Soldiers' Stories Statement
 
 
 
Former Sergeant Mike Moriarty, New Hampshire Army National Guard, veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, with wife, Randi, and children, Matthew and Kenley; Keene, NH, June 2007
48”x 48” Chromogenic Color Print
 
         
 

We were escorting a convoy north of Balad Airbase to Camp Speicher. I was a gunner in the lead escort vehicle an up-armored Humvee. During this period there was a curfew imposed after 10 p.m. on the streets and traffic was supposed to be prohibited to the public. On this night we were traveling at approximately 55 to 60 mph and maintained safe intervals between each truck. Up ahead a few hundred meters I noticed a vehicle that appeared to be ready to make a U-turn on the dirt median. The vehicle had been traveling south and was lined up across the median so as to enter the northbound lane.

As a gunner, my concern is that this vehicle is out during an imposed curfew and looks like it wants to enter our line of travel. I quickly became more focused on the vehicle since the subjects had ample time to make their U-turn but waited for us to approach. There were no other vehicles on the road, and this was a somewhat rural area. Our convoy of tractor-trailers was without question very visible. As we got closer I recognized it as a Toyota pickup, and my concern became more intense that he was going to shoot straight in front of us and detonate a device. All three of us in the Humvee were focused on this immediate potential threat.

Just as we were within 50 meters, the Toyota abruptly dashed in front of us, crossed our path, and pulled onto the shoulder of the highway in an evasive fashion. My driver screamed “Oh, my God!,” and just as the tires started to screech I saw a woman right in front of our hood—she was walking quickly, swinging her arms. She must have seen the Toyota pull out and assumed that it was safe to step into the road. Before anyone could even think, we slammed into this woman. We skidded to a stop on the right shoulder of the road, and my driver jumped from the Humvee, frantically motioning for the 60-mph trucks behind us to maneuver around the woman.

They could not swerve their trucks in time. In absolute horror we watched five or six trucks trample the woman’s body. I remember her flopping in the road like a rag doll as each truck stampeded her. I knew there was no way she was alive but still felt overwhelmed with feelings of humanity and could not bear to see the body of an innocent human being so degraded. I ran into the road and picked up her torso and carried it to a ”safe” place beside the road. As I picked her up I immediately noticed her head was missing and one of her legs was gone.

I remember the overwhelming difficulty in fighting my human side to stay focused on the fact that we were in a very hostile area and that we needed to stay sharp while the scene was brought under control. We just killed a noncombatant civilian! I scanned every rooftop, every alley and tree line. As I scanned the area I could not avoid looking at the woman’s corpse and thinking, “This didn’t just happen.” I remember seeing her black burka in the road and cookies she had been carrying scattered all over. In the midst of the chaos I equated the cookies to a child and wondered if she was a mother. My squad leader gathered a group of local police and other soldiers to search for her head, which was never found. In what seemed like forever, the local Iraqi police arrived with a body bag. I will not forget one of the men describing her as a “local mother with a four-year-old boy.”

As we prepared to continue our mission, my driver approached the Humvee and, holding his head down, slowly grasped a small piece of black fabric that was caught in the hood latch. He maintained his military bearing and got in the vehicle.

This text was condensed and edited from a written statement by Mike Moriarty, who shot hours of footage in Iraq that were included in the documentary The War Tapes [2006], including the incident described above.

Interviews were conducted by Jennifer Karady in June 2007.

     
         
 
© Jennifer Karady 2016, all rights reserved.