Here we go again. The web pics of those alleged Marine snipers in Afghanistan urinating on what appears to be dead bodies, presummably of dead Taliban fighters, is turning into yet another example of war in all it’s glory. But more than that, it gives the impression that the U.S. military is again showing some measure of disrespect to Muslims. Like the incident at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and other visual war time “atrocities” images, this photo is also drawing the usual emotional outcry about the Taliban and/or Al Quaida using it to recruit their legions of followers. What ticks me off about this each time something like this becomes viral on the web and fodder for the news networks is why aren’t there pictures of what these terrorist groups are doing to their victims (and yes, our troops) showing up on the net, and why isn’t that raising international emotions? Right or wrong, these Marines would never have been in this position in the first place had Al Quaida not attacked us on 9/11 and the Taliban not provided them sanctuary.
One of the difficulties in thumping our chests as being a proud example of a democratic society that encourages freedom and respect for human rights for all peoples is that there are always other people looking to shoot holes in that image and find fault. That’s natural and normal when you carry the biggest stick on the block. But the purveyors of network rant and news pundits continue to belabor how this kind of visual atrocity just serves to futher inflame the hatred of Muslims. S’cuse me. Are you suggesting that if we fight a clean and respectful war that the Muslims will kill our guys with more warmth and compassion?
One of the strangest things we do as a country since the Vietnam years is expect our military to fight wars with human dignity. As an ex-GI myself (although one that has never seen battle) I am not sure what exactly that’s supposed to mean. I am just spitballing here, but is not the requirement for killing the other guy supposed to be that I kill him before he kills me? So… am I supposed to kill him with respect? Maybe that means I shoot him in the head to make it quick and painless. But if my trigger finger lets off a second, third, fourth round I am desecrating his body? Or if I kill him with a grenade, blowing him to smithereens, when I could have simply shot him, I am desecrating his remains and paying disrespect to his family? Gimmie a break. It’s war… and war sucks. There’s no honor in death no matter how much we might wish it.
I’m reminded of Patton’s famous speech to his troops. No, not the great rendition by Goerge C. Scott in the movie.. but the real unedited version. Patton knew war, knew combat, and knew death.
“Death, in time, comes to all men. Yes, every man is scared in his first battle. If he says he’s not, he’s a liar. Some men are cowards but they fight the same as the brave men or they get the hell slammed out of them watching men fight who are just as scared as they are. The real hero is the man who fights even though he is scared. Some men get over their fright in a minute under fire. For some, it takes an hour. For some, it takes days. But a real man will never let his fear of death overpower his honor, his sense of duty to his country, and his innate manhood.”
“War is a bloody, killing business. You’ve got to spill their blood, or they will spill yours. Rip them up the belly. Shoot them in the guts. When shells are hitting all around you and you wipe the dirt off your face and realize that instead of dirt it’s the blood and guts of what once was your best friend beside you, you’ll know what to do!”
“Sure, we want to go home. We want this war over with. The quickest way to get it over with is to go get the bastards who started it. The quicker they are whipped, the quicker we can go home.”
Each GI who serves in a combat area knows that he or she is there because, be it politics or some form of aggression toward our country and its allies, some enemy brought them there and the only way home is to do your duty as best as you can. You learn to rely on the buddies around you to survive and the stress and frustration of their senseless death hardens your feelings and dulls the senses of social acceptance; “human rights” are sometimes thousands of miles away and not part of winning a war so that you can go home. Getting home and avenging the deaths of your buddies is many times the elements of an effective soldier on a battlefield… especially if your dead buddies suffered from torture prior to death.
Our troops coming home from having served in combat areas are not having post traumatic stress as a result of treating people humanely in battle. It’s because they have witnessed the inhumanity of war and have often partaken in it… and you know what… war SHOULD be inhumane because that’s the deterent to keep us from engaging it so easily in the future.
When I see these kinds of pictures I am not surprised because I have an idea as to why these situations occured. On the other hand, while these things can occur in war it doesn’t necessarily mean those that participate should not be held accountable. Let a court of law decide on an individual basis the degree of guilt, and let the cards fall as they may. But let’s not always act surprised when these things happen. The propaganda value for recruiting future terrorists is a result of making the photo/video public and less about the act itself. In the future when battlefield revelations like this are revealed as a result of “inhumane” GI’s let’s post pics of what radical Muslims have done in the name of God.