it. But I don’t think it will be easy. And I don’t think I will be able to look in the face of my fellow soldiers with an easy heart again.