Senator John McCain said the viral video clip of U.S. Marines in Afghanistan apparently urinating on three corpses identified as Taliban enemy dead “makes me so sad” on CBS Thursday morning.
There’s not a lot else that needs to be said.
But plenty of others had plenty to say as the video ricocheted around the globe. Statements deploring it exploded like verbal IEDs from Washington to Kabul. “I condemn it in the strongest possible terms,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said. “Those found to have engaged in such conduct will be held accountable to the fullest extent.”
General James Amos, commandant of the corps, said he has seen the video “that depicts Marines desecrating several dead Taliban in Afghanistan” — there was no “allegedly” in his statement. “I am assigning a Marine General Officer and senior attorney, both with extensive combat experience, to head up an internal Preliminary Inquiry into the matter,” he said. “Rest assured that the institution of the Marine Corps will not rest until the allegations and the events surrounding them have been resolved. We remain fully committed to upholding the Geneva Convention, the Laws of War, and our own core values.”
The Marines said they hadn’t yet authenticated the video, which Afghan officials fear will be used as a recruiting tool for the Taliban. The corps says the investigation into its source and subjects has been turned over to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. “This disrespectful act is inexplicable and not in keeping with the high moral standards we expect of coalition forces,” the U.S.-led alliance fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan said Thursday. Those involved purportedly were “a small group of U.S. individuals, who apparently are no longer serving in Afghanistan,” the International Security Assistance Force said.
The statement did not explain why the military believes those involved have left Afghanistan. But whoever posted the video labeled it “Scout sniper team 4 with 3rd battalion 2nd marines out of camp lejeune peeing on dead talibans.”
Perhaps it’s the peculiar patina of civilization that renders killing foes OK, but desecrating their bodies in this way is deemed outside the bounds of decency. In part, that’s what happens after a decade of war (although Abu Ghraib brought home the fact that inhumanity doesn’t always need that long to incubate). The desecration of the remains is terrible, and compounded by the sheer stupidity of being videoed while in the act.
“These are the young men we send to wage war in our name?” one former U.S. military officer said Thursday morning.
The event reflects changing mores in U.S. society. Yes, there have always been war crimes, and U.S. troops have committed their share. But many young people today like to color outside the lines, and too often parents aren’t there – physically, mentally or emotionally – to stop them. Some of this leeches into the military despite its efforts to stamp it out.
The Guardian noted this trend earlier this week in a report on the growing number of police officers in U.S. schools, and their growing reach into non-law enforcement areas. The cops are there because parents didn’t do their jobs.
Not sure we can dispatch cops to march alongside U.S. Marines to ensure they don’t act like idiots. Guess we should console ourselves with the fact that this is newsworthy because it is so rare.