I certainly don’t approve of what those guys did. It’s vulgar, and I’m opposed to vulgarity on principle. It’s stupid, both at a micro level and, as the recent headlines show, at a macro level. It’s a typical example of group think. I routinely tell my children to be very careful when they’re with a group, because there’s something about a group mentality that causes massive IQ loss.
The one thing I’m not is outraged. This is not systemic abuse of the type that surfaced in Abu Ghraib. Nor does it cross the line from stupid and vulgar into terribly abusive. Terribly abusive would have been a video of these men doing the same thing to living prisoners. Having Al Qaeda types — the ones who like to slice of men’s cool toy and stuff it in the victim’s mouth, or who videotape themselves beheading people, or who torture children to death, or who gang rape women, or who blow up school buses, etc. — having these types express outrage over this alleged “barbarity” only serves to highlight just how innocuous what these young men did really was. Crude? Yeah, sure. But also innocuous.
I’m also not alone in my lack of outrage. Even liberal Washington Post readers are unimpressed. As of this writing, 82% of them think “It’s not surprising — things like this happen in war,” while only 11% find it an “unacceptable desecration” and 7% an “embarrassment.” Americans understand that boys will be boys, they understand that boys will always have their toys, and they understand that, under actual combat conditions, men make foolish decisions that nevertheless do not qualify as war-time atrocities.
I was listening to a local talk radio show as I made my way to my mid-day break and this event was the topic of the hour. Two military types called in, one a Marine and the other an Army vet, and both seemed to agree with the gist of Bookie's thesis. What took place was dumb, was stupid, was less than thoughtful, but the conditions under which these men were serving must be weighed before punishment is meted out.
What happened just before the video? Were any Americans injured and/or killed in the firefight preceding it? How many times have these men been exposed to combat? How many tours have they been on? All those questions and many more need to be answered before they're thrown under the bus.
What they've done was certainly bone-headed and harmful but I agree with Bookworm.
I don't think so.
UPDATE: Alan West puts it about as succinctly as one can:
“I have sat back and assessed the incident with the video of our Marines urinating on Taliban corpses. I do not recall any self-righteous indignation when our Delta snipers Shugart and Gordon had their bodies dragged through Mogadishu. Neither do I recall media outrage and condemnation of our Blackwater security contractors being killed, their bodies burned, and hung from a bridge in Fallujah.
“All these over-emotional pundits and armchair quarterbacks need to chill. Does anyone remember the two Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division who were beheaded and gutted in Iraq?
“The Marines were wrong. 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.
“As for everyone else, unless you have been shot at by the Taliban, shut your mouth, war is hell.”