The short video clip showing four U.S. Marines urinating on the corpses of Talban fighters in Afghanistan has prompted considerable outrage.
You can watch the video here.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called the act “utterly deplorable,” and has promised to punish the offending soldiers “to the fullest extent.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed “total dismay,” adding that the actions were “absolutely inconsistent with the standards of behavior that the vast majority of Marines hold themselves to.”
Afghan President Hamid Karzai said what the Marines did was “completely inhumane.”
Even the Taliban has weighed in, saying it was “yet another barbaric act by foreign forces.”
That would be the same Taliban that has killed children for laughing at their fighters and hung the bodies of alleged informants as a warning to others. One Taliban fighter, as Time Magazine famously chronicled, cut off the nose and ears of his wife for “dishonoring” him.
No, the Marines, fresh off the kill, should not have opened their drawers and let flow their base emotions as well as their bodily fluids. We hold ourselves to higher standards than our terrorist enemies.
But the outrage is disproportionate to the act.
We have 90,000 troops, including 20,000 Marines, in Afghanistan, a dangerous warzone where their lives are at risk every moment from a non-conventional enemy. Only those who have been in the fight can fully understand the stress they are under.
Apparently, moments earlier, the Marines had blown the Taliban fighters to hell with a mortar. Can we realistically expect that, in every case, our fighting forces will do whatever is necessary to, as Gen. George Patton said, “make the other bastard die” (for his country), and then, the next moment, conduct themselves as rational, polite individuals?
The Council on American-Islamic Relations has weighed in, condemning the “apparent desecration of the dead.”
Frankly, it is disrespectful desecration, but then how do you classify launching a laser-guided missile into a Taliban compound and blowing human beings into fragments of flesh and bone?
Is that somehow more respectful or proper?
Maybe we more easily accept the enemy being vaporized because we don’t see it. We’re safe at home, comforted by the sterility of the reports from the field about the enemy being “neutralized.”
Perhaps the U.S. reaction is being driven by the fact that we’re in back-channel negotiations with the Taliban to try to end the fighting in Afghanistan. If that’s the case, then Panetta, Clinton and others are just saying what must be said to help bring about a peace in Afghanistan and save American lives.
That’s the best possible scenario.
The worst would be that we are about to make examples out of a couple of jarheads who peed on lifeless, soulless mounds of flesh and were dumb enough to videotape it.