Hamas, Israel, and the Dark Power of Vengeance

I know what it feels like to be driven by vengeance in warfare. I also know it can lead soldiers to cross the line.

I WAS ONE MONTH into my first deployment when I saw my first dead little girl.

It was 2006 in Baghdad, and the Shia–Sunni civil war had erupted in full force. Carnage greeted us daily.

Hers wasn’t the first dead body I’d seen. Hardly. I had already responded to multiple mass-casualty car bombs that ripped through Baghdad’s markets. My boots were often covered with blood as I stepped over and through scores of dying Iraqis crying out for help.

But her murder was different.

Her body was crumpled in the back of an Iraqi Police Ford Ranger, alongside other victims of a powerful Iranian-backed terrorist group, Jaysh al-Mahdi.

We pushed the other bodies to the side of the truck and pulled her to the rear. She had been gagged and handcuffed, and her head punctured by a drill bit. We later found out that she had been raped in front of her family, to punish them for being Sunnis.

Her face still haunts me. At night, when I’m alone, and the demons come, I still see her face—with that puncture hole. Some nights, she comes to me in my nightmares, begging me to avenge her.

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