Only the Dead (2015) Script

WARE [narrating]: We all have dark places buried within.

I know I found mine... a war in Iraq.

A place inside me I never knew I had.

A place I was led to by my own obsession with the world’s most feared terrorist--

[speaking Arabic] a man who would choose me to be his messenger.

[machine gun fire]

It was 2003, and the Americans were about to invade Iraq to oust the dictator, Saddam Hussein.

I was a war correspondent for Time magazine sent in to cover the conflict from the north.

I’m not sure I can ever tell you what drove me to come to this crazy place, but I loved being a journalist, hunting a story.

-MAN: Here it comes. -WARE: Where are we going to go?

-To this bunker? -Uh...

Let’s do it quick, mate.

WARE [narrating]: I was a small-town boy from Australia.

This was my chance to get out.


I was in my 30s, young and dumb enough that war had a false sense of adventure.

I simply couldn’t have been happier.


Fuck me.

-[men laughing] -Shh!

That one was close.

-Next time, take cover when they fire. -Yes.

WARE: The forward scout has just told us he believes another mortar is on its way.

-Where? -[explosions in distance]

WARE [narrating]: This was the first day I’d held a camera--

[explosion] a small, beat-up Handycam I’ve carried with me ever since.

In the end, I shot hundreds of hours of tape, capturing my war on film.

And in those tapes I found this story that I guess I’m finally ready to share.

WARE: Do you want to go forward with this man on the nightly probe? Tom?

Tell him it would make for a great story, but I’d better not.

Ask Mick if he will go.

I tell him I’d think about going with a man I trust, and I think I trust this man very much.


The funny thing is, we sit here and take the exact same risks as these guys.

There’s nothing that separates us.

We can be as far in as we like.

We can be journalists. We can be noncombatants.

That matters nothing to these mortars.

We’re fucking close.

GEORGE W. BUSH: Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours.

Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict.

For their own safety, all foreign nationals, including journalists and inspectors, should leave Iraq immediately.

Well, right now we’re in the back of a sheep truck...

...and we’re leaving the border town of Chamchamal to drive two hours forward to approach the Iraqi front line.

We believe we’re maybe three, four days away from the beginning of the war.

So that we can try and get there before anyone else.

GEORGE W. BUSH: My fellow citizens, at this hour, American and Coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger.

We spent the night here under the Iraqi guns.

We received word that Bush had addressed the nation and essentially declared war.

The Iraqis are not entirely enamored with Saddam’s secular regime.

However, they support his anti-American cause.

[whispers] I love America.


WARE [on radio]: All of a sudden, there was a god-awful explosion just behind us in what should have been a safe area.

WARE [narrating]: I’m not sure when things went wrong with me, but it must have started on this quiet road.

There’s a journalist who’s been killed by a car bomb or a suicide bomber.

Probably not a good idea to be here long.

WARE [on radio]: I spun around and across a grassy field...

...I saw the fireball and the smoke plume.

WARE [narrating]: Something inside me changed, seeing this.

The brutality of it, its cruel kind of violence.

The memory of it stowing away in my mind, coming with me as I collected the dead man’s body and sent him home.

And then I went south to the Iraqi capital.

GEORGE W. BUSH: My fellow Americans, major combat operations in Iraq have ended.

In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.

WARE [narrating]: When I first arrived in Baghdad, it wasn’t yet a bad place to be.

A city under American occupation, it still had hope that now things would be better and the Iraqis would be able to live their lives.

I felt daunted, still a junior reporter.

There were hundreds of other journalists who had all been here longer.

I was convinced I had arrived late, already behind the curve.

I was less afraid of a war zone than I was terrified I’d make a fool of myself.

But I was lucky to live here in the Time magazine bureau with other writers and photographers, like the great Yuri Kozyrev, who became my Russian brother.


And our staff of Iraqis who were more like family.

At our head was Ali, a grumpy genius.

There was Omar, our conscientious office manager.

-Hi, Mick. -And Nathan, my young translator.

WARE: CIA asked me to get your photograph.


WARE [narrating]: It was our job to try to understand what was going on beyond the press conferences and sound bites.

They were my eyes and ears, and we were a brotherhood pushing out into the madness on our own.

I didn’t have time to write my will. [laughing]

Oh, man. All the time you bring me to some shit, you know? [laughs]

WARE [narrating]: It didn’t take long to realize that something was going wrong, that the facade of a successful Iraq was already coming apart.

FEMALE REPORTER: People are getting hotter and angrier.

MALE REPORTER: An air of desperation.

MALE REPORTER #2: A remote-controlled explosive set off while US troops passed.

WARE [narrating]: In this car, a teenage boy died, shot by a nervous American soldier at a checkpoint near our house.

His brother had been with him in the car when he died.

[in Arabic] Tell those fucking Americans my brother’s blood will not be in vain.

I’m gonna do something big.

They’ve taken my brother’s life! They stole his life!

WARE [narrating]: You couldn’t help but feel his sense of betrayal.

And he wasn’t alone.

Behind all the Iraqis’ anger, an armed resistance against the Americans was rising.

It was small at first-- hit-and-run insurgent attacks, shootings and roadside bombs.

But then an explosion rocked our neighborhood, larger than anything before.

Driving towards it, I had no idea what it was until I saw this.

[car horns blaring]

[sirens wailing]

[men shouting in Arabic]

-WARE: Is it a car bomb? What was it? -MAN: Yeah, a car bomb. Jordanian embassy.

MAN [in Arabic] Don’t film! Don’t film!

WARE: Michael Ware.

MAN: Michael, I believe something’s just occurred.

WARE [on phone]: Yeah, Steve.

Um, a suicide bombing has just taken place at the Jordanian embassy here in Baghdad.

At least one or two car bombs were involved, and it has completely destroyed the front of the Jordanian embassy.

There are a large number of wounded and a number of killed.

The scene is one of total chaos, Steve.

[in Arabic] What are you filming? Why do you film the dead?

They’re just removing another body now.

So, people are very emotional.

[sirens wailing in distance]

It was the first suicide bombing ever in Baghdad-- a violence worse than anything that had come before.

No one knew who had done it, but it had only just begun.



MALE REPORTER: The bombing of UN headquarters in Baghdad killed at least 20 people and wounded 100 others.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

WARE [narrating]: This is when I started obsessing.

These attacks were so dark, so sinister.

I was becoming possessed by the idea of how someone could do these things, of the hideous resolve they must have had in their heart.

And they were out there somewhere, lurking in the shadows.

[man speaking Arabic]

Already fear, like a virus, was spreading.

From town to town, platoon to platoon.

On a stretch of rural highway known for roadside bombs, a kid in a clunker of a car says he’s run out of fuel.

[in Arabic] It’s run out of gas.

SOLDIER: Hey, hey.

-There’s no gas. -SOLDIER: No gas?

-SOLDIER #2: It’s a wire. -SOLDIER: A wire right there.

-SOLDIER #2: You see that wire? -SOLDIER #3: Blue wire.

Behind that rock! Move!

Get down, get down!

WARE [narrating]: Impossible to know whether he’d planted that bomb or if his car had really broken down.

In a war like this, everyone was suspect, everyone as guilty as they were innocent.

Hey, keep your fucking head down!

-No, no, mister. -Fuck you.

[in Arabic] No, no. It’s not working.

MALE REPORTER: A car bomb in Baghdad killed 10 people and wounded many more.

The apparent target was a police station.

WARE [narrating]: The Americans’ grip kept slipping, fighting an enemy they couldn’t see.

It was hard just looking on from the sidelines.

I felt somehow there was more I should be doing, to know who those men were, to understand why they were fighting.

At least that’s what I told myself as I began crossing to the other side to talk to the insurgents.

It took months, turning to anyone with cousins or old war buddies or friends who might know someone who knew someone still carrying a gun.

I was fumbling, but over time it seemed to be working.

Gaining trust after trust, the guerrillas began to let me inside.

[man speaking Arabic]

This homemade tape they gave me was proof I’d made contact.

It’s probably the first insurgent video of the war.

[in Arabic] The rocket-launcher group remains behind the first hill.

The mortar group remains behind the second hill.

You understand the plan, comrades?

MAN #2: One, two, three-- then the explosion.

Now it begins.

MAN [in English]: One, two, three.

MAN #2 [in Arabic]: Hit it. Hit it.

[continuing in Arabic] Come on!

-Fouad? -Hmm?

-Is this video with sound? -God willing.

We advise every honorable Iraqi mujahid to defend their country and their honor.

We don’t accept any forces, whether Arab or Western, to conquer or rebuild Iraq.

Depend on Allah, mujahideen.


[in Arabic] Sir, all the Americans were attacked over there.

MAN #2: What did you blow up?

-The mother of all ammo depots. -The armored vehicles?

-The armored vehicles all around it. -Well done.

-I got it twice. -Well done. Well done, lions.

-Go with Allah on your side. -God willing.

WARE [narrating]: I know these men and feel bad about this tape, filmed just for me when I insisted on proof they were really fighting.

Soon, I wasn’t just watching their tapes.

They began taking me to secret meetings in the dead of night.

[heavy breathing]

That’s my breathing as I’m doing the filming.

It was frightening.

I’d surrendered myself to these guerrillas, men the Americans were hunting and I had found, not knowing if they were friends or if they were going to kill me.

I guess I knew it was insane, but I couldn’t help myself.

MAN [in Arabic]: This is a message from us.

By Allah, by Allah, by Allah.

They will not have a restful day while there is a single Arab, Muslim, Iraqi breathing in the land of Iraq.

I was brought to this barn, blindfolded in the trunk of a car.

[in Arabic] We will not stop resisting the occupation until our last martyr.

Soon it wasn’t enough just to meet them.

They insisted on taking me and Yuri on our first attack.

We were on the outskirts of the heavily protected US base at Baghdad Airport.

There was a guilt in watching this happen as they targeted the Americans.

-[in Arabic] Give me your scarf. -In the name of God the Merciful, why?

Because I don’t want my face filmed.

All I could think about was chopper pilots’ video screens, where they can see anything in the dark.

The insurgents saw my unease.

“Don’t worry,” they told me. “We do this all the time.” Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon Him, said it’s jihad until doomsday.

And we will wage jihad and wage jihad until the Americans leave our homeland.

[chattering in Arabic]

Pull your hands. Go, Go!

-What do I do? -You pull it.

Where’s the American plane?


These men saw themselves as nationalists, fighting to rid their country of an occupier.

But for all the blood they’d spilled, they were not waging a holy war of suicide bombings.

That, they told me, was someone else.

Someone who scared even them.

A man called Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Zarqawi, who lived only in secrets, in mystery, with so little known.

He was a Jordanian, a militant radicalized in a prison, had run a terror camp in Afghanistan and was now somewhere in Iraq, waiting to bring the country to its knees.

It had been almost a year for me here, and at our house we prepared for Christmas vacations.

Happy Christmas!

One, two--

One, two, three.

-Hey! -[Kozyrev laughs]

But our family was about to be torn apart.


Omar adored his son, Qutab, and I adored Omar.

Soon, a few blocks from where he’s standing, Omar will be gunned down.

Merry Christmas, Abu Jack.

WARE: Merry Christmas, Omar. Abu Qutab.

Abu Qutab.

And for a moment, the war lost its distance.

It had found us.

Omar’s death forced us to leave that house where we’d been so happy to seek safety in a well-guarded hotel.

That’s where I was when Zarqawi showed himself to the world.

[man speaking Arabic]

That’s him, they say, reading from those pages.

Beneath him is Nicholas Berg, a young American contractor Zarqawi had kidnapped.

My name is Nick Berg. My father’s name is Michael.

My mother’s name is Suzanne.

I have a brother and sister, David and Sara.

I live in West Chester, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia.

[in Arabic] You will see nothing from us except corpses and casket after casket slaughtered in this way.

God is great!

[Berg screaming]

There is no justification for the brutal execution of Nicholas Berg.

No justification whatsoever.

WARE [narrating]: That day, it felt the entire war stopped, the wind knocked out of it by the horror.

Zarqawi was escalating.

Then late one night in our hotel, it all became very personal.

A Zarqawi contact knocked on my door, a DVD in hand.

“The Prince of Princes ordered me,” he said.

“Give this to the infidel.” From the beginning, Zarqawi had been filming his masterpiece, something that would change the war forever.

And now that it was ready, he’d given it to me.

[speaking Arabic]

This is the first-ever film of suicide bombings in Iraq and the kids who were doing it.

This one reading his living will, saying his farewells in a darkened ceremony before setting off to an American checkpoint.

[singing in Arabic] A torrent of my longing

I see you all leaving, and you will not be returning In the name of God the Merciful.

This is all it is. A button only.

Don’t forget us in your prayers. We shall be missing you.

MALE REPORTER: This Western journalist views horrifying video sent to him by an Islamic insurgent group in Iraq.

WARE: Oh, my God! I’ve not seen this.

MALE REPORTER: Michael Ware, working for Time magazine, is walking a professional knife edge, an unlikely go-between for anti-Western militants.

WARE: Whether you think I’m fortunate or whether you think I’m doomed, the point is, I’ve been given a window into something that no one else has.

What we see here is Zarqawi’s terrorist group’s attack on an American convoy.

A pre-positioned cameraman knows where the bomb will go off.

A suicide driver will intercept this convoy and detonate that explosion.

[shouting in Arabic]

This is a very, very sophisticated part of Zarqawi’s information campaign, stamping him as the star of the new global jihad.

♪♪ [singing in Arabic]

It’s just fascinating to watch a face like that...

...and know that, in a day or two, he’s dead.

He knows this is coming and he welcomes it.

This is their power. It’s what they often say to me.

“Our great advantage over you, that you are afraid of death and we are not.”

[speaking Arabic]

WARE [narrating]: I’d never know why he sent it to me.

It had to have come from being out there, the foreigner roaming among the insurgents, from fighters I knew who knew him or his men.

It was too big to think about, paralyzing to contemplate, a man like that choosing me.

I felt he’d made me complicit, somehow, in his war.

Now there could be no turning back.

The Americans were losing control of the war.

First, some of the desert provinces went.

Then it was the highways.

[soldiers shouting]

Bullshit! Bullshit!

It’s an ambush!

Till finally the US was losing Baghdad itself.

In the heart of the capital, Haifa Street was a special kind of hell to the Americans.

MALE REPORTER: Last night, two more soldiers killed on patrol here, making this one of the deadliest 24 hours since major combat was declared over.

WARE [narrating]: Soldiers dubbed its corridors “Purple Heart Lane” and “RPG Alley,” a place where even children fought against them.

It’s where Yuri and I met this boy, his parents killed in an air strike on Fallujah.

He’d been taken in by his insurgent uncle.

MAN [in Arabic]: Come on, Hammudi. Come here.

-God is great. -God is great.

Look this way. God is great.

BOY: God is great.

[men chattering in Arabic]

[men chattering in Arabic]

I knew Haifa Street well.

Its insurgent commander was a friend, at least to the extent of his interests.

And in war, that’s the best type of friend you can hope for.

MAN: Don’t show it. They fucking shoot at cameras.

-[man #2 speaking Arabic] -He said take a picture.

MAN #2 [in Arabic]: Haifa Street is blocked.

-He said it’s closed. -[in Arabic] I don’t want my face on film.

That’s him, my friend, who I can’t film for fear he’d be identified.

We are moving around Haifa Street, which is now controlled by the Iraqi mujahideen, or holy warriors.

This is the insurgents, the guerrillas who are fighting against the American forces and the interim Iraqi government.

-MAN [in Arabic]: Is it a free-fire zone? -MAN #2: It’s a forbidden area.

WARE: A US unit has moved into the area.

Armored Bradley Fighting Vehicles have taken up positions.

Normally, whenever American troops come into this area, the insurgents attack.

MAN: Stop.

[in Arabic] It is not my hand, but the hand of God.

Allahu akbar.

-Allahu akbar. -Again! Again!

WARE: They were lobbing mortars at a base a few hundred meters away.

Allahu akbar.

-Should I shoot it? -Shoot.

Remove it. Remove it.

[speaking Arabic]

Let’s go!

The area was a prize in the midst of the city that Zarqawi wanted for himself.

First, he sent his men in ones and twos.

Then twos became threes and fours.

Soon, word came back.

Zarqawi had taken over Haifa Street.

-Allahu akbar! -Allahu akbar!

[shouting in Arabic]

My friend, the insurgent commander, had been overthrown and sent one of his men to bring me back so I could see for myself.

Zarqawi had seized the equivalent of midtown Manhattan, right in the middle of Baghdad.

[man speaking Arabic]

[in Arabic] Ahead, ahead, ahead. Go, go, go!

-[in English] This? -Where? Where?

Zarqawi’s black flags line the streets, his fighters everywhere.

[in Arabic] Another one.

They’ll shoot the car. They’ll shoot and burn the car.

-Really? -I swear by God!

We made one pass down the boulevard.

Then another.

[in English] Continue.

Wait, wait, wait. Many, many mujahideen here.

Until we were spotted.

One of Zarqawi’s men stepping out from the curb, pulling the pin on a grenade, stopping our car.

That’s all the tape I have.

From this point on, it’s only jagged, brittle memory.

A swarm of jihadis grabbed our car, reaching in to grab me.

Clawing, dragging me.

They were going to cut my head off, like I’d seen them do in so many videos-- grabbed by the hair from behind, screaming as the sawing began, legs flailing.

The images reeling through my mind.

I stood beneath a banner, beside a man with a knife, waiting.

[man speaking Arabic]

That’s when he spoke up, my insurgent escort, the one my friend had sent to bring me in.

He threatened Zarqawi’s men with a turf war if they killed me.

I just wasn’t worth it. Even Zarqawi’s men saw that.

With gritted teeth, they shoved me back into the car.

It was over.

[children shouting, squealing]

But in a way, it would never be over.

For the next three days, I didn’t leave my bedroom.

I wanted to be sick whenever I was in a car.

I still hate shaving with blades near my face.

I guess most people would have left Iraq after that.

I don’t know. It’s a thought I never had.

Maybe by then, it was already too late for me...

-[wailing] let it all go.

Now I craved, almost sickly, to know more, to comprehend the enormity of him-- Zarqawi.

If he was obscene, my intrigue was becoming perverse.

The dark idea of him would not leave my mind.

And Zarqawi was never far away.

Two car bombs.

His suicide bombings kept coming, even to our door.

-MAN: He’s coming. -If they’re coming, I wanna be ready.

MAN: Mick, you cannot go outside with a gun.

WARE: I’m not going outside with a gun.

[shouting in Arabic] Get back! You get back!

Get back! Get back!

I’m Australian. I’m American. I’m American.

I’m a journalist! I’m a--

I live here!

WARE [narrating]: The Americans pursued Zarqawi relentlessly, but still he was taking over the war.

In Fallujah, a city west of Baghdad, he now ruled.

An insurgent stronghold, the Americans had no choice but to take the city back, assembling a force of 10,000 troops to do it.

At last, Zarqawi’s men were making a stand, daring to confront the full might of the US military.

And I wasn’t going to miss it.

Eh? [grunts]

Fuck you.

WARE: Didn’t you take a photo of me sleeping?


-Fuck you. -[laughs]

If Iraq is to be free and a peaceful society, one part of the country cannot remain under the rule of assassins and terrorists.

We will hunt down the criminals.

We will kill them or capture them.

FEMALE REPORTER: US commanders made a somber prediction-- the street fighting could be the heaviest since Vietnam.

Our purpose is to give back Fallujah to the people of Iraq.

We are to clear this city of the terrorists and the criminals.

There is nothing walking in that town that I’m afraid of because I got you all with me.


You make contact, I expect you to finish it.

Finish it with the biggest weapon you’ve got.

Leaders have got to account for your soldiers.

Know where they’re at on the battlefield. Support them.

If they get in a catfight, I expect you guys to pile on and kick somebody’s ass.

I’m not afraid of anything in there.

And neither should you be.

You reach around, you put your arms around each other, walk into this city together and you walk out together.


Let’s pray.

Heavenly Father, your word says you do not give us a spirit of fear, but of courage and of sound mind.

I ask you to give these soldiers today that courage that they have to do to accomplish this task.

Protect each soldier as they go into battlefields.

Let us be able to take all back with us. In your precious and holy name, amen.

Hey, Fallujah’s that way, y’all.


Hey, Jack. It’s your dad here, mate.

Just about to go into the battle of Fallujah.

I love you, Son.

[machine gun fire]

WARE [narrating]: We were the first American unit into the city and were quickly surrounded by Zarqawi’s suicidal fighters who had stayed behind when everyone else had fled.

[shell explodes]

-[soldiers shouting] -Hey, I’m hit!

Hold on. Hold on.


[soldiers shouting]

-Good. I’m good, man. -You’re all set.

WARE [narrating]: It’s odd, the things I remember.

The boys’ faces and how old they made me feel.

Where is it at?

That their leader, Lieutenant Meeno, had worked in an office till not so long ago.

-There! -Fuck!

And that Staff Sergeant David Bellavia was about to celebrate his 29th birthday in the midst of the battle.

-SOLDIER: Of all places! -[laughter]

-It’s a Purple Heart. -It’s a purple dick!

-It’s a purple penis! -RPG fire or something.

-Where did that happen? -[gunfire continues]

Hey, Doc, he’s gonna walk off-- He’s gonna walk it off, right?

Yeah, he’ll be all right.

The other American units were stalled entering the city.

The further we fought, the more we were on our own.

So we’d have to go back onto the streets, through ghostly houses the soldiers thought they’d already won, looking for fighters hiding in the crevices.

We have the good fortune of doing our own BDA.

Now we know we’re killing people.

We know what they got. We can make sure all those weapons systems get spiked.

Okay, so that’s the plan. We’re gonna leave shortly.

[soldiers shouting]

We’re about to go into this compound. There are six to eight dudes--

-This one here? -No, over here.

They haven’t been able to find ’em.

Before we roll in, I’m gonna pound it with tank rounds.

Just wait. Have your guys in a cover position. Don’t be in the open.

WARE [narrating]: It was six of Zarqawi’s suicidal jihadis cornered in a block of empty houses.

With night coming, they had no way out.

Once it hits that house, we’re gonna be here.

We’re gonna come out here and we’re gonna assault this way.

Push those fuckers this way so if he runs, the tanks can direct him here.

SOLDIER: Let’s go! Push through, first squad!

-First squad, get up here! -[soldiers shouting]

Alpha team! Alpha team, get up here! Alpha team!

[soldiers continue shouting]

SOLDIER: I want the last man in Bravo in this spot when you assault.

SOLDIER #3: We’re okay here.

-SOLDIER #2: My bad, Bravo. -SOLDIER: First floor secure?

SOLDIER #2: First floor secure.

Here we go, here we go. Last man in Bravo, take that spot.

-Bravo? Who is-- -Over here.

WARE [narrating]: From the first house, we knew the jihadis were not far away.

SOLDIER: You gotta keep your weapon up there. Stay up there.

All right, Bravo. Split squad. Go right, go left.

Let’s go.

We got a back door over here that’s opened up.

-It’s open. -Blood on the basin.

WARE [narrating]: The search went on for hours. House after house in the dark.

Till we entered one last home.

-[soldiers shouting] -[gunfire]

It was a trap. Ambushed from six feet away.

[gunfire continues]

-Bullets ripping through the walls. -[gunfire continues]

SOLDIER: Hey! What the fuck!

-SOLDIER #2: I got shrapnel-- -SOLDIER #1: I need a Bradley!

-WARE: Have you been hit? -Get me a Bradley!

-Are you all right? -I’m good.

-Have you been hit? -I’m good!

-[gunshot] -Who is shooting?

WARE [narrating]: Zarqawi’s men had the advantage.

We scrambled back onto the street.

-Get back! -WARE: I’m trying.

There’s people in front of me!

SOLDIER: Get out of here.

WARE: Yuri? Yuri!

-[gunshots] -Yuri!

SOLDIER: Out of here! Go!

SOLDIER: We are not gonna fucking die!

-SOLDIER #2: Is anyone fucking hit? -SOLDIER: Nobody’s hit!

SOLDIER: Everything is fucking crazy. We just got shot at at point-blank range.

WARE [narrating]: Someone had to go back in there. Someone had to kill them.

SOLDIER: Yeah, I wanna go after ’em.

-It was Staff Sergeant Bellavia. -BELLAVIA: I wanna go.

I wanna go.

BELLAVIA: This guy is shooting from point-blank range.

-You wanna stay? -SOLDIER: I’ll stay here.

-BELLAVIA: All right, let’s go get ’em. -One sergeant followed. I went with them.

SOLDIER: You’re coming. You’re fucking coming.

[soldiers shouting]


WARE [narrating]: Bellavia killed two in the hallway.

-SOLDIER: Who is that? -WARE: Mick!

-Who is it? Who? -Mick! The journalist!

Then he pushed further inside.

I lost him, blinded without night vision and suddenly alone in a house full of death.

And then it went quiet.

No gunfire, no Sergeant Bell.

Something was wrong.

[rubble clattering]

I ran back to the others outside.

WARE: Hey!

-Who can hear me? -SOLDIERS: Yeah!

They need a couple more guys! Sergeant Bell’s not answering!


WARE: Pauly and someone else are on the right side of the garage.

SOLDIER: Right side of the garage!

WARE: And Sergeant Bella and someone else went in.

And we haven’t heard from them.

WARE: Have you heard anything from inside that house?

-No. -WARE: Man, it’s gone quiet.

-SOLDIER #2: That’s not good. -SOLDIER #3: I hope there’s no injuries.

WARE [narrating]: These were the longest of minutes.

-I don’t know what’s going on. -First ten. Then 20.

Not knowing if Bellavia was alive.

I couldn’t sit still. I couldn’t just watch.

He might need help.

I ran back to the door of the house to see if I could hear him.

Then a sound came from inside.

[man shouts, faint]

WARE: Someone’s calling out.

-From where? -WARE: Inside.

-I can’t hear it. -WARE: I can.

-SOLDIER: Sergeant Bell? -[man shouting, faint]

-[gunfire, explosions] -Sergeant Bell!

WARE [narrating]: He was alive. On his own, he’d crept through the house, killing five of Zarqawi’s men, some in hand-to-hand combat.

-SOLDIER: Hey, Bell. -Yeah, hold on.

SOLDIER #2: Talk to six.

-SOLDIER: What’s he want? -SOLDIER #2: A report.

I got three dead fuckers who tried to shoot us at five meters!

WARE [narrating]: We were all stunned, but Bellavia, I think, had found something in that house, a part of him he never knew.

-SOLDIER: Fuck. -[soldiers shouting]

That’s it. Moving out!

-Hey, uh, suck up. -Yeah.

[soldiers chattering]

WARE [narrating]: Me, I’d had no place going back in there, but I’d felt there was nowhere else for me to be.

And all I’d found inside was that I no longer cared about dying.

After six days of heavy fighting, US forces say tonight they have taken the town of Fallujah.

FEMALE REPORTER: US and Iraqi forces are now in control of 70% of Fallujah.

FEMALE REPORTER #2: A devastating display of American firepower.

The battle for Fallujah is all but over.

WARE [narrating]: It was a false sense of victory.

For Zarqawi, the battle had been a display of his power, his men willing to die in nothing more than an act of glorious defiance.

And their suicidal devotion to him only grew stronger.

-[children chattering] -[speaking Arabic]

By now, Zarqawi controlled large chunks of the country and he was becoming more barbaric, bringing his vision of an Islamic state to life.

This is footage Zarqawi never meant the world to see-- these men posting notices announcing the fate of a man held in their car.

Accused of informing to the Americans, he’s been sentenced to death.

CHILDREN [in Arabic]: God keep you safe.

MAN: Allah give you victory. Allah give us victory.

[weapon cocks]

[in Arabic] Keep going.

Move away, old man.

Old man, give us space.

Please, move on!

God is great!

Come, you can drive through.

WARE [narrating]: His methods were horrifying, even to Al-Qaeda.

Osama bin Laden’s deputy wrote to Zarqawi, urging him to curb his violent excesses.

Step back, step back.

He ignored them.

This film was retrieved from the computer hard drive of one of Zarqawi’s top military officials, videos brought to me by insurgents I knew who’d drifted to Zarqawi but eventually chose to resign from the terror network.

Reporting one morning to their boss, they blew his brains all over a wall.

As they left, one turned and asked, “Do you think Mick would want his computer?”

MEN: Allahu akbar. Allahu akbar.

People, I am innocent!

Men said to be thieves or looters hung like piñatas.

[men pleading in Arabic]

Zarqawi’s world was one of unimaginable terror, everyone within it a prisoner of his distorted reality.

-[gunshots] -[men shouting, screaming]

-Allahu akbar. Allahu akbar. -[gunshots continue]

There was only one place left to go-- into the very heart of Zarqawi’s power, to a province called Anbar where he’d forged his Islamic state, to a city he’d made his dark capital, a city called Ramadi.

It was a forbidden place to a foreigner like me.

The only way in was to join the American units stationed here, fighting for their lives in a hell their commanders called “the meat grinder.” Fuck.

So bad was the fighting, the Americans were struggling just to keep this one solitary road open, a road dotted with five lonely US outposts.

It was the soldiers’ only lifeline to the outside world.

I’d heard there was a group of marines under siege, ordered to hold the line, whatever the cost, at a post known as the gov center.

WARE: Hey, guys.

Stay underneath the glass. There’s snipers running around here.

WARE: What’s this place like?

It’s nice.

[chuckles] Look out of the window.

-You look out? -Yeah.

You see how it is, this place.

-[gunfire] -Coming in! Coming in!

Here, on their second tours, Lance Corporal Jose Taseco--

Fuck ’em up, partner!

...and Corporal Nathan Buck.

Trying to get the go-ahead to launch that 40 down there.

When we got to Ramadi, the first day-- We had contact the first patrol we did.

We were the first patrol out.

So, it was just like, “What up?” I couldn’t even believe it.


Doc! Get in here, Doc.

Watch my rifle.

He’s hurt pretty bad.

BUCK: We lost three marines and a corpsman.

You just gotta keep your head up.

Keep on pushing through, you know?

You can’t let yourself get down, ’cause one person gets down and out of it, then it has a tendency to float throughout the platoon and the company.

So we... go out there and... the good service and do what we can to get back.

Get their blood back too.

WARE [narrating]: No winners here, just kids on an impossible mission, patrols sent out onto the streets as little more than bait to lure out Zarqawi’s fighters.

[loud gunfire]

The Americans were outnumbered, with barely a third of the troops they actually needed.

-What do you see? -It’s in that house. It’s in the house!

-Which house? -[gunfire]

Sniper AK on the roof!

-Which house? -[soldiers shouting]

Hey, fucking check down there.

[chuckling] Hey, just an old man.

Direct straight. That house. That two-story house.

[soldiers chattering, shouting]

-Need you as a terp, sir. -Right there on the wall.

Is this ours or Zarqawi’s propaganda?

Huh. Yo, there’s two.

There’s two of them.

I have this pharmacy. This-- This pharmacy.

-This yours? -No, no.

This pharmacy. I own this pharmacy.

-He’s good. -I am work this pharmacy.

I don’t care where you work.

-[soldier speaking Arabic] -MAN: I don’t know.

It’s on your fucking store. This is your shop, right?

Mister, I am work this pharmacy.

-This pharmacy, I am work this-- -You work here?

-[speaking Arabic] -[speaking Arabic]

SOLDIER: Colonel Kelly, do you know what direction that--

Okay, so what do you--

If you work in that pharmacy, what are you doing here?

-I am speaking with me-- -About that? How to blow up Humvees?

No, no. No. I am work this pharmacy.

Okay. Close your store up.

Close your store.

Close this store, close that store.

Do you understand what I’m saying?

-Close the pharmacy? -Yes.

And you close this one.

If you get froggy, I will kill you.

This guy, cuff him after he closes his fucking door.

SOLDIER: Hey, we got movement back here.

Hey. Fuckin’ face the building.

[soldiers chattering]

Close your eyes.

First team, we’re moving down.

[soldiers shouting]

[in Arabic] Give me your telephone, telephone number.

[in English] If I see “Ali Baba,” I’ll call you.

-SOLDIER: You’ll call us? -Call you.

SOLDIER: If you see Ali Baba?

Hey, I’ll call you if I see Ali Baba.

I’ll give you a ring.

-[explosion] -Go, go, go, go!

Go, go, go! [shouts]

Freeze, motherfucker!

[soldiers shouting]

Hurry up, hurry up! Hurry up!

-Get in, get in. Let’s go. -We got one here.

Pick it up.

-Pick up the fucking rocks. -Pick up the fucking rocks.

-Yes! -Hey, get back.

-Hey, do that-- -SOLDIER: Watch your rooftop.

Pick up the rocks!

-[speaking Arabic] -Let’s detain this fuckin’ asshole.

SOLDIER: Okay, sir.

WARE [narrating]: For marines, nothing in this city is quite what it seems.

A family man with a phone, wires, rubber tubing-- all possible bomb-making equipment.

Gunshot residue on his hands.

See how it turned that color? With the specks?

Guy’s fucking definitely been firing a weapon in the last couple of hours.

What’s going on?

100 meters down, there were two guys turkey-peeking.

-They did that two or three times. -[gunshot]

[return gunfire]

WARE: What kind of day is this?

This is a fucking normal day in Ramadi.

WARE [narrating]: Back patrolling with Corporals Buck and Taseco, we went to a rooftop to watch over another American patrol.

Keep your eyes open. And try to stay low too, okay?

You see anybody moving, looking at us, you know what to do.

There’s always someone watching our position.

Keep moving around. Don’t stay still.


-Shit. -Shit!

Holy goddamn. Whew.

-See where that came from? -In front of me.

Holy shit.

-The motherfuckers are right here. -They’re moving around us.

Oh, shit. Buck, I saw movement.

-Where at? -There’s someone in that building.

The fucking window with the gate. Fifty meters away.

Hold on one sec.

There’s someone there.

One, two, three.

You son of a bitch!

Whoo-hoo! Yeah, boy!

-Fuck! -Motherfuckers still out here, dude!

-My heart. Whew! -[soldier laughing]

We’re here way too fuckin’ long, man.

We should’ve pissed fucking out of here.

WARE [narrating]: With Zarqawi’s men circling, it’s only 200 yards to home.

Everyone, whoa! Hey!




[gunfire continues]

[shouting, groaning]

-Where the fuck this motherfucker at? -[shouting continues]

Pick it up, Benny! Let’s go!

-Let’s go! Let’s go! -Come on, motherfuckers.

[soldiers shouting]

Let’s go, dude.

Come on in! Come on in!

-Let’s go. -Pick it up!

Yes, I’m good. I’m moving.

What the fuck?

Leave my boy outside, huh, motherfucker? Get up! Get up there!

What the fuck, man?

REPORTER: For an hour and a half today, Sunni rebels went at two military outposts in the town of Ramadi with everything they had.

FEMALE REPORTER: Militants trade fire on Ramadi’s main streets, clashes that grow deadlier by the day.

FEMALE REPORTER #2: Every time these marines leave base, there’s every chance they won’t make it back.


[car horn honking]

-Allahu akbar! -[gunfire]

WARE [narrating]: Zarqawi wanted the Americans gone.

To him, their very presence was an insult.

This dump truck, packed with explosives, heads for a US outpost called OP Hotel.

♪♪ [singing in Arabic]

MAN: Soon as we got hit, the one NCO left started re-emplacing weapon systems.

Weapons were blown across the building. All these guys were buried.

First, he re-established security.

Second thing was start pulling our guys to a casualty collection point.

Our medic took over with the casualties.

He took over with the re-consolidation of ammo and sectors of fire.

Was able to defend that position.

There was a follow-on wave that was supposed to hit us, try to overrun us.

Guys got back in their positions, kept firing and maintained--

[distant gunfire]

WARE [narrating]: They’d been bombed within weeks of arriving, Second Lieutenant Joe Walker and the 30-odd men he commands.

Not a single day had passed since without them being attacked.

-WARE: Are you a West Pointer, sir? -No.

I went to a small private college in South Carolina called Wofford College.

-Uh-huh. -And, um... decided this is what I wanted to do after September 11.

It’s been full steam ahead ever since.

Southern-looking observation position.

Most of the contact down to the south comes from small arms or people observing the hotel with binoculars, filming us.

That’s-- That’s considered engagement criteria.

I like this bunker.

-WARE: Think we could make a reservation? -Oh, yeah.

And let’s buy some property in Ramadi.

WARE: Now’s the time to get in, while the market’s sort of in a slump.

Then when the boom comes, we make a killing.


-Let’s be serious then. -Yeah, this is a serious situation, Yuri.

This is no time for levity.

Fuck off.

What I’m about to show you is one of our additions since we were attacked.

We brought our snipers, the battalion snipers in, to occupy a position on top of the hotel which allows them 360-degree overwatch out to 2,000 meters.

They have a couple of confirmed kills up here ranging out to 1,400 meters.

So they’re pretty impressive.

Been a good tool for us.

MAN: Yep.

-Fellas. -Sir.

WALKER: We get RPG’s fired at us every other day.

Sniper rounds. We’ll take single rounds from 360 degrees.

It is a drive-you-crazy waiting game.

When are they gonna hit us next?

It’ll wear on you.

WARE [narrating]: Nowhere in Iraq was the war as bloody for the Americans as here.

[helicopter passes]

WALKER: In this platoon, since July, we’ve had eight WIA, six KIA.

All of my squad leaders and section leaders have been wounded.

For a while, our company was fighting at less than 70%.

When you’re in a static defense, you’re sitting around waiting to get hit.

Guns are clean. Guns are reloaded.

WALKER: It’s just a day-to-day struggle.

Everybody goes into survival mode. Everybody just wants to get home.

I seen things that’ll blow your mind.

It’ll be an all-out contact, and there’ll be kids playing soccer right there.

Here comes more people round the corner.

-Same guy? -A kid and a lady.

-A kid, a lady-- -Same guy and another guy.

WARE [narrating]: This woman and child are used as human shields to move Zarqawi’s fighters into position.

Send your warning shot.

-Is he inside the building? -Warning shots.

We got it.

-Imshi! -Warning shot.

-[gunshot] -MAN [on radio]: Warning shot.

SOLDIER: They’re bouncing right beside.



-Is that another one right there? -Where?

-No-- -Yeah, it is.

-Warning shots. -[gunshot]

He’s moving now.

-There you go. S-AK. S-AK. -Watch out. Get down.

AK fire from north of Saddam Mosque.

AK fire from north of Saddam Mosque.

-[explosion] -SOLDIER: Did you say dump trucks?

-SOLDIER #2: Dump trucks on “Y” Road. -SOLDIER #1: Am I engaging?

SOLDIER #2: Take them down. Engage.

Do not even let them come close.

There’s someone firing out there now.

-They’re shooting at something. -Can you see anything?

MAN [on radio]: You have a target. Engage.

OFFICER: Suppress, suppress.

-Shoot y’all motherfuckers! -Suppress! Suppress!

Return fire. Suppress. Look out.


MAN [on radio]: Everybody calm down and give me a direction of where they are.

Roger. You have five men--

MAN [on radio]: Be advised. Dump trucks moving south on Apple.

They’re trying to get here.

-See any vehicle, kill it. -[explosion]

-Smoke from the northeast. -[gunfire continues]

WARE [narrating]: All five US bases in the city were being hit at once, Zarqawi’s men lashing out in a massive coordinated assault.


Watch yourself! Watch yourself!

WARE [narrating]: By nightfall it was over.

The Americans had beaten back the attack.

But still, the threat remained.

Zarqawi’s men would come again.


WALKER: I try to remember the big picture, but when I got guys gettin’ shot and gettin’ killed, you get tunnel vision and you hate this place.

You start hatin’ everybody here.

WARE [narrating]: I could see good men here losing their grip, losing themselves.


[mortar blast in distance]

Zarqawi was now as wanted a man as Osama bin Laden, the Americans putting a $25 million bounty on his head.

And still he waged his war, destroying one of the holiest of mosques, inciting a savage civil war he’d planned all along, turning Iraqis on each other in a bloodletting the likes of which the country had never seen.

It was to be his greatest legacy.

After years of pursuit, the Americans finally found Zarqawi where he slept at night, in a small farmhouse north of Baghdad.

Acting on a last-minute piece of intelligence, two F-16’s were scrambled, dropping one 500-pound bomb.

Then another.

MALE REPORTER: The most wanted man in Iraq is dead.

Terror leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is taken out--

MALE REPORTER #2: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has been killed.

Now Zarqawi has met his end.

This violent man will never murder again.

-[speaking Arabic] -[speaking French]

FEMALE REPORTER: On the streets, jubilation.

He’s called Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the slaughtering sheikh.

Well, no more. Tonight he is a dead man.

MALE REPORTER #3: Baghdad police were ecstatic, singing, “Zarqawi, where are you today? Zarqawi, where’s the terrorist now?” WARE [narrating]: You can only be so hunted for so long.

But I guess I knew it wasn’t really over.

Zarqawi’s men kept fighting, and so his holy war raged on, the idea he’d unleashed too powerful to have died with him.

-Allahu akbar. -[gunshot]

-Allahu akbar. Allahu akbar! -[gunfire]

“Certain dark chambers of the heart, once opened, can never be closed again.” Or so a soldier wrote after serving here.

I know this is what Zarqawi had done to so many of us, to the Americans, to the Iraqis, to me-- showed us recesses in our souls we never knew we had.


I found my darkest place here, on a US patrol to sweep a suspected terrorist village.

-A shot rings out. -[gunshot]

Soldiers on the rooftop had seen a man running past us with a gun.

Where’s he at, brother? Where’s he at?

Who took that shot?

He’s gone that way, but he’s still here.

Right here! He’s right here!

[soldiers chattering]

-Back up. Back up. -Rod, get over here.

Tell him to show us his hands.

Tell him he’ll get shot again if he doesn’t show his hands.

Tell this dude to show us his hands, or he’s gonna get shot.

Hey, people, back up.

-Hey! -Get away from him. Good job.

-[interpreter speaking Arabic] -Hands!

-Where’s the fucking weapon? -[interpreter speaking Arabic]

Push back a little bit.

-Push back a little bit. -Okay.

Hey, set up over there.

[speaking Arabic]

He’s in the process of dying, dude.


Yeah, he’s fuckin’-- He’s dying right here, man.


-There’s the weapon. -Where’s the weapon?

-Right there behind his head. -Okay.

Drag him into the fuckin’ courtyard. Go. Let’s go.

-Roger that. -Kibble. Grab him. Drag him. Go.

SOLDIER: What’s up, kid? How you doin’?

-Not so good, huh? -SOLDIER #2: Yeah.

-You got him. You got him. -Fucked up, bro.

SOLDIER: What’s that thing?

-There’s a gun over there. -We got it.

[soldiers chattering]

SOLDIER: All right.

Hey, did you see where this motherfucker popped out of?

-East of route line, correct? -Fifty meters east of route line.

-How is he doing? -Tell them he’s dying.


Get people on the roof. Lot of you should be in the courtyard.

We don’t have a good roof here, man.

-Yeah, there’s no-- -There’s no roof here.

We got a flat roof.

Gentlemen, establish security.

[soldiers chattering]

IRAQI MAN: He works for Al-Qaeda, sir.

Warning, warning.

[man gasping]

I got two more right here.

Hey, you’re about to die, dude. That was a good idea, huh?

[interpreter speaking Arabic]

-Where was he shot? -I don’t fucking know.

The head, probably under the fucking arm.

-Yeah, ’cause it’s coming down. -You want me to look?

-No, it’s-- -You okay?

-Doesn’t matter, man. -Give him fuckin’ minimal aid.

Give him fuckin’ aid, but fuckin’--

I ain’t telling you to fuckin’ perform surgery.

-Fuck! -All right, come here.

Let’s talk to his fucking family.

Why don’t you just fuckin’ die.

Hey, Doc’s coming here. Doc’s got it.

-Watch out. -I don’t wanna fuckin’--

This fuck.

I ain’t telling you to fix him, but you need to look at him.

Take a quick look, Doc. Not gonna help. He’s fuckin’ worthless.

He just died. Stopped breathing.

-He just stopped breathing? -Yeah.

Yeah, he’s done.

Any ID on the guy?

-No. All he had was two mags. -Double-checked his fuckin’ pockets?

I just checked ’em.

Anybody got blankets?

Get a sheet or something.

You got ID there, bro?

Oh, you do have ID of some sort.

Hey, keep watching outside there, bro.

-[wheezes] -That’s just called shock, yo.


[gasping, louder]

-Here you go. Good job. -[gasping continues]

[soldier laughs]

[loud gasp]

[gasping continues]

SOLDIER: He dead yet?

He still twitching?

Yeah. He stopped for a long time. Thought he was dead.

He have a pulse?

You can see his skull and his brains.

-[man gasps] -Unless you want to do a CASEVAC?

No. The motherfucker’s dead.

WARE [narrating]: Through his gasping, it was my silence I could hear.

All I had to do was say something, anything, simply clear my throat, to force the soldiers to give him the medical aid they were meant to.

But I didn’t. I just let it happen.

No, that’s just twitching and spasming. He doesn’t have a pulse.

-He’s alive-ish. -No.

Maybe I was just too twisted up inside, the soldiers too, the brutality of it all having slowly shaved away at our souls.

But I fear it might be more than that.

They say, “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”

Does that mean it lives in all of us, waiting to be found?

In the end, I spent almost seven years in Iraq.

But I did make it home, never to go to war again.

It took time, but somehow I learned to reconcile with myself the things I’d seen--

The final attack has begun.

...the things I’d done.

But I will always know that at some unknown place, at some forgotten hour, I became a man I never thought I’d be.