"We had a great day," Sergeant Schrumpf said. "We killed a lot of people."
Both marines said they were most frustrated by the practice of some Iraqi soldiers to use unarmed women and children as shields against American bullets. They called the tactic cowardly but agreed that it had been effective. Both Sergeant Schrumpf and Corporal McIntosh said they had declined several times to shoot at Iraqi soldiers out of fear they might hit civilians.
"It's a judgment call," Corporal McIntosh said. "If the risks outweigh the losses, then you don't take the shot."
But in the heat of a firefight, both men conceded, when the calculus often warps, a shot not taken in one set of circumstances may suddenly present itself as a life-or-death necessity.
"We dropped a few civilians," Sergeant Schrumpf said, "but what do you do?"
To illustrate, the sergeant offered a pair of examples from earlier in the week.
"There was one Iraqi soldier, and 25 women and children," he said, "I didn't take the shot."
But more than once, Sergeant Schrumpf said, he faced a different choice: one Iraqi soldier standing among two or three civilians. He recalled one such incident, in which he and other men in his unit opened fire. He recalled watching one of the women standing near the Iraqi soldier go down.
"I'm sorry," the sergeant said. "But the chick was in the way."
... and a couple of fine quotes from the trenches:-
"The US military has been forced to admit the 8,000 Iraqi soldiers they claimed to have captured last week are now battling British forces."
"These missiles are very accurate when they hit their intended targets."
... and one from "Trench Central"
"No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under God" - George Bush