A video has been circulating the Internet depicting four Marines urinating on the dead bodies of Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan. This has led to an appropriate degree of outrage from our political representatives.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Sunday defended (the Marines), arguing “what’s really disturbing to me is just, kind of, the over-the-top rhetoric from this administration and their disdain for the military.”
“Obviously, 18, 19-year-old kids make stupid mistakes all too often, and that’s what’s occurred here,” the Republican presidential candidate told Candy Crowley on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “But, you know, when you’re in war, and history kind of backs up — there’s a picture of General Patton doing basically the same thing in the Rhine River. And although there’s not a picture, Churchill did the same thing on the Siegfried line.”
Perry is apparently justifying bad behavior by pointing to historical precedent of bad behavior — a literal trail of urine that leads back to when Moses parted the Red Sea with the force of his own stream.
The fact that this occurs in “war time” is hardly an excuse because it’s not like someone is criticizing Marines for not killing the insurgents according to Queensberry rules. A dead body is inanimate. It can no longer threaten you or defend itself. The proper, sane response to the death of an enemy is regret that violence was the only answer — not a crude celebration of your victory and bladder control.
“I mean, these kids made a mistake, there’s not any doubt about it,” (Perry) said. “They shouldn’t have done it. It’s bad. But to call it a criminal act, I think, is over the top.”
Except for the fact that it is a criminal act: U.S. law and the Geneva Convention “forbid the desecration of dead bodies.”
Perry believes the Obama administration is demonstrating “disdain” for the military by investigating this. Interestingly, Perry earlier stated that the administration was waging a “war on religion” by choosing not to “defend in court the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 legal prohibition of federal recognition of same-sex marriages.” So, Obama hates the military when he looks into a criminal offense and apparently hates religion when he doesn’t further the interests of a discriminatory law. Urinating on dead bodies = youthful indiscretion. Marrying the consenting adult of your choice: threat to religious freedom.
Perry is perhaps sympathetic to the four Marines because of his own history of urinating on soldiers — though in his case, it was the gay soldiers whose service in the military he considered “something wrong in this country.”
Comedian Bill Maher also sided with the Marines.
“A dead body is just, you know a f***ing body that’s dead and it just doesn’t bother me… If they were real Taliban, if they were people who burned down girls’ schools, and, you know, do honor rapes and throw acid in people’s faces, I’m not that upset about p***ing on them.”
The fact that these men might have deserved it is no reason for us to endorse such treatment. Their deaths were enough. It ended any evil they were committing and prevented any that they might commit. We are better than they are because of our ideals not simply because we won. Is our morality now inspired by an Image Comic from the 1990s?
CNN contributor Dana Loesch — who I’m pleased to say I hadn’t heard of before today — stated: “C’mon people, this is a war. Do I have a problem with that as a citizen of the United States? No, I don’t.”She added that she wants ‘a million cool points for these guys’ and would be willing to join them.“Can someone explain to me if there is supposed to be a scandal that someone pees on the corpse of a Taliban fighter — someone who as part of an organization murdered over 3,000 Americans.”
OK, it’s one thing to say that the Marines urinating on dead bodies is no big deal. It’s absolutely absurd to claim that it’s deserving of “a million cool points” (redeemable for a free port-a-potty). Is it somehow courageous to pee on corpses? Were the thousands of other soldiers who “held it in” less “cool”? Are we now going to start handing out “Yellow Hearts” for the lengthiest stream?
Loesch’s rationale that these fighters were “part of an organization” that brutally murdered innocent people on 9/11 is also suspect. There’s a good chance these insurgents were in grade school at the time. If Loesch really wants to justify these soldiers’ actions, she could bother to do some research and find some more recent offenses.
Maher and Loesch also seem to be under the impression that Taliban membership is voluntary — like the U.S. armed forces or the GOP view of homosexuality. These insurgents certainly could have willingly chose to serve the Taliban — it’s certainly more comforting for us to believe that — but there is ample evidence of conscription by gunpoint.
Al Gore, in a 2004 speech regarding the reported abuses at Abu Ghraib prison, said the following:
One of the clearest indications of the impending loss of intimacy with one’s soul is the failure to recognize the existence of a soul in those over whom power is exercised, especially if the helpless come to be treated as animals, and degraded. We also know – and not just from De Sade and Freud – the psychological proximity between sexual depravity and other people’s pain. It has been especially shocking and awful to see these paired evils perpetrated so crudely and cruelly in the name of America.
And Nietzsche sums it up fairly succinctly: “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster.”