A Common Language: Ron Capps Served in Rwanda, Darfur, Kosovo, Eastern Congo, Afghanistan, and Iraq

Kristina Shevory in The Believer:

CappsRon-BWIt took Ron Capps all morning, but he was finally ready. He finished his reports, borrowed a pistol, and drove out of town into the Sudanese desert. When he found a low-rise with a commanding view of the red-tinged sand dunes, he parked and opened a beer. For an hour, he sat drinking and staring at the sand, thinking about what to do next. He was back in Darfur on a nine-month contract, this time with the State Department, documenting the genocide in the western part of Sudan. The Sudanese government rebels had agreed to a cease-fire after millions had fled their homes, after thousands had been murdered, and after hundreds of villages had been destroyed, but the peace was tenuous and the fighting kept going. It was Capps’s second time in Darfur, and he’d thought he’d be OK with all this death again. He had whiskey, and some leftover Prozac that an army psychiatrist had given him a few years before. But his nightmares had come back, more intense than ever, and he’d started drinking to get his mind off all the massacres and misery he had seen. It seemed so pointless, writing reports that would be read by only a few people before they were filed away. What good are they if they can’t even protect anyone? he asked himself again and again. It had gotten so bad that he couldn’t sleep: he was always on edge, always in fear that he would be haunted by all the people he couldn’t save in all the combat zones he had visited. It got to the point where he thought it’d be better if he called it quits.

He cocked the 9 mm and moved the selector switch off SAFE to SEMI.

This wasn’t supposed to happen to a guy like Capps. He was a career State Department officer and an army reservist working intelligence. He was the guy everyone envied—or at least those who didn’t know any better. He had been to Kosovo for the ethnic cleansing, Eastern Congo for the so-called cease-fire, Afghanistan, and then Iraq. He had been attached to military special-operations units and picked up a couple Bronze Stars along the way. Any god-awful place, he’d visit. He loved the rush, loved getting the call and getting sent into the mix before it even hit the papers.

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