There are no words to express my disgust at the video making the rounds today, of U.S. Marines apparently urinating on the dead bodies of the Taliban. As an Iraq War veteran who works with Iraq and Afghanistan veterans every day, I can truthfully say that the Marines in the video have undermined everything that I and those who served with me tried to do.
That's why I'm just as disgusted by right wingers like Pamela Gellar, who said, "I love these Marines" and joked, "Perhaps this is the infidel interpretation of the Islamic ritual of washing and preparing the body for burial."
Comments like these not only go against everything our military stands for, but only serve to put our troops on the ground in increased danger. It just shows that some on the right still just don't get it when it comes to our mission in Afghanistan.
No matter what one thinks about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (and I have been plenty critical of them and how they've been waged), one indisputable fact is that most troops on the ground have tried their best to build the trust of the population. Believe me, it isn't easy. Having worked with the Iraqi Army on my second tour, I'm acutely aware of what challenges we face when trying to get the trust of the population. Understandably, Afghans and Iraqis looked at us pretty skeptically, if not outright as invaders.
Horrific incidents like at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo further undermined American forces by reinforcing the population's most negative feelings about us. But since that time, we've made great strides. General Petraeus and McChrystal, especially, took winning hearts and minds very seriously, and implemented a number of tactics to reach out to the populations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Doing so wasn't just the right thing to do, it was absolutely crucial to their counter-insurgency strategy.
That work is now at risk, because of these Marines.
Aside from basic human decency, corpse desecration harms our mission by disrespecting the culture of Afghanistan and the families of the dead. Think this video isn't circulating in Afghanistan already? You think some young Afghan male who was on the fence about the insurgency won't be knocked off it?
Secondly, these actions violate the military ban on corpse desecration. So these Marines are looking at the possibility of a dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of pay and allowances, and confinement for 2 years under Article 92, UCMJ. Frankly, I wish they would face harsher punishment.
But, I'm supremely confident that the Pentagon will investigate and prosecute this case as hard as they possibly can. Indeed, the military is already coming out hard against what was in the video. Trying these Marines, and laying down harsh punishment will be the next step in trying to prove to the people of Afghanistan that America, as a nation, is not represented by these Marines. There is no other choice. Condemning, investigating, and prosecuting is the only thing we can do at this point to mitigate the damage done by this video, and try to protect our troops from retribution.
This isn't the same military that let people like Rep. Allen West go with a slap on the wrist. West, while serving in Iraq, detained and abused a likely innocent Iraqi, shooting a pistol off right next to the Iraqi's head, after West's men captured and beat the Iraqi. The military now understands that actions like West's, or the Marines in the video, directly put our own troops in danger, and that not doling out justice and punishment sets the US Military back, and puts our troops at increased risk.
We, as a nation, have to be 100 percent behind the Pentagon on this, and seek justice in this case. Those who would cheer on the disgusting actions of these Marines, only serve to compound the damage already done by them.
UPDATE: Among the other right wingers coming out for this deplorable action is a Tea Party Founder who appears on CNN. She said, "Now we have a bunch of progressives that are talking smack about our military because there were marines caught urinating on corpses... I want a million cool points for these guys. Is that harsh to say?"