Whoever reads the Quran for me, cry for my youth,
Yesterday I was living, and today I’m buried beneath the earth.
— Marker from a Baghdad cemetery, belonging to an Uday Ahmed Khalaf
At one point, a shout broke the silence that had fallen across the site [of the Americans’ bombing]. “They found something!” a man called out. “They found something!” Neighbors, more in hope than in expectation, ran to help, some of them stumbling over the rubble. The mauled torso of a twenty-year-old Lava Jamal was pulled out before they arrived. Moments later, a few feet away, other found what was left of her severed head, her brown hair tangled and matted with dried blood. Her skin had been seared off. The searchers wrapped both head and torso in white blankets trimmed with blue and left her body against a nearby wall … Under a withering sun, the shrouded corpse soon faded into the sidewalk’s tapestry, another scene in a street already deformed by war.
— Anthony Shadid, Night Draws Near
Denial is an integral part of atrocity, and it’s a natural part after a society has committed genocide. First you kill, and then the memory of killing is killed.
— Iris Chang, The Rape of Nanking
They fell at the rate of one shell every ten seconds. Phosphorus shells exploded down Hamra Street, blasting through the walls of the offices of L’Orient Le Jour and devastating the American United Press International bureau. To call the gunfire indiscriminate was an understatement. It would also have been a lie. The Israeli bombardment of 4 August was, we realized, later, discriminate. It targeted every civilian area, every institution, in West Beirut—hospitals, schools, apartments, shops, newspaper offices, hotels, the prime minister’s office and the parks. Incredibly, the Israeli shells even blew part of the roof off the city’s synagogue in Wadi Abu Jamil where the remnants of Beirut’s tiny Jewish community still lived.
At the height of the shelling, I ran from house to house like a frightened cat, scampering between doorways, all the way from the AP bureau to the American University hospital. There was blood everywhere. In the emergency wards, I found at least a hundred men, women and children lying in their own blood on the floor or moaning on trolleys in the corridors. There was vomit and blood on the walls. An old half-naked woman was lying on a stretcher, whimpering and crying with her breasts lolling off the stretcher, in other people’s blood on the floor.
I ran across to the mortuary. Limbs and arms—dozens of them—had been stacked against a wall. There were several dead babies lying in plastic bags on the floor, neatly packaged up, the cellophane stapled above the tiny heads, as if they were being sent back to a manufacturer for repairs. Human entrails lay across the pathway outside. Someone had been trying to piece bodies together. They had found a leg, a torso, but three arms lay next to the torso. The place was slippery, it reeked of people’s stomachs. A three-armed man, I kept saying to myself. A three-armed man. Someone that morning had managed to create a three-armed man.
The refugees in Sanaya park did not stand a chance. They had no concrete protection. They had tents. By the time I reached Sanaya, there were women standing among the trees, wailing and shrieking like animals, covered head to toe in blood or wandering through the cordite smoke in a dream. The older they were, they more bloody they appeared to be. I had only just realized this. The elderly would look terrible, torn apart by the shells, the younger people would be swamped in blood but the dead children always looked as if they were sleeping, only a hairline of blood showing that they were dead.
— Pity the Nation, Robert Fisk
I guess over time I had convinced myself that I could imagine what it would be like to lose a son or a daughter. You try to imagine it so that you can write the right kind of letters or form the right words to try to comfort. But you can’t even come close. It is unimaginable.
— Lt. Gen. John Kelly, senior military assistant to the Secretary of Defense, and the most senior U.S. military officer to lose a son or daughter in Iraq or Afghanistan