“Yet the act of desecrating an enemy’s body is as old as war, perhaps most famously described by Homer in ‘The Iliad,’ when Achilles drags Hector’s lifeless body behind his chariot before the eyes of a shocked and despairing Troy. Nancy Sherman, a professor of philosophy at Georgetown University who has written a book about the moral implications of war on troops, ‘The Untold War,’ said dehumanizing the enemy can be a psychological defense mechanism for the troops whose job is to kill that enemy…
“Mr. Exum said black humor is another coping mechanism for young troops trying to act tough beyond their years. ‘I remember being a young officer in Afghanistan in 2002 and standing over the body of this partially decapitated Taliban and cracking jokes,’ he said. ‘Humor is how we cope with pretty horrific stuff. It’s almost dangerous to be too sensitive.’
“Alex Lemons, a Marine scout sniper during the fierce fighting in the Iraqi city of Falluja in 2004, said that on several occasions he encountered American troops who either urinated on insurgent bodies or manipulated them for photographs, like putting them in ridiculous poses. While he called such behavior disgusting, he also said it could be cathartic.
“‘I’ve never spat on a dead body or urinated on one, but I’ve certainly screamed at a dead body because they’ve taken a friend’s life,’ said Mr. Lemons, who left the Marine Corps in 2008.”
“But what possible benefit does desecrating enemy corpses serve? — other than to radicalize other terrorists — and to provide our enemies with talking points and propaganda photos? (Oh yeah, it also fosters the notion that America is no different from the rest of the barbaric world — that we are simply about imposing our power, not liberating oppressed people or defending our citizens.)
“In a perfect world, our warriors would operate clinically. Like professionals, they would follow orders, dispassionately removing cancers, never allowing emotion to creep into their decisions. It is understandable, of course, that men — faced with the horrors of war (our enemies are evil people who do horrible things!) — sometimes fall far short of that high standard.
“But this was dancing in the end zone.”
“There is a final context for this act in which we are all responsible, all guilty. A 19-year-old Marine has a very hard time reconciling the fact that it’s okay to waterboard a live Taliban fighter but not okay to urinate on a dead one.
“When the war on terror started, the Marines in that video were probably 9 or 10 years old. As children they heard adults — and political leaders — talk about our enemies in the most inhuman terms. The Internet and the news media are filled with self-important men and women referring to our enemies as animals that deserve little legal or moral consideration. We have sent enemy fighters to countries like Syria and Libya to be tortured by the very regimes that we have recently condemned for engaging in war crimes and torture. They have been tortured into confessing their crimes and then locked up indefinitely without trial because their confessions — achieved through torture — will not stand up in court.
“For the past 10 years, American children have absorbed these moral contradictions, and now they are fighting our wars. The video doesn’t surprise me, but it makes me incredibly sad — not just for them, but also for us. We may prosecute these men for desecrating the dead while maintaining that it is okay to torture the living.
“I hope someone else knows how to explain that to our soldiers, because I don’t have the faintest idea.”
“Initially there were concerns that outrage over the issue would spiral into a scandal like the one in 2004 over the release of photos showing a group of U.S. military police abusing prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq…
“But Afghan officials and others said the quick responses by all sides had helped contain the damage.
“‘As all three sides — the U.S., the Afghan government and the Taliban — have all condemned this act, I’m hopeful that this will not have any effect on the peace process,’ Abdul Hakim Mujahid, a member of the peace council and the Taliban’s former envoy to the United Nations, said Saturday…
“‘Reconciliation is a big change for the people of Afghanistan and it won’t be affected by the actions of individuals like those in the video,’ Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told The Associated Press on Friday. ‘We are focused on the bigger picture and for that, we have to avoid small things.'”
“‘It’s insane,’ says an Afghan [Taliban] sub-commander in Helmand province where the urination incident allegedly took place last year. ‘Why are we talking to those who hate us so much that they desecrate our martyrs’ bodies?’ he asks angrily in a phone conversation with The Daily Beast. His anger extends to the Taliban’s negotiators in Qatar. ‘To me those who claim to represent the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in these talks are dishonoring the rivers of blood we have shed,’ he says. ‘This act is worse than that of animals,’ adds the sub-commander who declines to be named for security reasons. ‘They showed no shame.’
“Jan Mohammad Khan, a Taliban fighter in eastern Afghanistan, says the video affected him more than all the carnage that he’s seen in his 10 years in the jihad. ‘I have never hurt so much as I did when I saw this video,’ he says. ‘These Americans have crossed the borders of civilization and humanity by disrespecting the dead.’…
“The former translator who lives in Kabul with his family says the video has outraged even his normally calm and moderate father. ‘This morning my father was so angry that he ordered me to burn any money I may still have from the Americans as it was a sin to keep it,’ he says. ‘If this action has so angered my father it will certainly anger other common Afghans.’ If so the already difficult fledgling peace process has just become even more complicated.”
Via the Daily Caller.