Examining the Enemy

Major Michael Duncan Jones

U.S. Army

Afghanistan, September 2004–February 2005

In addition to serving as brigade flight surgeon on Bagram Air Base, I also worked in the base hospital’s emergency room and as the physician for the detainee facility. There were roughly six hundred prisoners in that holding facility. Some were hard-core terrorists, but most were just hired fighters, willing to kill for the highest paying warlord in their region. And some were probably innocent farmers, arrested only because they were not wise enough to avoid association with the first two groups. It was a large prison.

All of the prisoners were interrogated on a daily basis. My job was to examine each prisoner after the interrogations to ensure that no abuse was taking place. I spent three hours every morning examining these enemy combatants. During these examinations I observed many with smiles on their faces who had contrasting hatred and anger in their eyes. At times I sensed real evil when a prisoner was brought in to be examined, and the eyes were void of light. Mostly I just saw mistrust and sensed a profound weariness from these men who had known nothing but war, death, and disappointment for the past thirty years.

I was inspired on a daily basis as I participated in a team effort that provided world-class medical care to these enemy combatants. Many of them had had their lives saved by heroic first-aid given to them on the battlefield, where moments before they had been shooting to kill the same soldiers who now toiled to preserve their lives.

Some of my colleagues found it difficult to feel or show compassion to these men who had possibly killed our brothers in arms. Because of the gospel in my life, I did not have feelings of hate. I knew some of those I treated had made horrible decisions in their lives and had consequently lost the Light of Christ. I perceived that others, however, were not so entrenched in evil, and I hoped for their eternal salvation as sincerely as I hope for my own. I was motivated to be especially compassionate in my interactions with these enemy combatants, hoping that someday their hearts might be softened when they reflect on the quality of care provided them by Americans. Through my interpreter, I asked them about their wives and families. I took the time to make sure they understood how to take the medicine we gave them. I gave them counsel on how to take better care of themselves.

My goal was to defuse the hatred against America that was festering among these people by providing more than just courteous medical care. I hoped to make a human connection, to help them see me as I saw them, as sons of loving mothers, husbands of loving wives, and fathers of loving children.

If a solid case could not be made against certain prisoners, they were released. As many as forty prisoners a week were allowed to enter back into society. When these releases occurred each week, I hoped a few of my patients would leave, and that they would do so feeling motivated to give peace a chance in their nation, remembering a doctor who wanted to heal hearts as much as to bandage wounds.

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About LDS Scripture Teachings

I write about ways scripture applies in our lives: LDSScriptureTeachings.org
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