It is difficult for anyone who has not been in the theater of war to understand the mindset of a soldier who is sent out to kill another human being. Combat veterans are unlikely to talk about their experiences in battle because it is painful and distressing to recollect taking a life or seeing a fallen comrade perish before their eyes and they are due the utmost respect for sacrificing a bit of their humanity by serving their country in war. Experienced combat veterans have a degree of respect for enemy soldiers because they understand that their enemy is following orders or defending their homeland and families from conquest and occupation. America’s military garners praise from enemies and friends alike for adhering to high professional standards and dedication to protecting and serving their fellow soldiers without hesitation. This is not to say there are not rogue soldiers who, although valiant in battle, fail to live up to the military code of conduct befitting honorable service and recognition as heroes.
America’s military suffered shame and humiliation over the behavior of guards at Abu Graib prison who disgraced themselves by mistreating prisoners and, to make matters worse, posed for photographs that were leaked and caused untold damage to America’s reputation around the world. The recent release of a video showing four U.S. Marines urinating on corpses of alleged Taliban fighters has brought indignation and outrage at the despicable behavior of America’s finest, but there is more to the story than the bad behavior of four young soldiers.
There was no reason for the soldiers to engage in such sophomoric and demoralizing actions and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) has already launched an investigation into potential criminal activity shown in the video. The USMC has identified the soldiers and Marine Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser will determine further action according to a statement released by the USMC. One thing is certain; the soldiers were expressing disregard for the Geneva Convention and code of conduct because of previous statements by former president Bush, Dick Cheney, and other Bush administration officials who flaunted their disregard for the Geneva Convention.
It is unfortunate, but there are Americans who advocate for and praised the type of activity the video displayed. CNN political analyst, editor-in-chief of Andrew Breitbart’s Big Journalism, and Tea party hero Dana Loesch praised the Marines for their behavior. Loesch said on her radio show that, “I want a million cool points for these guys. Is that harsh to say? Come on people, this is a war. What do people think this is?” Loesch had one part right; it is a war and as Muslims around the world view the video, they will acknowledge that the Marines (presumably) followed orders and killed the enemy. That is war and killing the enemy is the goal; not desecrating dead fighters by urinating on them. Loesch’s comments have engendered outrage surpassing the disgust at the Marines’ actions and any criticism leveled at Loesch is well-deserved, but she is parroting the Bush doctrine that says there is no Geneva Convention or military code of conduct applicable to Americans. CNN must terminate Loesch’s contract as an analyst if they are to have a semblance of respectability as a responsible media outlet.
Allen West (R) is a former Army Lieutenant Colonel and congressman from Florida who had a similar take on the Marines bad conduct as Loesch. West agrees that the “Marines were wrong” and opined that the Marine Corps should “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.” However, West sought to diminish the bad behavior by assailing media pundits for not being outraged at what happened to soldiers in Mogadishu or Blackwater security contractors in Fallujah. Apparently, Americans should expect the same from our soldiers as gangsters in Mogadishu or Iraqi insurgents and instead of expressing horror, they should as West said, “Shut your mouth.” West is wrong.
The dishonorable culture of war that the Bush administration wrought on our military is endemic to atrocities and instead of criticizing the public and media for being outraged, West and his ilk should question why the soldiers conducted themselves in such a dishonorable fashion. Bush administration officials are still advocating torture and conservatives are still protecting a culture of American exceptionalism that dictates Geneva Convention does not apply to Americans tasked with killing Muslims. There are estimates that anywhere from 300,00 to over 655,000 (as of 2006) Iraqi civilians were killed during the Iraq war and returning soldiers share horror stories of war crimes that went unreported by the media or units in the field and it reflects on the mindset of Bush warmongers.
It is not to say that in war there will not be questionable decisions that cost innocent lives, and during the Viet Nam war, American soldiers committed atrocities that were far worse than urinating on dead Taliban fighters. However, soldiers are only as honorable as the commanders and when the commander in chief, his vice president, and Secretary of Defense tell soldiers and the world that the Geneva Convention does not apply to America, there are going to be repercussions that are manifest in images of Abu Graib or marines urinating on dead bodies. There is no real excuse for the Marine’s actions, but the culture that dictates it is acceptable to dishonor a dead soldier, prisoner of war, or torture prisoners must be addressed if Americans are to expect honor from our brave soldiers. How can the Marine Corps reprimand the four Marines for urinating on dead Taliban soldiers if the men who approved torture are allowed to go unpunished?
The Marines should be reprimanded for their bad behavior as the military code of conduct dictates. Dana Loesch should be fired from her post as CNN political analyst, and Representative Allen West should shut his mouth and stop comparing our soldiers with gangsters in Mogadishu or Iraqi insurgents. George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and their lieutenants who continue advocating for torture all need to be tried in international court for war crimes against humanity according to the Geneva Convention so from now forward, every American soldier understands that no-one is above the law regardless of their rank or position of power.
No-one can ever know what went through the four Marines minds or why they thought it was acceptable to film their inexcusable desecration of enemy combatants’ bodies, but whatever their logic, it reverts to Bush administration officials’ mindset that America is above the law and is not required to follow what should be moral imperative. Of course, expecting Bush, Cheney, or their lackeys to have any morals is like expecting the conservatives praising and excusing the Marines’ actions to show dignity for the dead. The four Marines were only following orders from the Bush administration that told them honor, the Geneva Convention, and military code of conduct does not apply to American soldiers, prison guards, or interrogators.