Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Department Of Unsurprising Developments

Today's big story is that Marines in Afghanistan urinated on dead Taliban.

Sorry, this is not a big story.  The story, really, is that we live in a You Tube world and that this was captured on film and posted.  Don't you think GIs were peeing on corpses in Normandy?  Iwo Jima?

Part of the problem is that we fetishize the troops so that they are no longer allowed to be fallible human beings.  "Support the troops" is a platitude designed to deflect criticism of the on going war, but it also means that we never seem to consider the effect a decade worth of war has on people's psyche.  War messes people up.

The most powerful societal taboo is against killing another person.  You can't strip away that basic rule and expect people to remain obedient to all the other rules.  Once you have trained someone to kill, then encouraged them to do it in actuality, you can't be surprised when they decide to urinate on the corpse.

It's nice, I guess, that John McCain has said how sad it makes him to see Marines behave like thugs.  At least he's not saying it didn't happen.  But if you vote to constantly keep young men in a war zone, they are going become calloused and insensitive to things that look awful to people sitting at home.  McCain and everyone who both initiated a decade of war and refuse to countenance a withdrawal from these wars are just as responsible for the actions of these Marines as the lack of discipline in this particular unit.

Scout snipers have one job.  Go find the enemy and kill them, preferably with a bullet to the head.  Looking through a scope, you get a sense of intimacy with your target, at times, before you pull the trigger.  This is going to create a callous disregard for that person's life.  You have to do it to stay sane.

This is not about a few "bad apples" any more than Abu Ghraib was.

This is about what war does to normal people.

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