still pissing on the dead

Last week I made a brief comment about the incident in which the members of a U.S. Marine sniper unit pissed on the bodies of Afghans they’d (presumably) killed. There were a couple of responses I found troubling, and I sort of feel the need to address some of the issues raised in them.

Joe said:

Wish ALL our troops were here home with their familys

I think we can all agree with that. However….

but our dumbass politicians/president whom have NEVER SERVED OR HAVE BEEN IN THIS SITUATION BEFORE

I’m not sure how this behavior can be attributed to President Obama or Congress. Certainly the behavior of troop units is a reflection of their leadership, but there are over 200,000 active duty Marines. It’s a bit silly to hold the civilian leadership of the military responsible for the behavior of individual units. That said, as I mentioned in the original comment, if you don’t want troops to piss on the bodies of their dead enemies, don’t send them to war.

The solution……DO NOT SHOOT AT OUR SERVICE MEN AND WOMEN AND WE WON’T HAVE TO CELEBRATE KICKIN YOUR STUPID ANTI-AMERICAN ASSES!!!!!!!!!!!!!

First, you can’t blame Afghans for shooting at invading troops. It’s their country. Afghan tribes have been fighting against invaders ever since it became a semi-unified nation-state some three hundred years ago. Before they were shooting at U.S. troops, they shot at the Soviets. Before that, they shot at the British. Before that…well, just read the long history of Afghan tribal groups successfully repelling invading world superpowers.

Second, the Afghans who are shooting at the U.S. troops may, in fact, be anti-American, but I suspect they’re mostly anti-invader. I mean, they’ve also been shooting at the French and the British and the Dutch and the Italians and the Canadians (seriously, who’d shoot at a Canadian?) and a host of other nationalities. They’ll shoot at anybody who was attempting to occupy their country. So would you, Joe, if you were an Afghan. That’s what you do to invading armies—you shoot them. We’d do the same if (in some right wing Red Dawn fantasy) foreign troops invaded the U.S.

Finally, pissing on the dead is more an expression of contempt than a celebration. But even if there was some twisted psycho-sexual celebratory component to it, we don’t have to celebrate killing the enemy. This isn’t football. A victory dance in the end zone isn’t necessary. To suggest the ‘solution’ to this is for Afghans to refrain from shooting at U.S. troops is to massively fail to understand the situation.

WAKE UP AMERICA WE AE THE BEST,,,,,START SHOWING IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The more exclamation points we use, the better we are. But really, this isn’t a nationalist issue. It’s not about America. It’s about war. The Marines didn’t piss on the bodies of the dead because they were Americans; they did it because that sort of shit happens in war. They didn’t piss on the bodies of the Afghans because they were Afghans; they did it because war always dehumanizes everybody involved.

Daniel repeats (without attribution, by the way) the text of a statement issued by Republican Congressmane Allen West, but I’ve no doubt he agrees with Representative West.

I do not recall any self-righteous indignation when our Delta snipers Shugart and Gordon had their bodies dragged through Mogadishu.

Neither you nor Rep. West may recall the outrage, but I do. The incident was widely reported and sparked a massive public outcry. Of course, the treatment of Shugart and Gordon was at the hands of a disorganized mob, not committed by a highly-trained and disciplined military unit, but they both reflect the same reality. War brutalizes the people who fight.

Give them a maximum punishment under field grade level Article 15 (non-judicial punishment), place a General Officer level letter of reprimand in their personnel file, and have them in full dress uniform stand before their Battalion, each personally apologize to God, Country, and Corps videotaped and conclude by singing the full US Marine Corps Hymn without a teleprompter.

The teleprompter comment, of course, is a childish reference to President Obama; conservatives seem to think the president is inarticulate without access to a teleprompter and find that wildly amusing.

I should mention that Rep. West is a former Army Lt. Colonel who served in Iraq. He’s familiar with the military justice process. After an incident in which he terrorized an Iraqi police officer, West was fined US$5000, removed from command of his unit, and reassigned to a rearward detachment while his resignation from military service was processed.

Let me also say that although I vehemently disagree with West and his politics, I completely understand what he did in Iraq and why he did it. By normal moral standards, his behavior was egregiously wrong; by battlefield standards, it was illegal. But it may have actually saved the lives of his men.

Again, if you don’t want U.S. troops to do horrible things, don’t send them to war. If you send them to war, you MUST hold them to high behavioral standards—but it’s critical to remember that war can brutalize even the most decent of people.

Anybody who is really interested in this topic would do well to read With the Old Breed: At Pelelieu and Okinawa by Eugene Sledge. Sledge was a nice, bookish, religious Alabama boy who served with the U.S. Marines in the South Pacific during World War II. His account of the brutalizing effects of war is shocking and appalling, and quite possibly the best memoir ever written about war.

2 thoughts on “still pissing on the dead

  1. Greg… what bothers me most about United States involvement in war—as well as the general nature of politics in this country—is that it is indeed treated like a football game. Until Vietnam came along, we were undefeated in wars (“U.S.A!, U.S.A!, U.S.A!”). Vietnam should have taught us to be selective in our battles; it should have taught us that sheer might doesn’t always “win”; it should have taught us something about how little we know about the rest of the world, and how little we know about what it takes to actually defend our country. As did the people of Vietnam, the people of Iraq and the people of Afghanistan are showing us what that’s like.

    Vietnam also should have taught us about righteousness, it should have taught us about what is done in the name of “God and country.” One day, I hope that the most nationalistic amongst us realize that our reasons for going to war have little to do with defending this country, but defending the profitability of our corporations.

    It is beyond me how George W. Bush could have been “re-elected” for a second term based on what he dragged this nation into in 2003 (and what he did to the people of Iraq), but it is the football team/fraternity house “Rah! Rah! Rah! for our team!” attitude. There was little real recognition that he was, in effect, pissing on the lives of hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, and pissing on the bodies of his own dead soldiers with every day he pushed onward. There was little recognition that he was causing harm to the United States’ standing in the world, but because we (with a big helping hand from the corporate media) treat politics and war as team sports, we will continue to move further and further from the ideals upon which this nation was founded.

    At the expense of the native peoples, of course.

  2. I kinda forgot to finish a sentence/thought. It should have read:

    “…but it is the football team/fraternity house “Rah! Rah! Rah! for our team!” attitude that ushered him in. People voted for him sheerly because he had the R behind his name.

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