‘Telling Lies While Good Men Die’

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Friday, March 14, 2008 at 10:44 am

Clifton Hicks, who was in Iraq in 2004 with the 1st Cavalry Division, began with a statement of gratitude and pride for his fellow cavalrymen. “I did not come here to express judgment on my fellow soldiers,” he said. With his friend and squadmate Steve Casey they told their stories.

Among them was something that happened on February 21, 2004 in which civilians were killed and wounded by small arms fire in a Baghdad (I think Baghdad) “neighborhood where people came out and waved” when their patrols drove by. They heard over their radios about an attack on a nearby 82nd Airborne infantry patrol. When Hicks arrived on the scene there were, he understood, two or three insurgents in an open field laying in a ditch. Near them was a civilian neighborhood, and it included housing “for disabled veterans from the Iraqi Army.”

In that nearby building, Hicks’ comrades understood, was the source of the ambush. Reports were about gunfire originating from the roof. They raided the building. “I’ve told this story a million times and trust me I don’t enjoy telling it,” he said. They kicked in the door and found “an entire extended Iraqi family celebrating a wedding.” In Iraq, celebrations involve gleeful gunfire. Weapons are fired in joy, not anger, up into their air. “Meanwhile, the 82nd Airborne patrol in their front yard gets ambushed and they fired in both directions,” Hicks continued. “They hit three people inside the wedding party. An adult man was wounded. A young girl, maybe 10, was slightly wounded. Another girl, six or seven, she was dead.”

He continued, “That was the first time I’ve ever seen a six year old girl dead. And it was not drown[ing] in a swimming pool, but because she had been shot by a bunch of teenage American kids. Not because we want to, but because it happens.”

As Hicks wrapped up, security — mostly provided by burly Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in crisp red polo shirts — stopped a protester who tried to rush the stage. He screamed, “Telling lies while good men die! Telling lies while good men die! You guys are betraying good men like he betrayed us!” The protester was carried out of the room before he could explain who it was that had betrayed him.

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