Witness to War
Zack Bazzi '07 agreed to film his tour of duty in Iraq so civilians back home could see for themselves

Zack Bazzi '07
Images by permission of Senart Films

In the middle of a hot night on the outskirts of Baghdad, Sgt. Zack Bazzi rumbles along in an M1114 Humvee. He scans the terrain, studies the shadowy buildings nearest the road, watching for signs of trouble. He is, as always, on hyper-alert. The air is thick with heat and with the smell of dust and grease, metal and exhaust. For now, it is quiet.

It is Nov. 14, 2004, eight months into Bazzi's year-long deployment in Iraq. These patrols are routine now. But he still reviews, over and over again, the scenario he has imagined countless times before: What if my driver takes a bullet? What if my gunner gets hit? He has good men. He wants to bring them back alive. They have become a tight team, rolling through the dark of night and beneath the searing heat of the sun, hour after hour, three Americans on patrol in the Iraqi desert.

Suddenly the silence splinters in a burst of explosions. Bazzi's driver veers toward the chaos. Mortars cascade in screaming arcs of light. The men are shouting, cursing, bellowing as they leap from the truck and plunge into the fray. Bazzi is pumped. This is what he was trained to do. He loves the adrenaline rush, the jolting shock of a firefight. And right now, he'd like nothing better than to find the insurgents responsible for this particular night of terror--and kill them.


Bazzi is on the ground now running toward the flames. The mortars seem to be coming from behind a wall, but the smoke is so thick it's impossible to tell. Civilians stumble through the streets. Cars burn. Corpses lie in jumbled heaps. Bazzi keeps moving, leveling his machine gun as he nears the wall. He has to decide whether to go in shooting. When he bursts into the courtyard, his gun is pointing directly at a mother and her three children.

For a split second, Bazzi freezes, overcome with both guilt and relief. Then he snaps into action, speaking in Arabic, reassuring the woman that he will not harm her. She is hysterical, screaming, clutching her children. Then, suddenly, she is weeping with joy, hugging him, laughing at the discovery that she can communicate with this American who, only seconds ago, had been ready to shoot. "I've been lucky," says Bazzi of his soldier's life so far. "I haven't made any judgment calls I can't sleep with. But it's tough--very tough."

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