Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Decision to Kill

This isn't about deciding you could kill or some kind of soul searching or fantasy. It's also not about reflexive fire at a firing position or blazing away at a sudden ambush. It's about making the conscious decision to kill, with full awareness, up close and personal. I'm going to explore it here because so few people in our culture will ever be in this position.

I've made this decision four times.

The first, I honestly thought I was about to be killed and I decided and acted. I was very young and very lucky- one of the first to arrive had been a combat medic. There was no fatality. Had there been, it would have changed my life in ways that I can't even imagine.

The second and third time were similar, and what happened seemed very odd. Again, I was sure I was going to be killed and I made the decision. In both these instances the threat was very large, very close and staring in my eyes when I made the decision. Both times, the instant the decision was made, the threat went almost limp, in one case dropping me. They both staggered away, mumbling, eyes glazed over. I'm not sure what happened or how they were aware of my intent or why it had such a profound and almost physical effect... but I've heard similar accounts from two other people since.

The fourth was at a riot. We'd cleared out the "semi-combatant" and potential threats leaving four bad guys barricaded. For weapons they had shanks, used syringes and the blade of a papercutter. Then an administrator made the brain-dead decision that since these were juveniles, we would have to take them down with no weapons whatsoever. With our pepperspray and bean bag rounds and other toys, we could take them down with minimal injury. Without, it would be another story. We weren't dojo cowboys who can delude themselves that it's easy to disarm someone with a knife without injuring him.

"Today's the day I kill a kid," I thought. It was that simple. If ordered to go, I would. I would not let myself be killed or let any of my team be hurt. That meant I would use as much force as I needed, as much as I had. I made the decision and kept putting on gear. It was an easy decision.

That doesn't mean that it was a cheap decision. I have too many friends who had made the decision or had the decision taken out of their hands and I knew what it cost them. In a fraction of a second I had weighed the legal hell, the nightmares and depression...against my children being orphaned. It was easy.

Our commander talked the administrator into a semblance of common sense and we went in with the right equipment and no one was hurt.

Maybe this can't really be discussed here because almost none of this was words. The one thing I can say is that I've been very, very lucky to make the decisions with so few consequences.


The Moody Minstrel said...

I envy you many things, Rory, but being in a position where you are forced to make such a decision once, let alone four times, is not one of them. It's admirable that you're able to keep your wits intact.

Anonymous said...

You put into words what I have spent quite a bit of time wrapping my head around when I was younger, thanks. I was lucky enough that they froze, mumbled and left.

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