A Little Sunday History


Nobody’s posted about the video of Marines pissing on dead Taliban soldiers, so even though it’s somewhat old news, I just want to disagree with the idea that the ubiquity of cameras adds a new transparency to war:

First, there’s the new transparency of war. Infinitely more battlefield details get recorded, and everyone has the tools to broadcast these details. So it’s just a matter of time before some outrageous image goes viral–pictures from Abu Ghraib, video from Afghanistan, whatever. These images will make you and your soldiers more hated by the enemy than ever–and hated by civilians who may identify with the enemy, whether because of national, ethnic, or religious kinship.

That’s Robert Wright at the Atlantic, but you hear that kind of thing all the time. I’ll grant that the Internet is faster, and that more cameras exist, but there were plenty enough cameras even in World War II to capture the dehumanization and mutilation of that enemy. The photo at top is of Bull Halsey’s famous exhortation to the troops after Pearl Harbor, and here’s a shot from Life Magazine, May 22, 1944, captioned “Arizona war worker writes her Navy boyfriend a thank-you-note for the Jap skull he sent her”:

There’s an excellent and well-illustrated Wikipedia article on mutilation of Japanese war dead. It went far beyond pissing on corpses.

My point is that this is what happens in war, our society has been exposed to it in the past even without YouTube, and the reason that it’s not commonplace knowledge is that most of the recent chroniclers of WW II chose to ignore it when they created their Greatest Generation hagiographies. If you’re interested in a real accounting of the attitudes surrounding World War II, I’d recommend Paul Fussell’s book Wartime.






275 replies
  1. 1
    BroD says:

    The problem is the war, not the acting-out on the part of those who have the unenviable task of fighting it.

  2. 2
    TOP123 says:

    In addition to Fussell, I’d recommend War Without Mercy: Race & Power in the Pacific War, by John Dower, with a more focused look at the US/Japan conflict.

  3. 3
    WereBear says:

    It’s saddening, but unsurprising. Actual people feel great tension when other actual people are actually trying to kill them.

    Racism could be a part of why the Japanese came in for more disrespect than other combatants in WWII. But there are other factors; for one, they started it. They also fought differently; they refused to surrender, and the Pacific war either had lots of distance: “I’m on a ship” or way too much closeness: “I’m right outside and have to use a flamethrower.”

    And early on it was known they did not treat POWs well. A lesson I’d think WE’D remember. George W Bush certainly forgot.

  4. 4
    Evolving Deep Southerner (tense changed for accuracy) says:

    I know I’m setting myself up to get flamed relentlessly, but it’s hard for me to get real worked up about this matter. Abu Ghraib was worth all this weeping and gnashing of teeth because living people (for the most part) had to endure that abuse. Those corpses weren’t embarrassed or humiliated or anything else. They felt nothing.

  5. 5
    kerFuFFler says:

    My dad was stationed in the Philippines near the end of WWII and because he spoke Japanese, he interviewed captured enemy soldiers. One of the main problems was that the American soldiers were killing combatants that they could have captured. My father toured about lecturing the troops on the importance of gleaning intelligence from these individuals and why they needed to restrain themselves from merely taking revenge for their fallen comrades in the field. But the killing continued, and my dad earned the reputation of a”Jap-lover”.

  6. 6
    scav says:

    Didn’t tourists flock to the site of Waterloo to pick up souvenirs? For years, I thought.

  7. 7
    IM says:

    Reminds me of the famous anti japanese propaganda of Dr. Seuss. Or of golden age comics.

  8. 8
    cathyx says:

    @Evolving Deep Southerner (tense changed for accuracy): Yes, you should get flamed for your comment. This is all part of the same problem, whether they are still alive when these acts are done or not. Humans have to evolve away from this way of behavior one step at a time. The previous step was being outraged when this was done to a living person. The current step is to be outraged when it’s done to a corpse. Hopefully the next step will be outrage over war in general. You just need to evolve a little more.

  9. 9
    geg6 says:

    Well, as any student of history can tell you, there is nothing new or surprising that these things happen in war. They say war is hell for a very good reason: it simply is.

    That said, I can’t get too exercised about this. I’m an atheist and really couldn’t care less what happens to the empty shells we leave behind when we die. The fetish religious people have about them mean nothing to me. I have instructions in my will that there is to be no such fetishizing of my dead body.

  10. 10
    greennotGreen says:

    It’s true that all sorts of abuses and desecration occur in war, but it becomes more problematic where you’re trying to win the “hearts and minds” of the people, and those people are the ones you’re abusing and desecrating.

  11. 11
    different-church-lady says:

    I love the look on her face: “Uhhh… thanks? I mean, what can I say?”

  12. 12
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @WereBear:

    George W Bush certainly forgot.

    That cowardly shit had nothing to forget.

    The guy who forgot was John McCain. To his everlasting shame and dishonor.

    The “transparency” of war probably reached its peak during Vietnam, and the US military took the lesson to heart. Having a war in your living room, during the dinner hour, every weekday was not good for the military industrial complex.

    So, the lesson learned: control media on the battlefield. We saw the results of this learned lesson in effect in the two Gulf wars.

    Bill Mauldin recounted a story of WWII, in which he witnessed just captured prisoners being shot; being a veteran front line soldier this didn’t particularly upset him, these things happen in war. War is an atrocity all by itself, no matter how “good” the war might be. Shit happens. Doesn’t excuse it…but it happens.

  13. 13
    greennotGreen says:

    @different-church-lady: Maybe what she’s thinking is, “Wow, underneath the skin we all look alike.”

  14. 14
    different-church-lady says:

    @Evolving Deep Southerner (tense changed for accuracy): It ain’t about how the corpses feel. It’s about how we’re perceived overseas.

  15. 15
    Xenos says:

    @geg6: Whether one fetishizes the dead body, respect for the dead is very important in Afghanistan and images like this can utterly reverse any political or diplomatic progress being made. Racism and cruelty may be a good way to ramp up a nation-state’s war effort against another nation-state, but it is terribly counterproductive in a counter-insurgency campaign.

    Why bother with a war if you don’t give a damn about winning it? I guess the question answers itself.

  16. 16
    WaterGirl says:

    Isn’t it also about honoring our commitments? I thought I read that the geneva conventions (or something) outlaw desecration of corpses.

    What I also don’t get is how so many people don’t have the ability to imagine what it would be like if the shoe were on the other foot.

    Your husband/wife/sister/brother/daughter/son gets killed in war. That’s a tragedy. Imagine the rage when you see a photo of your dead loved one, with the enemy standing over their body pissing in your loved one’s mouth. And that’s not something you see just once. I imagine that image haunts you.

  17. 17
    Evolving Deep Southerner (tense changed for accuracy) says:

    @cathyx:

    You just need to evolve a little more.

    I take another small step every day. That’s why I changed my ‘nym.

    @Xenos:

    Whether one fetishizes the dead body, respect for the dead is very important in Afghanistan and images like this can utterly reverse any political or diplomatic progress being made.

    That’s a point I understand, and what I presume what the uproar’s about. I just don’t share the dead-body fetish that some have, so the nature of my offense is going to be different.

    There’s a difference between not getting worked up about something personally and realizing that it’s a stupid, stupid thing for someone to have done.

  18. 18
    butler says:

    The fetish religious people have about them mean nothing to me.

    Well that’s very nice. The problem is that those religious people look at something like this and get even more pissed off and want to kill more Americans.

    That’s the issue here. No the urine, not the corpses, not the fact that War is Hell. This incident will fuel more hatred and death.

  19. 19
    cathyx says:

    For all of you who aren’t too bothered by this, if the corpse were someone you loved, laying there on the ground, and someone decided to relieve themselves right on your loved ones head, would you still not be too bothered by it? These people are someones loved ones.

  20. 20
    Elizabelle says:

    Wrong is wrong, and it was wrong for those Marines to defile the Afghan dead. Never mind making a video of their Hallmark moment.

    Mistermix: thanks for the history lesson. Forgotten, and never learned, for many.

  21. 21
    Michael says:

    …most of the recent chroniclers of WW II chose to ignore it when they created their Greatest Generation hagiographies.

    I would say that for a good number of conservatives, mutilating Japanese corpses is one of the reasons WHY they were the “Greatest Generation.” This is why Dana Loesch gets so turned on by it.

  22. 22
    Backbencher says:

    Eugene Sledge wrote a memoir about his experience as a marine in World War 2 called With the Old Breed. In his book he writes about instances when Americans mistreated Japanese corpses

  23. 23
    Evolving Deep Southerner (tense changed for accuracy) says:

    @cathyx: Your “What would the loved ones think?” speaks more to the stupidity of filming the act than doing it, doesn’t it? Had it not been filmed, would this not be one of those “If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a noise?” matters, no?

  24. 24
    TOP123 says:

    I remember when four US contractors were killed in Fallujah, and their bodies were dragged through the streets and hung from a bridge, the American response was anything but restrained. Would be curious to know what people like Dana Loesch thought of that.

  25. 25
    Elizabelle says:

    @WaterGirl:

    This.

    Can you imagine the poutrage if this had happened to our dead soldiers?

    Our opponents do it: they’re savages, not human, more proof we should go in there and annihilate them. (And their religion.)

    US Marines do it: meh.

    Disrespect is disrespect. Wrong is wrong is wrong.

  26. 26
    WereBear says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: The guy who forgot was John McCain. To his everlasting shame and dishonor.

    Of all the people who should have known better!

  27. 27
    Donut says:

    You just need to evolve a little more

    Well, that’s just about the most condescending thing I think I’ve read in awhile.

    My take is that in 40,000 years of human evolution, we haven’t stopped senselessly killing each other yet. Not about to happen any time soon. Not ever gonna happen, actually. You want a world where war is obsolete, enjoy some “Star Trek”.

    People do awful things when in awful situations. News at 11.

    And if your primary issue with this is, “aren’t we supposed to be winning hearts and minds,” I don’t even know how to respond to that. That kind of shit is empty sloganeering promulgated by Pentagon PR flacks to gain YOUR support. Nobody in any position to do anything about stopping wars gives a fucking shit about anyone’s heart or mind in Afghanistan.

  28. 28
    cathyx says:

    @Evolving Deep Southerner (tense changed for accuracy): No, here is another example of where you need to do more evolving. You will know you are getting close when you do the right thing even when no one is looking.

  29. 29
    Elizabelle says:

    I am getting an advertisement for Carolina Biological, purveyor of medical specimens. Gloved blue latex hand with a brain in it.

    First thought: South Carolina doesn’t mandate motorcycle helmets. Now we know someone else who might benefit from that. (I always wondered if USC aspired to a world class head trauma center.)

    Second thought: is it triggered by BJ blog content re the skull sitting on the table?

  30. 30
    Evolving Deep Southerner (tense changed for accuracy) says:

    @TOP123:

    I remember when four US contractors were killed in Fallujah, and their bodies were dragged through the streets and hung from a bridge, the American response was anything but restrained.

    That was the first thing I thought of when this matter arose, and I can remember feeling funny because I couldn’t work up the righteous outrage so many around me obviously felt. Those guys were dead. No matter what you do to their bodies, they didn’t feel a fucking thing once that light in their eyes went out. All the drama was among the living.

  31. 31
    Donut says:

    respect for the dead is very important in Afghanistan and images like this can utterly reverse any political or diplomatic progress being made

    Because all the other great stuff we do in Afghanistan certainly isn’t problematic!

    I am not saying you are wrong, but the problem is hardly beginning and ending with some Marines pissing on guys they just killed and who were trying to kill said Marines. The war’s end continuance will hardly hinge on this incident.

    More Freedom Bombs for all. Huzzah.

  32. 32
    Elizabelle says:

    Woo boy.

    The 23-year old arrested for allegedly killing four homeless Orange County CA men is an Iraq War vet.

    http://www.latimes.com/news/lo.....1926.story

    Seems to fit, a bit, with the topic.

  33. 33
    Schlemizel says:

    @Backbencher:
    I highly recommend his book “With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa”. It paints a complex picture but it is one of the few books on WWII written by a combatant. It gives you a decent look at day-to-day life in the Pacific. After reading many books by generals & historians it was great to read this.

    Also, if you enjoyed “Band Of Brothers” avoid Dick Winters book at all costs. He does not come across as a decent guy and it shed an ugly light on his behavior toward Sobel.

  34. 34
    Evolving Deep Southerner (tense changed for accuracy) says:

    @cathyx:

    You will know you are getting close when you do the right thing even when no one is looking.

    That’s the crux of our disagreement. To you, if nobody’s looking, it’s still wrong. To me, if nobody’s looking, it’s just four dumbass “American heroes” taking a piss.

  35. 35
  36. 36
    cromagnon says:

    Perhaps mistermix should educate himself on how the Japanese treated American soldiers, both live and dead, before condemning those evil American soldiers for their actions. We have never fought a more brutal and ruthless enemy than the Japanese. 50% of American POWs in Japanese captivity died (compared to 3% in German captivity). Those who survived were living skeletons… I just love how those who never been shot at are so quick to judge. Or so quick to judge our own soldiers that is, since the atrocities committed by our enemies don’t seem to bother them in the least… Pathetic

  37. 37
    dmsilev says:

    @IM:

    Reminds me of the famous anti japanese propaganda of Dr. Seuss. Or of golden age comics.

    There’s a wonderful book called “Dr. Seuss goes to war” which collects the editorial cartoons that Geisel drew just prior to and during WWII. One of the amazing contrasts is a whole series of cartoons decrying the racist ideology of the Nazis, followed almost immediately by some of the most cartoonishly racist portrayals of the Japanese possible. All in a style that is very easily identifiable as Seussian.

  38. 38
    geg6 says:

    For those who are so outraged by my lack of feeling about what happens to dead bodies, I understand that religious people will be outraged by it. I am just saying that I am not. And if it was the dead body of one of my family members would not change that. I find the fetishizing of dead bodies that we do here in this country (graves, open caskets, elaborate viewings, etc.) sick and disgusting and I refuse to be a part of it.

    As for the idea that somehow we will win the hearts and minds of Afghans by not oissing on their corpses too stupid an argument to even consider. Perhaps not invading and killing them in the first place would be a better step toward that goal. I was and am not completely against the war there, but the only way to make Afghans like or admire us would be to not kill them in the first place.

  39. 39
    RSA says:

    If I notice that

    Admiral Halsey says “…Kill more Japs”!.

    is very badly punctuated, does that make me a grammar Nazi?

  40. 40
    Evolving Deep Southerner (tense changed for accuracy) says:

    @cathyx: Wow. OK. Thanks for talking with me, anyway!

  41. 41
    Raven says:

    @Schlemizel: And then go on Stud’s Terkel’s website and listen to the interviews with Dr Sledge.

  42. 42
    WereBear says:

    @Elizabelle: Woo boy, indeed. One thrown-away person kills other thrown-away persons.

    But those 1%, there’s a lot of variations.

  43. 43
    cmorenc says:

    Why bother with the indirect verbal description in books, when you can get a much more direct, vivid vicarious experience watching the fabulous series “The Pacific” on DVD. That particular HBO dramatization was based on several real-life American marines’ experience fighting the Japanese in some of the crucial battles in the Pacific theater. Particularly poignant was that the episode at the end of the series concluded with interviews of some of the actual people who were depicted by actors in the series, especially Eugene Sledge, the genteel boy from Alabama who took quite awhile to overcome the psychological scars of vengeful dehumanization he experienced fighting Japanese soldiers.

  44. 44
    PeakVT says:

    I have three reactions to what the Marines did: 1) that’s kinda gross, 2) that’s epically fucking stupid to film and pass around, 3) if President Brush Clearer hadn’t started an entirely unnecessary war in Iraq, the US probably wouldn’t have soldiers still in Afghanistan. It’s the last one that really bugs me.

  45. 45
    Raven says:

    Fussell and Sledge both explain how few people have any fucking idea what any of this is about, even those were literally 100 yards behind the line. The blogosphere is well beyond that distance.

  46. 46
  47. 47
    Robert Sneddon says:

    @cromagnon: So it’s OK to commit atrocities as long as the other side committed atrocities first, if I interpret your words correctly. Tit-for-tat is a lousy way to run a war in my opinion.

    What I see in this case of the Marines filmed urinating in a dead Taliban’s face and mouth is a failure of discipline, just as the Abu Ghraib scandal was a failure of discipline. Those soldiers stopped being soldiers under discipline and became warriors, rejoicing in war and death. Where were their superior officers? Why did they not intervene? Did they acquiesce in it as harmless or turn a blind eye because they feared their subordinates?

  48. 48
    cmorenc says:

    @Raven: Yes indeed Eugene Sledge did. He was easily the most likable, and easiest to identify person in the series. But also, his particular story makes it the easiest to understand how war can utterly transform a gentle, civilized person into an aggressive homicidal savage.

    I’m old enough to remember my father’s generation only being ten to fifteen years out from WW2, and that practically none of them talked much about their combat experiences during the war, as opposed to their experience in the service stateside during training, or on leave in various places. Now I understand why.

  49. 49
    Rafer Janders says:

    @Xenos:

    Whether one fetishizes the dead body, respect for the dead is very important in Afghanistan .

    It’s not like it’s a quaint custom of those primitive Afghans. Respect for the dead is very important in human beings, in every culture and country on earth.

  50. 50
    Raven says:

    Pat Lang, great defender of the confederacy, comes down hard on this and explains that US soldiers don’t desecrate the dead. He went to VMI and was a SF officer in the Nam. Tim O’Brien in “The Things They Carried” describes a different take from the perspective of regular grunts stuck in that shit.

  51. 51
    PanurgeATL says:

    @Michael:

    Well, let’s face it, the complete, but unspoken, title of Tom Brokaw’s book is The Greatest Generation NOT THOSE DIRTY FUCKING BOOMER HIPPIES. No one seems to remember that no one was calling them that before that book came out.

  52. 52
    Raven says:

    @cmorenc: It took my old man until I came home from Vietnam to open up about his experiences in the Pacific.

  53. 53
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Evolving Deep Southerner (tense changed for accuracy):
    @geg6:
    If I understand you correctly, you’re arguing that a human being’s dead body is a mere empty shell; that it’s proper to venerate only what is worthy; that it is thus absurd, maybe a little superstitious, to speak of “desecrating” such an unimportant thing. From a strictly materialist point of view, I guess that premise is true.

    But I have to disagree: a dead body isn’t really just a dead body. Respect for one isn’t merely superstitious awe that it no longer lives and breathes and moves. It is respect for death itself as part of the cycle of life. That respect is so deeply ingrained in us that every human culture and every belief system (well, almost every belief system) has rituals for the handling and disposal of dead bodies that address more than the hygiene issue of leaving corpses lying around.

    That’s why desecrating a corpse isn’t nothing. It’s not just that pissing on a corpse is rude. It shows a loss of respect for life itself, of a fundamental aspect of one’s humanity. That respect is why Admiral Halsey’s wartime exhortation now makes us uneasy that one of his quality should feel, let alone say, such a thing. His words are a reminder that even the best of us can forget their humanity in wartime. That, as much as the wholesale slaughter and destruction, is the horror of war.

  54. 54
    Rafer Janders says:

    @Evolving Deep Southerner (tense changed for accuracy):

    That’s the crux of our disagreement. To you, if nobody’s looking, it’s still wrong. To me, if nobody’s looking, it’s just four dumbass “American heroes” taking a piss.

    Let’s say, for example, that your mother died. Even if it you never heard about it, would it be objectively wrong if the mortuary workers decided to have some fun by raping your mother’s corpse? She’s dead, so it wouldn’t be a problem, would it, since you don’t share the dead-body fetish that the rest of us have? No harm to any living being, so no foul, right?

  55. 55
    Raven says:

    @Amir Khalid: Halsey’s words were a direct reflection of what war is about. The manifestation of that was the firebombings of Germany and Japan and millions of other killings, mass and otherwise.

  56. 56
    Donut says:

    All I’m saying is, from my fairly privileged perch here in Evanston, Illinois, I’m thinking I am hardly in a fucking position to wax poetic about public relations or what a few soldiers should or shouldn’t do after killing someone who was, a few minutes prior, trying just as hard them.

    Who the fuck are you to pass judgment on these guys?

    They are professional killers. That is the job they do. They are asked to kill and/or die on your behalf. You want that to change, you vote for someone who will radically alter the Pentagon and the awful system that has evolved up around it since 1941.

    Pro tip: Barack Obama is not that guy.

    Look, I personally would like to see a Defense Dept that is geared towards actual defense as opposed to offense, but that’s not happening any time soon. I vote as often as I can for people whom I think share my view, but I’m not naive.

  57. 57
    TOP123 says:

    @cromagnon: And have you looked at how Japanese fared at the hands of US soldiers?

    Yes, the Japanese did terrible things to US/UK/ANZAC soldiers, and worse things to Chinese, soldiers and civilians alike, but the picture is more complicated. The reason so few Japanese even survived to reach captivity is a lot less simple than the typical explanation: that Japanese soldiers and sailors, imbued with the spirit of bushido (see, they were culturally alien!) refused to surrender. Generally, those who tried were refused the opportunity. US forces on the ground were regularly reminded of the importance of capturing Japanese prisoners and keeping them alive for their intelligence value: regularly, for the very reason that soldiers, sailors and marines so commonly killed them out of hand. There is a common trope that Japanese pilots didn’t use parachutes. Actually, you can easily find (if you look) accounts of Japanese pilots, in parachutes, being machine-gunned on their way down. There is much more that could be written about this, but to keep it brief, read some modern research on the war. The book I recommended above is a great place to start.

  58. 58
    Raven says:

    We kill more of them, we win
    they kill more of us, they win

    Woody Allen
    Love and Death

  59. 59
    jrg says:

    @cathyx:

    You will know you are getting close when you do the right thing even when no one is looking.

    Oh, bullshit. Would the Taliban soldiers have complained about it? It’s only wrong if you get caught, and the best way I can think of to get caught is to take video of yourself doing it.

    Regardless of how one might feel of the morality, this will probably cost American lives. It was to be expected, though. People under stress do stupid, destructive things. This kind of thing will continue happening until we get out of Afghanistan.
    <br?
    I mean, really… We can't convince many of our own mountain folk not to do shit like harbor Eric Rudolph. WTF are we doing trying to influence the values of a bunch of isolated goat herders on the other side of the globe? This shit is futile.

  60. 60
    Danny says:

    Leaving morals aside, there are practical and legal reasons why the Marines behavior is unacceptable.

    It’s counterproductive to achieving the objectives they are paid to try to achieve. Videos such as these are a useful tool for Taliban and Al Qaeda recruiting efforts. I think there’s actually a pretty strong case to be made that conservatives at home applauding or excusing behavior like this is making the troops job harder and more dangerous.

    In addition, behavior like this is illegal under the Geneva Conventions. Geneva – while imperfect – is the best workable framework there is to somewhat moderate the excesses and tragedy of war. The moment key sponsors – like e.g. the western democracies – starts ignoring international law, it becomes irrelevant.

  61. 61
    Brian S says:

    @Donut:

    My take is that in 40,000 years of human evolution, we haven’t stopped senselessly killing each other yet. Not about to happen any time soon.

    But we do kill each other a lot less than we used to, even a generation ago, and we’re more disturbed by it when it happens. Acting like we’re an inherently violent species that isn’t getting more peaceful is what earned you the condescending remark.

  62. 62
    scav says:

    Like many things hanging about funeral rites and death, much of what we do more importantly is done for the living, those that are left. Symbolically, it’s important, otherwise the idiots wouldn’t have bothered.

  63. 63
    Evolving Deep Southerner (tense changed for accuracy) says:

    @Rafer Janders: And I never found out about it? No. I can’t care about something I don’t know about. My mom sure as shit wouldn’t tell on them. Now if they filmed it and put it on YouTube? Different story. It’s only the act of filming and display that would demand an answer.

  64. 64
    HRA says:

    What matters most to me is what happens to the living and yet I can understand the cringe at seeing the dead being treated without respect being another part of the mindset of those who have disrespect for the living. We can bring out examples from one side or the other regarding the cruelty to make our argument and still it fails to cease. Sadly, we are no longer surprised.

  65. 65
    Schlemizel says:

    @cmorenc:
    All my uncles served in the Pacific (one was on Peleliu). When I knew them they were all sullen, angry men. I didn’t understand it as a kid & thought my dad’s family was just messed up (well, they were but that was in addition to their war time experiences). I had a very good friend who ended up in Viet Nam & saw the change that made in him. This destruction of human spirit is a cost of war that never gets acknowledged and is never accounted for in the run up to war.

  66. 66
    TOP123 says:

    @Evolving Deep Southerner (tense changed for accuracy): Sorry just getting to this. Part of my point (and yes, I was also commenting on how people here felt when it was done to Americans, and on right-wing hypocrisy) is the practical one: this incident sparked the First Battle of Fallujah, which resulted in a US defeat and hundreds of civilian deaths.

  67. 67
    Donut says:

    And all that said, whatever the rules of engagement are, these guys should be held to them. Obviously discipline did break down and they fucked up. While I agree that they shouldn’t have done the act and that they should be held to a standard regardless, I am just not able to get into a Moral Outrage over this.

  68. 68
    cathyx says:

    @jrg: If you think that something is only wrong if you get caught doing it, then you have no integrity either.

  69. 69
    jrg says:

    @cathyx: If no one complains about it, no one was hurt, Einstein.

  70. 70
    Donut says:

    But we do kill each other a lot less than we used to, even a generation ago, and we’re more disturbed by it when it happens. Acting like we’re an inherently violent species that isn’t getting more peaceful is what earned you the condescending remark

    Who is this “we” to which you refer?

  71. 71
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Donut:
    In other words, you don’t get why desecrating dead bodies is morally outrageous.

  72. 72
    scav says:

    @jrg: Well, if volume of whining is your evidence of hurt, the 1% are truly the most oppressed among us.

  73. 73
    jrg says:

    @scav: touché

  74. 74
    cathyx says:

    @jrg: You are a perfect example of moral decay.

  75. 75
    lawguy says:

    We are not fighting a war like WWII, what we are currently fighting can best be described as a colonial war that is actually opposed by a large percentage of this country. So what would have gotten an “Oh, well.” at the most between 1942 and 1945 gets a lot more criticism today. Read some of Mark Twain’s stuff on the Philippine Insurrection if you are interested in seeing some historical parallels of what is being written today.

    Comparing all of our wars to WWII is kind of, well silly. WWII was a totally different war than any other we’ve fought since 1865. It was viewed by us as a war that was for our very existence, therefore people were behind it in a way that hasn’t existed since then, and rarely before then.

  76. 76
    J says:

    @TOP123: Second the recommendation for Dowers book. One snippet that stands out in my memory: a bit of doggerel the enlists anti-racism is the service of racism:

    “Our Cohens and our Kellys will slit their yellow bellies”

  77. 77
    geg6 says:

    Amir Khalid, I understand what you are saying and get that most don’t see it the same way. But where you go off the rails for me is the idea that, somehow, dead bodies have something to do with life. Perhaps they do have something to do with the lives they will nourish as they decompose, but that’s about it. The rituals surrounding those dead bodies are the only things that have to do with people’s lives, not the bodies. And those rituals have nothing to with respect for the dead person, but are only there to give the living something to do in order to act on their grief. Personally, a better use of your time and emotion would be to honor the actual life of the dead person, either through reminiscence or actions to support what that person meant to you. You could throw my body in a ditch and have a thousand soldiers piss on it and I wouldn’t give a damn as long as you made a donation to the scholarship fund I have set up with my small estate. My will specifically says that there is to be no viewing, funeral, or burial (just cremate me and dump the ashes wherever), but a party on my dime in remembrance and the establishment of the scholarship. I want fun and education to replace all that other ghoulishness that surrounds death for the vast majority.

  78. 78
    scav says:

    @geg6: But geg, how is this different from imposing strict xian (or islamic or hindi or blah or green) forms of behavior on everybody, no matter what works for them? Some don’t draw the same bright line between death and life that you seem to. I’m glad it (whatever it is) works for you, and I’m personally not far off on the spectrum vis-á-vis my own composting but I don’t find elevating one set of cultural-emotional responses over another makes any real sense. Just accept that the two tribes find each others attitudes ghoulish and foolish.

  79. 79
    Donut says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    No. I get it completely. I respect others’ religious beliefs.

    But I am not trading one moral judgment (the desecration) for another (the actions of kill or be killed in war).

    Who are you to say it’s okay for the one act to occur, but when the killing is all over, well, it’s right back to the safe and sane moral boxes for everyone?

    Is the human mind really that simple? Is the human mind that rational? I don’t think so. I have never been in a position where I had to kill someone. I hope I never am. Until I am, I don’t know dick about this scenario. Do we really have the ability as humans to shut off our rage and self-defense mechanisms so quickly, all the time, every time? Again, I don’t know. But when you’ve been asked to do a job, as a soldier and as a warrior, and you do it, it’s a pretty high bar to cross to say, “well, that’s done, just gonna go back to the normal way of living now and forget all about that.”

    The fact that these guys came back to the States and were showing this video off tells me that the incident is something they will carry with themselves and have to deal with for a long time after, regardless of whether or not it became a media event.

    This all way deeper and way more of a grey area than a lot of people want to admit.

    That’s is really my point, I guess.

  80. 80
    Evolving Deep Southerner (tense changed for accuracy) says:

    @cathyx: @Rafer Janders

    Look, an act is “moral” or “immoral” (or “objectively wrong,” if you prefer) depending on whether someone else is hurt by it. To me, a dead body can’t be hurt any more than a rock or a log can be hurt. The “immorality” attaches at the point of filming and disseminating the act. I can assure you the dead person involved will be the last one to complain of being hurt.

    How does it feel to walk around this mean, ignorant world among so many without integrity?

  81. 81
    Kola Noscopy says:

    @cathyx:

    You just need to evolve a little more.

    Wow. Please try to be a little more condescending.

  82. 82
    geg6 says:

    scav, I may not be clear in what I’m saying.

    I get that most people are outraged by this sort of thing. I’m not saying anyone should follow my oath on this. I’m just stating my own reaction to this, which is basically that I don’t find this a big deal. Dead bodies are nothing more than dead bodies to me. If others want their ghoulish rituals and go into paroxisms of outrage when those rituals are violated, they are welcome to. But I won’t be a part of it and I don’t want anyone wasting time or money doing it on my behalf. I’m much more concerned with the living and want my legacy to be in line with that.

  83. 83
    jrg says:

    @cathyx: I find your arguments compelling, and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

    @Evolving Deep Southerner (tense changed for accuracy): This.

  84. 84
    Kola Noscopy says:

    Who knew unspeakable acts take place in war, performed by even mild-mannered individuals who under normal circumstances wouldn’t hurt a fly?

    This is unprecedented! These individual soldiers MUST be punished while those who commanded them into battle write their memoirs and cash their checks.

    It is simply the American Way!

  85. 85
    Brian S says:

    @Donut:

    My take is that in 40,000 years of human evolution, we haven’t stopped senselessly killing each other yet.

    This we, genius. You’re the one suggesting that we’re basically unchanged in terms of violence in the last 40,000 years. The fact is that we–human beings–have changed, and we’re progressing toward a more peaceful society every year, which is why some people are outraged by the disrespect shown toward those Afghani bodies when the number of people who’d have been outraged, say, during WWII, would have been significantly smaller.

  86. 86
    Evolving Deep Southerner (tense changed for accuracy) says:

    @scav:

    Just accept that the two tribes find each others attitudes ghoulish and foolish.

    I don’t think anyone here is stupid enough not to accept that each side find the others’ actions reprehensible, regardless of whether it’s American-on-Afghan desecration or the reverse.

    All I (and a couple of others) are saying up top is that in the grand scheme of war, this is less than nothing. Or should be.

  87. 87
    Danny says:

    This is unprecedented! These individual soldiers MUST be punished while those who commanded them into battle write their memoirs and cash their checks.

    It’s about as reasonable to punish them for this as it would be to punish them for any other failure to follow orders, agreed?

  88. 88
    Kola Noscopy says:

    @cathyx:

    No, here is another example of where you need to do more evolving. You will know you are getting close when you do the right thing even when no one is looking.

    OMG, she did it again.

  89. 89
    Kola Noscopy says:

    @Elizabelle:

    The 23-year old arrested for allegedly killing four homeless Orange County CA men is an Iraq War vet.

    Wow. That’s shocking. Who knew wars cause PTSD and life long mental/emotional problems among those who fight them?

    This is unprecedented!

  90. 90
    Evolving Deep Southerner (tense changed for accuracy) says:

    @Kola Noscopy: Yeah. I’ve done my good deed for the day – making cathyx feel morally superior – and it’s not even noon yet.

    Otherwise, I think I need to rethink that pseudonym (again.) People have to think too little to use it as a peg to hang their ad hominem insults upon. It’s like walking through junior high when your last name is “Pecker” or something.

  91. 91
    Kola Noscopy says:

    @cromagnon:

    I just love how those who never been shot at are so quick to judge.

    yup

  92. 92
    Kola Noscopy says:

    @geg6:

    I find the fetishizing of dead bodies that we do here in this country (graves, open caskets, elaborate viewings, etc.) sick and disgusting and I refuse to be a part of it.

    I don’t completely disagree with you regarding the American death industry, but you might consider that FEAR of death might be driving your strong feelings on this. Spending some time in the presence of dead loved ones before burial or cremation has helped me somehow process and accept the reality of their being truly gone. I was able to really grasp the reality of their absence in a way I could not have otherwise. That time helped me move from natural denial and resistance to acceptance.

  93. 93
    WyldPirate says:

    Rafer Johnson @54:
    ” Let’s say, for example, that your mother died. Even if it you never heard about it, would it be objectively wrong if the mortuary workers decided to have some fun by raping your mother’s corpse? She’s dead, so it wouldn’t be a problem, would it, since you don’t share the dead-body fetish that the rest of us have? No harm to any living being, so no foul, right?”

    Someone made a rape analogy. Maybe a Twitter Jihad and a short thread should be started to blame Glen Greenwald for this.

  94. 94
    Soonergrunt says:

    First, I want to say that the vast majority of comments on this thread have been thoughtful and well articulated. Even as I’ve disagreed with some of you here, this thread has been remarkable for the quality. Kola Nut’s typical content-free attention-whoring excepted, of course.
    Leaving aside individual moral positions about the rightness or wrongness or lack of moral value one way or the other about the specific act of urinating on these bodies (and I think it was morally wrong to do so) or the utility argument (this will stir up passions against us, and so on–which it will, but it’s more light than heat in that respect) I come to the argument that it’s simply against the law.
    What they did is a violation (potentially several violations) of military law. If their superiors knew about it and failed to punish them, or failed to prevent this through proper supervision, that is a violation (potentially several violations) as well.
    In the US military, it is the specific duty of Non-Commissioned Officers, i.e. Corporals and Sergeants, and junior Commissioned Officers (Lieutenants and Captains) to prevent this kind of thing whenever possible and to report it whenever necessary.
    I’m more concerned about the break down of discipline that would allow this event to occur and go undetected for so long. It gives me reason to suspect that other problems and possibly crimes will be uncovered as this goes on.

    The events that Scott Beauchamp wrote about in his dispatches were all relatively minor but they were indicators of a chain of command that was selective in it’s enforcement of discipline, law, and regulation. And what did we subsequently learn about that unit? That key leaders were involved in a plot to torture and murder detainees and cover up those acts. Several of them, notably the First Sergeant that so publicly smeared Beauchamp as a liar, are serving lengthy sentences in Fort Leavenworth.

  95. 95
    Mark B says:

    I’ve often joked about pissing on Reagan’s grave, but I wouldn’t actually do it. Not out of respect for what’s in there, since there’s nothing there but a pile of dust, but out of respect for all of the people who have an irrational belief in spirit beings. Grave pissing, like funerals, aren’t for the departed ones. It’s for the living, sending a message to the people who had some interaction or feeling about the person while they lived, and to create some lingering effect in their memories, which is the only real afterlife anyone will ever have.

    Desecration of a corpse is a stupid act, since it inflames the passions of those who irrationally believe that some sort of magic has occurred, and it makes it impossible to talk about the actual morality of the situation. Which is why I’ll keep my pissing on Reagan’s grave metaphorical.

  96. 96
    greennotGreen says:

    @Evolving Deep Southerner (tense changed for accuracy):

    Look, an act is “moral” or “immoral” (or “objectively wrong,” if you prefer) depending on whether someone else is hurt by it.

    In a previous example of a person’s mother’s corpse being raped in the mortuary, what has that act done to the rapist? Is this the owner of the mortuary? If it’s an employee, that’s a pretty poor job performance. Even if it’s the owner, I believe that most morticians would agree treating the body with respect is a requisite for the continuation of their business. Is necrophilia compatible with a healthy psyche? So I think someone has been hurt, even if no one ever finds out – unless I’m wrong and necrophilia and deception are just a-okay.

  97. 97
    Benjamin Franklin says:

    I’m more concerned about the break down of discipline that would allow this event to occur and go undetected for so long. It gives me reason to suspect that other problems and possibly crimes will be uncovered as this goes on.

    @Soonergrunt:

    I believe they were 3rd Battalion, deployed early in 2011 and returned Sept/Oct

    I marvel at shows like world’s dumbest criminals where people allow themselves to be videotaped during the crime. The casual nature of the video suggest the Marines were performing an act that was uncontroversial amongst their peers. I share your concern.

  98. 98
    Brian S says:

    @WyldPirate: Big difference between a rape analogy and a rape joke.

  99. 99
    CarolDuhart2 says:

    What’s different is that more people can actually see this sort of thing in real time-while the war is still going on. World War II pictures would have been censored mostly for “morals reasons” if they went into the paper-that is, if the paper ever got them in the first place. And of course, those pictures could have been altered to eliminate the most egregious stuff-or exaggerate, depending on which side. And it was all slow-days and weeks and months via mail. About that skull-we see the skull, but not the way in which is was gotten in the first place.

    And the internet has ended the usual asymmetry of information. Everybody has modern communication through cellphones, the internet and whatnot, so there’s a feedback loop no matter where a war is now. So things that took years to get around, or got no further than local reporting, or tales that were only told when the fighting was over, get back almost immediately to everyone.

    And the volume and breadth? A lot of those pictures you described from World War II were only seen for a relatively few. If you didn’t get that paper, or read that book, you missed it-and so did a lot of the enemy. And a lot was held back due to censorship of one kind or another. The internet has no real censor-anything can be transmitted and everything can be transmitted-indeed the sheer volume of material can be transmitted.

  100. 100
    Samara Morgan says:

    Cole posted about it, and i linked this post of “Col.” West whitewashing it.
    Here.

    Those marines were doing a touchdown dance, and they got caught out.
    Just like Tebow.

  101. 101
    geg6 says:

    Kola Noscopy @92:

    Well, I guess I can see how you got something out of it, but my experience has been that I did not. I came to terms with my parents deaths when they actually died. I was with both of them when they did. And for other friends and relatives, it was the wakes (not to be confused with viewings) that did it for me, which is why I am happy to provide cash for one for myself. For me, mourning without a celebration of that person’s life and with only a focus on the ghoulish aspects of a person’s passing is the ultimate disrespect for that person.

    But again, I realize I am not conventional in this.

  102. 102
    Kola Noscopy says:

    @Evolving Deep Southerner (tense changed for accuracy):

    On the other hand, in a perfect world we’d all acknowledge that we are all always evolving, for better for worse, so good on you for acknowledging that, especially here at BJ where there is so much black/white certainty about most things.

  103. 103
    Kola Noscopy says:

    @Soonergrunt:

    Kola Nut’s typical content-free attention-whoring excepted, of course.

    Thank you for continuing to fixate on me, Sooner. I kind of like you too. Malt shop after school?

    And excuse me, but you’re a front pager on a well-traveled blog and I’M the attention whore?

  104. 104
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Donut:
    In your comment #67, you said that the US Marines who pissed on those Afghan corpses should be punished for breaking the rules. You also said

    I am just not able to get into a Moral Outrage over this.

    Since desecrating corpses in itself does not move you to moral outrage, I infer that you do not find the act morally outrageous. Since you don’t identify a flaw in the arguments of those who do find it morally outrageous, I infer that you don’t quite get those arguments.

  105. 105
    Soonergrunt says:

    @Benjamin Franklin: The murders perpetrated by a few Soldiers in 5th Stryker Brigade were uncovered when one Private got caught with hashish and spilled his guts about the events. That Private was caught because another Private went to sick call with bruises and broken ribs from a beating he received because he was thought to be a snitch. Turns out that he was.
    The Abu Ghraib mess was uncovered when a Sergeant who was the unit’s go-to guy for computer issues found pictures of POW mistreatment and reported them to CID.
    In every single one of these cases, the Chain of Command had failed spectacularly to do their most fundamental job of supervising their personnel.

  106. 106
    Evolving Deep Southerner (tense changed for accuracy) says:

    @greennotGreen: Look, there’s no need to go through all of these “scenario gymnastics.” You clearly believe that a bad act is bad regardless of whether anybody’s hurt by it. Once you go to the whole “harm to the actor’s psyche” line of thinking, well, it’s clear how you feel. I feel differently. Let’s just leave my poor dead mother out of your moral contortions, OK?

  107. 107
    Klaus says:

    Donut is right. The problem is the war itself, and people supporting the Afghanistan war as some sort of justified and noble pursuit and then get outraged at bad behaviour from the troops actually fighting – are you just stupid or that hypocritical? This happens, and it will keep happening as long as the war goes on. But this one incident in pictures, which is always a bad thing in terms of publicity.

  108. 108
    Samara Morgan says:

    wrong link.
    Heres the right one.

    West: 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?

    LOL! im pretty fucking shocked “Col” West has the damn gall to talk about the Iraqi Rape Squad that way.

  109. 109
    Soonergrunt says:

    @Kola Noscopy: No. You’re not my type. I prefer people who are not worthless jerk-asses.
    I will note that you’ve actually said thoughtful things here.

    Stopped clocks, law of large numbers, etc.
    And yes, you are the attention whore. All trolls are. Because no matter the topic, no matter the tactic, no matter the specific comments and postings, you, like all trolls, do everything you can to make it about YOU. The fact that you have refrained in this particular context is remarkable for it’s rarity and uniqueness.

  110. 110
    Linnaeus says:

    @Soonergrunt: What you said.

  111. 111
    Evolving Deep Southerner (tense changed for accuracy) says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    Since you don’t identify a flaw in the arguments of those who do find it morally outrageous, I infer that you don’t quite get those arguments.

    It seems like s/he and others have identified the flaws – or what we perceive as flaws – pretty clearly. It’s not that nuanced or complicated an argument. It’s just that people agree to disagree. I didn’t expect to be in the majority opinion when I said that I wasn’t outraged. The only surprise I’ve had have been the number of people who’ve either agreed or concurred with me for their own separate, stated reasons. It seems it’s you who refuses to “get” (or at least hear) arguments running contrary to your own position in this matter.

  112. 112
    TOP123 says:

    @Soonergrunt: I agree with you that this has been a great thread: and thank you for one of the best comments in a discussion full of them.

    I wanted to recommend another great book on the topic, but I’m pretty sure most everyone here’s heard of the Iliad. Seriously, though, it keeps running through my mind while we’re talking about this. For all the importance that the Greeks might have attached to proper burial, and all the drama of the single combat, and the desecration of Hector’s corpse that follows, I think Homer was really concerned about the suffering of Achilles and Priam. It is their loss of Patroclus and Hector that is the source of the drama. So while those who’ve been pointing out that the dead are beyond feeling may well have a point, it is the living, more specifically their suffering, which is at issue. Now, does it matter, as has been suggested, if the desecration has no witnesses? Yes, I think it does, and for the very reasons you point out.

    Maltreatment of the enemy, living and dead, certainly has a long history, and respect for the fallen has been an ideal often not lived up to; but it exists for a reason, as one of the walls we’ve attempted to put between civilized war and pure savage murder on a grand scale. Whether this actually works is something I’ll leave to those wiser than I, but the attempt exists, and has, most likely, forever. (Look at the rituals surrounding conflict documented in Papua New Guinea for a ‘best-guess’ example.) It is because of this break with accepted custom and law that the desecration of one’s enemy’s corpse matters, even if no-one is a witness. Do I blame the perpetrator? I’m not really in a position to. Society, however, should not excuse this, and it is repulsive for the armchair warriors of the Loesch Brigade to celebrate it.

  113. 113
    Kola Noscopy says:

    @Soonergrunt:

    The events that Scott Beauchamp wrote about in his dispatches were all relatively minor but they were indicators of a chain of command that was selective in it’s enforcement of discipline, law, and regulation. And what did we subsequently learn about that unit? That key leaders were involved in a plot to torture and murder detainees and cover up those acts.

    And do you believe that these types of circumstances in wartime, among the American military, are common, rare but not unheard of, very rare, or almost nonexistent?

    When there is ZERO legal accountability for the masterminds of wars of aggression at the top of the command chain, why the hell should any of these grunt soldiers be in jail?

  114. 114
    Benjamin Franklin says:

    @Soonergrunt:

    In every single one of these cases, the Chain of Command had failed spectacularly to do their most fundamental job of supervising their personnel.

    Isn’t this SOP for direct command officers during war? Paperwork seems to be the enemy.

  115. 115
    Kola Noscopy says:

    @Benjamin Franklin:

    The casual nature of the video suggest the Marines were performing an act that was uncontroversial amongst their peers. I share your concern.

    War-enabling concern trolls are concerned.

  116. 116
    Samara Morgan says:

    “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.”

    See mixie? Social media means we cant dance in the endzone anymore.

  117. 117
    Dustin says:

    @ Danny:Leaving morals aside, there are practical and legal reasons why the Marines behavior is unacceptable. It’s counterproductive to achieving the objectives they are paid to try to achieve.

    This, a thousand times over. These guys guys appear to have broken a whole slew of laws and common sense and, regardless of the metaphysical and psychological impact of their actions, they’ve just given their enemies a massive PR boost. I get that they’ve been there a long time, that it fucks with one’s head royally, and that these guys tried to kill them and probably deserve this and more, but this shit does more harm than good and there are rules to prevent it. This kind of behavior would have gotten these guys beat to hell and back if they tried it in the 75th, stress be damned. And that’s before their superiors were notified.

    @ cathyx: @jrg: You are a perfect example of moral decay.

    Oh stuff it cathy. The only reason you can get away with fitting that high horse of yours on that milkcrate is because modern military tech has succeeded in dehumanizing and distancing war from civilian life. You don’t have to worry about a pitched battle outside of your bedroom window. You don’t need to worry about anyone you know being drafted. And, most importantly, you live in a nation with a military so powerful that you’ll never face an existential threat. You’re sheltered, just as most of the western world is.

    @ Brian S: This we, genius. You’re the one suggesting that we’re basically unchanged in terms of violence in the last 40,000 years. The fact is that we—human beings—have changed, and we’re progressing toward a more peaceful society every year, which is why some people are outraged by the disrespect shown toward those Afghani bodies when the number of people who’d have been outraged, say, during WWII, would have been significantly smaller.

    This “evolution” you speak is nothing but a groupthink term that coddled civilians imagine because they’ve never been in combat. The only reason war is less savage then it used to be (from your perspective) is that our perspective has gotten larger, and thus it takes more lives to impact you. A true evolution doesn’t devolve as quickly as it does on the ground. Humanity hasn’t changed away from the horrors of war, we’ve just sanitized it.

    Soonergrunt: I’m more concerned about the break down of discipline that would allow this event to occur and go undetected for so long. It gives me reason to suspect that other problems and possibly crimes will be uncovered as this goes on.

    Same here. You don’t get this behavior, even from blueheads, unless the group culture is willing to “be flexible” with the UCMJ. That’s the worst part, that these were probably just the idiots that got caught.

    Soonergrunt: In every single one of these cases, the Chain of Command had failed spectacularly to do their most fundamental job of supervising their personnel.

    With as much strain as the system’s going through is it really that surprising that it’s breaking down? The paperwork from stress related breakdowns alone is enough to many many a CO say screw it and look the other way.

  118. 118
    Chris says:

    Sooner @ 105 – what you said.

    My mother had the same reaction of “where were the officers? Why don’t they control this?” And while I’ve never been in the military, my suspicion is the officers are at least as big a part of the problem as their men. Certainly most of the future officers I knew in college ROTC weren’t people I’d have trusted to restrain their men from any Abu Ghraib or Haditha type shenanigans.

  119. 119
    CarolDuhart2 says:

    @Kola Noscopy: Because whatever the masterminds of that war intend, humiliating the enemy and their dead egregiously isn’t one of them.

    The dead, even enemy dead, were loved by somebody at some point, something that needs to be remembered at times. And for the troops, why not just leave them there to be found, or dig a hole and bury them if there’s a safe way, and walk away?
    This is egregious, unnecessary violence and humiliation. The dead cannot fight back anymore.

  120. 120
    Dustin says:

    Bloody moderation. Apparently you can’t respond with multiple in-thread links without getting flagged. Let’s try this again.

    @ Danny:Leaving morals aside, there are practical and legal reasons why the Marines behavior is unacceptable. It’s counterproductive to achieving the objectives they are paid to try to achieve.

    This, a thousand times over. These guys guys appear to have broken a whole slew of laws and common sense and, regardless of the metaphysical and psychological impact of their actions, they’ve just given their enemies a massive PR boost. I get that they’ve been there a long time, that it fucks with one’s head royally, and that these guys tried to kill them and probably deserve this and more, but this shit does more harm than good and there are rules to prevent it. This kind of behavior would have gotten these guys beat to hell and back if they tried it in the 75th, stress be damned. And that’s before their superiors were notified.

    @ cathyx: @jrg: You are a perfect example of moral decay.

    Oh stuff it cathy. The only reason you can get away with fitting that high horse of yours on that milkcrate is because modern military tech has succeeded in dehumanizing and distancing war from civilian life. You don’t have to worry about a pitched battle outside of your bedroom window. You don’t need to worry about anyone you know being drafted. And, most importantly, you live in a nation with a military so powerful that you’ll never face an existential threat. You’re sheltered, just as most of the western world is.

  121. 121
    Dustin says:

    @ Brian S: This we, genius. You’re the one suggesting that we’re basically unchanged in terms of violence in the last 40,000 years. The fact is that we—human beings—have changed, and we’re progressing toward a more peaceful society every year, which is why some people are outraged by the disrespect shown toward those Afghani bodies when the number of people who’d have been outraged, say, during WWII, would have been significantly smaller.

    This “evolution” you speak is nothing but a groupthink term that coddled civilians imagine because they’ve never been in combat. The only reason war is less savage then it used to be (from your perspective) is that our perspective has gotten larger, and thus it takes more lives to impact you. A true evolution doesn’t devolve as quickly as it does on the ground. Humanity hasn’t changed away from the horrors of war, we’ve just sanitized it.

    @ Soonergrunt: I’m more concerned about the break down of discipline that would allow this event to occur and go undetected for so long. It gives me reason to suspect that other problems and possibly crimes will be uncovered as this goes on.

    Same here. You don’t get this behavior, even from blueheads, unless the group culture is willing to “be flexible” with the UCMJ. That’s the worst part, that these were probably just the idiots that got caught.

    @ Soonergrunt: In every single one of these cases, the Chain of Command had failed spectacularly to do their most fundamental job of supervising their personnel.

    With as much strain as the system’s going through is it really that surprising that it’s breaking down? The paperwork from stress related breakdowns alone is enough to many many a CO say screw it and look the other way.

  122. 122
    Kola Noscopy says:

    @geg6:

    I like the idea of a combination of both options. A very OPTIONAL viewing and a wake.

    In the instances I wrote of, it was more than just walking into a cold mortuary situation and commenting on how lifelike the corpose looked (;D ), it was about sitting with the deceased for a while and just…hanging out. I believe something organic takes place, some sort of internal adjustment and understanding that can’t be consciously enabled otherwise. Just my opinion.

  123. 123
    Samara Morgan says:

    “‘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.”

    Bad juju.

  124. 124
    Kola Noscopy says:

    @Soonergrunt:

    Stop looking at me that way…it makes me feel funny in the lower places.

  125. 125
    Soonergrunt says:

    @Kola Noscopy:
    Thank you for two excellent questions.

    And do you believe that these types of circumstances in wartime, among the American military, are common, rare but not unheard of, very rare, or almost nonexistent?

    When you consider the sheer size of the Army and the Marines, the two forces that most directly engage in ground combat, I think ‘very rare’ is the most correct answer here. Many Soldiers and Marines go on mulitple tours and never witness or hear about (except through the news) about incidents of this type. Clearly they happen. But we do, for the most part, a pretty decent job of preventing it. There is also the dynamic that American Soldiers and Marines are the product of their society, just as British Soldiers and Marines are the product of theirs, Russians the product of theirs and so on. If cultural norms are strongly against one form of behavior or another, then that nation’s military will likely have enforcement mechanisms to support that, and most service members will be have culturally appropriately. We, the US military, are not uniquely good or bad in this respect when compared to others.

    W

    hen there is ZERO legal accountability for the masterminds of wars of aggression at the top of the command chain, why the hell should any of these grunt soldiers be in jail?

    Because at the end of the day, we are each responsible for our own actions. A nation’s decision to wage war against other nations may or may not be legal under international law, but the order to subordinate military personnel to go to war is legal. And as a lawful order, it must be obeyed. I asked a private attorney and a JAG about this very thing in the run up to the Iraq war.
    We didn’t prosecute individual Soldiers and Officers of the Wehrmacht at the end of WWII, except when we had evidence of their individual participation in war crimes, even as we prosecuted the German leadership for crimes against humanity. By the same token, when the US Army sentenced a US officer to ten years at hard labor for abusing prisoners in WWII, they didn’t arrest the Secretary of War.

  126. 126
    Evolving Deep Southerner (tense changed for accuracy) says:

    @TOP123:

    It is because of this break with accepted custom and law that the desecration of one’s enemy’s corpse matters, even if no-one is a witness.

    This is the part I can’t get past, whether it’s corpse-pissing or necrophiliac mortuary workers banging my mom’s lifeless corpse or whatever. Dead men tell no tales = tree falling in the forest with no one around makes no sound = etc. I think that’s where we’re all parting ways in this thread on one level or another.

  127. 127
    Samara Morgan says:

    @Soonergrunt: AMG. Actions like these are the DIRECT RESULT of our troops being tossed into an unwinnable, immoral, unjustifiable meatgrinder.
    Haditha, Fallujah, Abu Ghraib, Gharani, the Iraqi Rape Squad, the Afghan Kill Squad…..
    enough.

    GTFO NAOW.

  128. 128
    CarolDuhart2 says:

    I don’t think we’ve evolved, as much as war these days are fought at the global margins: No more battles in the streets of Paris, instead in small villages in rural Congo or Somalia, or Afghanistan. War in a village of 200 people just doesn’t have the same trigger for chaos that battles in a city of 200,000 does. It’s easier to overlook when it is cabins and huts that are toppled, not skyscrapers.

    Also, we are seeing the results of repeated deployments-Bush’s policy of stoploss that screws with minds to the point of insanity. In the old days of the draft, it was one tour and that was it-so a soldier could keep at least some sanity and humanity.

  129. 129
    Donut says:

    This we, genius. You’re the one suggesting that we’re basically unchanged in terms of violence in the last 40,000 years. The fact is that we—human beings—have changed, and we’re progressing toward a more peaceful society every year, which is why some people are outraged by the disrespect shown toward those Afghani bodies when the number of people who’d have been outraged, say, during WWII, would have been significantly smaller.

    If you’re going to derisively refer to someone as a “genius”, asshole, you better bring some statistics to back it the fuck up.

    What ” we”? Americans? Afghanis? Iraquis? Somalis? Various West Africans? Libyans? How many people die in an average year, worldwide, from war? How do you know or presume to know another world wide conflict won’t break out again in the next 50 years ? You are myopic, to say the least.

  130. 130
    Benjamin Franklin says:

    @CarolDuhart2:

    This is is no way meant to excuse the urinaries, but part of the war plan is psychological. Why do you think Jihadists make so much fuss over their you-tube beheadings. It’s why ancient peoples adopted outrageous facepaint and blood-curdling war cries as they challenged the enemy on the battlefield.

    Fear and loathing of your enemy as though they have supernatural abilities, creates an advantage for the other team.

  131. 131
    Evolving Deep Southerner (tense changed for accuracy) says:

    @Soonergrunt:

    When you consider the sheer size of the Army and the Marines, the two forces that most directly engage in ground combat, I think ‘very rare’ is the most correct answer here. Many Soldiers and Marines go on mulitple tours and never witness or hear about (except through the news) about incidents of this type.

    Having never been in the military, much less in a war zone, I had asked myself the same question Kola had asked when this matter first hit the news, because I certainly wouldn’t have any way of knowing. I appreciate an answer from someone who’d actually be in a position to know, and I’m inclined to take your word for it.

  132. 132
    Samara Morgan says:

    its not chain of command retards.
    its the combo of 10 years of unjust, unwinnable, immoral war and the advent of social media.

    Perhaps the full repercussions of the video have yet to be felt. “These four guys really poked a stick into a hornets’ nest,” says an Afghan who worked as a translator for the U.S. forces in Helmand province for several years and doesn’t want to be identified. “This will stir up both fighters and most Afghans to hate Americans in Afghanistan more.” But he says he was not surprised when he saw the video online. He remembers seeing U.S. soldiers urinating on a village path while Afghan women were passing by, returning home carrying water containers on their heads. “I told them they shouldn’t do these things that make the people angry,” he recalls. “But they laughed and didn’t seem to care.” During his time with the U.S. military he says he saw many U.S. troops openly violating Afghan customs and sensitivities.

    WHAT THE FUCK WAS THE MISSION SOONER?

  133. 133
    Samara Morgan says:

    @CarolDuhart2: one question. do you think secular democracy with religious tolerance and free speech is “better” than islamic democracy?
    If your answer is yes, then you supported OIF and OEF and COIN.

  134. 134
    Danny says:

    Is there a purity troll out there that mind explaining to me what the problem with Guantanamo and us torturing prisoners of war was again? As long as there’s war shit is gonna go down – right? End all wars now, or stop bitching about torture and stuff – correct?

  135. 135
    Dustin says:

    @ ED’S: these types of events aren’t common but, from what I’ve seen, they get endemic throughout a group pretty darn fast.

  136. 136
    Kola Noscopy says:

    @Soonergrunt:

    Sooner, as a quick partial response since I have to be about some obligations in meat world, is that it won’t surprise you to hear that I believe these kinds of incidents are FAR more common than any of us think. In the same way that reported rapes capture only a small percentage of actual total rapes occurring, wouldn’t it make sense that reported/recorded instances of these kinds of things in the military are the tip of a large iceberg?

    ETA: What Samara said at #131.

  137. 137
    ruemara says:

    Well…this is a disturbing topic for a Sunday morn. Yet well worth discussing. Humans have been committing atrocities on other humans for what seemed like good ideas at the time, for eons. Partially, it’s because war is hell. Partially, it’s because humans are hell. We stop being sociopaths when we leave the lights on. When there is a reason to remain in the dark, a sizeable percentage of “normal” people will do horrible, horrible things. And a large portion of the population will either approve or silently disapprove but do nothing. Don’t think it’s because people are in the military.

  138. 138
    Samara Morgan says:

    @ruemara: bulshytt.
    the only difference between now and viet nam is social media.

  139. 139
    gnomedad says:

    I have never been shot and don’t presume to judge the behavior of those who have. But the injustice of some measure of accountability is no worse than the injustice of sending them to be shot at in the first place. The job just sucks and there’s no fixing that. As has been observed, war itself is an atrocity.

    However, I’m happy to judge people who have never been shot at celebrating torture, pissing on corpses, etc.

  140. 140
    Samara Morgan says:

    @gnomedad: same question.
    do you think secular democracy with religious tolerance and free speech is “better” than islamic democracy?
    If your answer is yes, then you supported OIF and OEF and COIN.

  141. 141
  142. 142
    gnomedad says:

    @Samara Morgan:

    do you think secular democracy with religious tolerance and free speech is “better” than islamic democracy?

    That’s my opinion. I don’t believe in imposing it on cultures that choose otherwise.

    If your answer is yes, then you supported OIF and OEF and COIN.

    Non sequitur.

  143. 143
    Brian S says:

    @Dustin:

    This “evolution” you speak is nothing but a groupthink term that coddled civilians imagine because they’ve never been in combat. The only reason war is less savage then it used to be (from your perspective) is that our perspective has gotten larger, and thus it takes more lives to impact you. A true evolution doesn’t devolve as quickly as it does on the ground. Humanity hasn’t changed away from the horrors of war, we’ve just sanitized it.

    Actually, no, it’s a verified fact. We kill fewer of each other in wars and in everyday violence, per capita, now than we ever have. We’re also more horrified by violence now than we ever have been in the past. We don’t blindly accept violence as a part of our daily lives anymore, not the way that people 100, even 50 years ago did. And I’m not talking just about war–I’m talking about violence toward each other, toward spouses or significant others, toward children, even toward animals. We are evolving away from violence as a species, and there’s data to prove it.

  144. 144
    TOP123 says:

    @Samara Morgan: Can you explain this link a little more clearly, because I, for one, don’t follow…

  145. 145
    Evolving Deep Southerner (tense changed for accuracy) says:

    @Dustin: That makes sense. In your experience, does it happen from the top down – that is, commanding officers either taking a “boys will be boys” attitude or encouraging it outright – or does it become widespread because of the actions of a few “alpha warriors” serving as a bad example/peer pressure for those not otherwise inclined to add insult to injury (or the dead, in this case?)

  146. 146
    gnomedad says:

    @Brian S:

    We are evolving away from violence as a species, and there’s data to prove it.

    The species hasn’t changed, the cultural software has (enabled by technology). And the Right wants the old software back.

  147. 147
    TOP123 says:

    @Brian S: To clarify, I assume that when you say ‘evolving’, you mean we are evolving away from violence as a culture, or cultures, and that you are not talking about actually evolving as a species? Or am I wrong?

    ETA: I see gnomedad was already there.

  148. 148
    Brian S says:

    @Donut: Fortunately, there’s a guy who’s done the studies–that’s where I’ve gotten the information from. Steven Pinker set it out pretty well in The Better Angels of Our Nature. Nicholas Kristof wrote about it here.

  149. 149
    Raven says:

    OOOO, Data, that settles it.

  150. 150
    Raven says:

    WASHINGTON — GOP presidential hopeful Rick Perry is accusing the Obama administration of “over-the-top rhetoric” and “disdain for the military” in its condemnation of a video that purportedly shows Marines urinating on dead bodies in Afghanistan.

  151. 151
    Tehanu says:

    @cromagnon:

    “the atrocities committed by our enemies don’t seem to bother them in the least”

    I’ve gotten so sick and tired of this particular “argument.” Of course the enemy’s atrocities bother us; that’s why we’re fighting them. Our “outrage” doesn’t bother them; that’s why they’re fighting us. But we have a responsibility to do something about the atrocities committed by our own side because these are our representatives. What you’re saying is that we have no responsibility to be better than them — that it’s perfectly OK with you if we’re as bad or worse — which pretty much explodes any rationale for being outraged other than tribalism. No thanks.

  152. 152
    Brian S says:

    @gnomedad: But even the right isn’t willing to go back to, say, lynchings. Some may be, but they’re so small a number that they don’t dare say such things out loud, and they have no political power. And while there are still people on the right who would like to throw people in jail for being gay, or allow gay panic defenses, or repeal rape shield laws (all examples of ways our society has, in the past, been violent toward groups), they’re again in the minority, and shrinking. Sure, they may be louder than they have been in recent years, but they’re not having any real effect, other than to show themselves as dinosaurs.

    For a good example, look at Rick Santorum. He’s as hard right a national figure as you can find, and what success has he had? He tied for first in Iowa (essentially) with a quarter of the vote in a caucus which brought out a tiny fraction of the population, got shelled in New Hampshire in a similar circumstance, and nobody thinks he’s got a shot in the general if he were able to make it that far. Why? Because more people look at his positions and say “you’re a fucking moron” than say “I agree.” That’s progress away from violence and away from social conservatism as a society, even as it seems we’ve been pulled toward the right.

  153. 153
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Raven: If that dunderhead says it, it can’t be so.

  154. 154
    gnomedad says:

    @Brian S:
    Mostly I meant not that the right really wants to back to these things (though some may), but that they have fantasy understandings of the past.

  155. 155
    Brian S says:

    @gnomedad: Yeah, I’m with you there. Not just the right, though, Nostalgia hits us all at some point, I think. But then I remind myself that if I’d been born a hundred years before I was, I’d probably have died before I was 5, either from asthma or smallpox, and if I hadn’t, I’d have been functionally blind by the time I was an adult. The past is a shithole in so many ways.

  156. 156
    Tehanu says:

    @gnomedad:

    However, I’m happy to judge people who have never been shot at celebrating torture, pissing on corpses, etc.

    Hear, hear! Dana Loesch should be not only ashamed of herself, but publicly shamed — I mean pelted by rotten vegetables and dog shit. Preferably along with everyone else in the media who defended her on this crap.

  157. 157
    TOP123 says:

    @Brian S: Very good point, but I think this is one of those cases where it’s important to emphasize the beginning of Matin Luther King’s quote about the moral arc of history… it’s long. In the cases you cite, as well, I think part of what’s happening is less moral or societal evolution (though that’s a good way to look at it) than a gradual change in the definitions of in-group and out-group. Part of the wonderful change in our society in attitudes toward gay rights, for example, is that more people know and are friends with open and out homosexual people. This is probably even more true amoung opinion leaders; Big Serious Conservative Intellectuals can’t actually wrap their heads around jailing the Oscar Wildes of the world any more because, well, Andrew Sullivan was just such a nice fellow at that cocktail party the other night. See this in the case of women’s rights, as well. Opinion leaders and people in power (historically men) have been more and more confronted with mothers, sisters, wives, daughters… and now friends and co-workers… with education and societal position, women who are less easily dismissed as nice but outside of the orbit and a step below.

    The test is how, say, Muslims are treated. Or others who are still an obvious out-group in Western cultures.

  158. 158
    OzoneR says:

    @Evolving Deep Southerner (tense changed for accuracy):

    I just don’t share the dead-body fetish that some have, so the nature of my offense is going to be different.

    presumably these guys are Christians. Christians revere the body as God’s creation. It doesn’t matter how wretched the occupier was, the body is a work of God’s. What they’re doing is taking out revenge on another person, another thing frowned upon by true Christians, on God’s creation.

  159. 159
    Brian S says:

    @TOP123: Yes, the moral arc of history is long, but it’s also moving faster thanks to technology (especially in communication, I think, but also in travel). But it’s interesting that you mention Muslims as an example, because in this country at least, while there’s still some obvious bigotry against them, I also think they have more defenders than they would have, say thirty years ago.

    One point Pinker makes in his book is that the louder the talk gets about any particular group, the more it means that public opinion on the whole has turned in their favor. It seems counter-intuitive, but the reason that’s the case is because when the group really was being excluded, there was no reason for anyone to talk loudly (or inflict violence on the group). Gays weren’t “an existential threat to society” back when they were in the closet, but now that it’s clear that they’ll have the right to marry, they’ve become one to the right. And I have to say (getting back to my first point), that I never would have imagined that gays would get the right to marry 15 years ago.

  160. 160
    Yutsano says:

    @Amir Khalid: For a minute there I thought you were being mean to the child. :)

  161. 161
    redski says:

    i may have missed this upthread, but to me the difference between this and similar (though often far more gruesome, as noted)’transgressions’ in the Pacific during WW2 is simply that today we here at home have an opportunity to see the evidence, thanks to pocket-sized computers.

    those living in the theater of combat have always known, and suffered, from this sort of behavior. innocent and belligerent alike, since forever.

    wait, but what does that mean for Ameri-ceptionalismo?! or the data?…sorry, couldn’t resist.

  162. 162
    Evolving Deep Southerner (tense changed for accuracy) says:

    @OzoneR: Why do you presume they’re Christians?

    Otherwise, as for the dead, Ecclesiastes 9:5 tells us they neither know nor care about a God damned thing.

  163. 163
    EconWatcher says:

    @Brian S:

    Wasn’t it only 15 years ago when it was shocking that Ellen DeGeneres would identify herself as gay on TV? The speed of progress on this front has been absolutely amazing.

  164. 164
    OzoneR says:

    @Evolving Deep Southerner (tense changed for accuracy):

    Otherwise, as for the dead, Ecclesiastes 9:5 tells us they neither know nor care about a God damned thing.

    My point wasn’t the dead- it was the body itself. It is looked at as a creation of God. It’s why Catholics hate cremation. Same is true for Jews (who oppose tattoos) and Muslims (who don’t even put the body in a coffin). Pretty sure these soldiers belong to one of the three religions.

  165. 165
    TOP123 says:

    @Brian S: No doubt, and I think you’re making very good points. I also feel like I should read the book you are referring to! (There should be a Balloon Juice lending library.)

    I agree that my example in part illustrates your point, though there have always been outspoken defenders of minorities new or old in this country, from abolition to the Japanese internments. You could be right that there are many more now, however. What you say about the hottest part of the battle being right before the defeat of the old way of thinking makes a lot of sense. I would say, though, that this seems to vary by case. In favour of your point, African-Americans were particularly subject to violence at times when slavery was threatened, and then when their disenfranchisement was threatened. However, homosexuals were very much susceptible to violence, imprisonment, and violent religious and cultural rhetoric at times when their social power was extremely marginal, more so than now when afforded vaster rights and acceptance by society as a whole. I’m also not sure I’m fully sold on technology as beneficial in terms of progress in the right direction, … though perhaps you aren’t making that point, but rather that it just speeds up the process. I think of cyber-bullying, for example.

    I am curious to know if you think we are really evolving in the right direction, and what you think of the suggestion that we are simply expanding our community, rather than hating outsiders all that much less. Is our greater defence of the Muslim minority in this country, for example, due in part to a relaxation of the definition of our in-group as Protestant Christian?

  166. 166
    Evolving Deep Southerner (tense changed for accuracy) says:

    @OzoneR: I suspect that the rules that rose up about corpses and their disposal had to do with what even the ancients observed about a corpse left aboveground unburned and unburied for a few days. I imagine the Jewish dietary rules came about from one too many run-ins with disease-ridden meat. But I think we’re getting away from this particular incident here.

    Suffice it to say, just as it’s said that there are no atheists in foxholes, there are no Christians trying to kill the people hunkered down in those foxholes.

    ETA: If they had refrained from pissing on their kills, it wouldn’t have made these guys better Christians.

  167. 167
    Brian S says:

    @EconWatcher: And it was during my lifetime that it was shocking to see an interracial kiss. I’m not saying we’re progressing toward Utopia or that we don’t still have a long way to go, but we’re making strides. I don’t want to hear that we’re just as bad as our ancestors were, because it’s just not true.

  168. 168
    TOP123 says:

    @Evolving Deep Southerner (tense changed for accuracy): There is that, but, and not to harp on a theme here, those codes also have a lot to do with accidents of history, and, quite importantly, defining the group that accepts those codes (be they kosher, mishnah, halah, shari’a, etc.) with respect to those outside the community, and thus with itself.

  169. 169
    Gilles de Rais says:

    Kind of irrelevant. We lost. We lost everything – self-respect, world standing, hearts and minds, the whole nine yards. So we might as well piss on the bodies. Got nothing left to lose with those folks. Maybe we can bring home our troops a few weeks sooner?

  170. 170
    butler says:

    So we might as well piss on the bodies. Got nothing left to lose with those folks. Maybe we can bring home our troops a few weeks sooner?

    Yup. I fully suspect that at least a few troops will be coming home before their scheduled end of deployment as a result of this incident.

    I hear Delaware is lovely this time of year.

  171. 171
    dead existentialist says:

    Wow, awesome thread. Even the trolls made some pertinent points on their first tries. Thanks BJers for an invigorating discussion.

  172. 172
    Brian S says:

    @TOP123: I think we’re moving in a direction in which human societies show less and less tolerance for violence. I hesitate to use the word “right” because it implies a moral superiority–I think it’s a good direction–even the best direction–but I can see an argument that it weakens us and that violence is necessary to our long-term survival as a species.

    I wonder if hating outsiders less and expanding the in-community isn’t the same thing worded differently. By doing one, we do the other, you know? And the more we expand our in-community, the easier we make it to expand that community, because we get used to the idea and experience of diversity. The least racist places I’ve ever lived, for example, were port cities–San Francisco and Fort Lauderdale–and I think that’s because practically everyone there was either from somewhere else or was friends with people from somewhere else. Made it easier to get along with people who were different. The worst places were small, insular towns where everyone had grown up together–south Louisiana, northwest Arkansas–and I think that engendered a distrust of outsiders.

    What communication and travel technology has done is shrink the number of places that can really be cut off from the rest of the world, and I think that’s quickened the pace of acceptance of diversity. The net result is a lower tolerance for violence against each other, because we’re more likely to identify with each other and see the violence against that person as violence against ourselves.

  173. 173
    butler says:

    Or so quick to judge our own soldiers that is, since the atrocities committed by our enemies don’t seem to bother them in the least… Pathetic

    Bullshit. Those atrocities do bother me, which I why I’d rather not have our side also committing them.

  174. 174
    Interrobang says:

    @Samara Morgan: So what if I think that the right to self-determination trumps my personal feelings on democratic forms, even if I think one is preferable to the other? In other words, nice false dichotomy there.

  175. 175
    gaz says:

    @Evolving Deep Southerner (tense changed for accuracy):

    Abu Ghraib was worth all this weeping and gnashing of teeth because living people (for the most part) had to endure that abuse.

    Sorry sparky. Abu Gharib was a travesty because it was about the behavior of our troops towards the enemy – it was also about the suffering, but it was as least as much about the troops themselves. Historically, in general (but not always) American troops were seen as ultimately, the “safest” to get captured by. That means people surrender more readily. So if *now* the enemy believes that we will torture, they are less safe.

    And for the record, insomuch as the desecration of the bodies is concerned, it’s a difference from the above, in matter of degree more than anything. It still makes people who may take that seriously LESS LIKELY TO SURRENDER. And even if the Taliban didn’t care, it should not be given a pass – because giving it a pass will allow it to continue and next time, the group of people we slaughter and piss on might actually GIVE A SHIT. Not a good policy.

    I’m not Sun-Tzu, but the history of warfare seems to agree with me. I’m not arguing against shock and awe – but all I gotta say is study the way the mongols operated. Even they knew better.

    Why are you weak on terror? And why do you hate our troops? /snark ;)

  176. 176
    Samara Morgan says:

    @Interrobang: well, bush and cheney paved the road to hell with your good intentions.
    that is what the whole COIN/Freedom Agenda/ Peaceful Democracy Theory is all about.
    If you believe western culture is superior to islamic culture, then you are a Proselytizer in your heart.

  177. 177
    Samara Morgan says:

    @gaz: Chengis was a genius.
    Know why?
    Shamanism allowed all the conquered tribes to keep their religions.
    The American Empire failed because we tried to impose our religion of free market missionary democracy on muslims.
    It cannot be done.

    So we arrive at this sad sad end game of 20 somethings pissing on muslims.

  178. 178
    Samara Morgan says:

    @gaz: and urinating on the path muslim women have to walk to get water.
    Chengis would spit on us.

    worse than animals.

  179. 179
    gaz says:

    @Samara Morgan: That was more or less the attitude I was referring to the in the above.

    Oh, but also they committed the first recorded act of biological warfare, IIRC ;) ahead of their time, I guess.

  180. 180
    Keith G says:

    Yes this is what happens when teams of young men are finally able to kill the team of other young men who were just trying to kill them a few moments before. We are a petty and tribal, violent species. If you wanna stop this, you must stop war. I am not sure you can stamp out 200,000 years of behavioral hardwiring in a handful of decades

  181. 181
    Samara Morgan says:

    @gnomedad: bad answer.
    the correct answer is….islamic culture is PEER to western culture, and should be respected.

  182. 182
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Samara Morgan:
    As a Westerner and a Muslim, you belong to both cultures yourself. Do you believe one of them to be superior? If so, does that mean you totally reject the other?

  183. 183
    Samara Morgan says:

    @gaz: i think it is horribly sad.
    and it has nothing to do with chain of command.
    we debased and corrupted our troops by using them as missionaries with guns in immoral, unjust and unwinnable wars.
    In MENA American troops are just as loathed and despised as the IDF anymore.

  184. 184
    Samara Morgan says:

    @Amir Khalid: i respect both cultures. i do not wish to transform either, and IPOF it is impossible to transform a culture.
    cultures change via evolution, acculturation and osmosis.

    islamic culture is muslim SELF-DETERMINATION.
    COIN, OIF, OEF, the Bush Doctrine, the Freedom Agenda, all disrespect that.
    so Epic Fail.

  185. 185
    gaz says:

    @Samara Morgan: I won’t comment either way on the morality of it – because war itself is immoral (or amoral at best) and so it pretty much defies attempts at moral reasoning. **

    I will say that it’s functionally bad for our troops to commit these acts. It makes their job even more dangerous. That’s as simple an argument as it needs to be, AFAIAC.

    The bad actors here should face military court. I’d be satisfied with that.

    PS: expounding on my highly subjective views from the above:
    ** The Taliban did some pretty ugly shit as well – (war and outside the war, such as acid attacks on women). And even the non-violent stuff the Taliban has done is pretty ugly – destroying those ancient buddhist statues for example. I felt heartsick over the loss of history that vandalism represented. More importantly, denying young girls a chance at any kind of education or even basic literacy.

    But all of that is beside the point for me – not because it’s not important to me – it is – but because it is very subjective – and in any case I don’t think it justifies horrors we commit against them.

  186. 186
    THE says:

    @Samara Morgan:
    It’s not that western culture is superior to islamic culture.
    It is that secularism is superior to religion as a basis for a sci-tech society.

    I believe China is superior to Islam in this respect too.

    Super-secular China may even be superior to the West.
    We have yet to test this.

  187. 187
    TOP123 says:

    @Brian S: I think there’s a lot of overlap, certainly, but I wonder whether it is less tolerance for violence, or less tolerance for violence against people we identify with in some way, however tangential.

    I certainly hope you’re right, but I think that moral and cultural evolution and biological evolution are two very different things, the former is much faster to change, and that there is no sense in which our cultural norms could not collapse rather quickly. I guess I worry that we might be in a space somewhat parallel to Europe before the Great War, with a confident, evolved sense of self, confident enough to doubt itself and see the wrongs in imperialism, for example (Heart of Darkness may have been racist, but it was anti-imperialist, and published when, around 1900?) that very rapidly unwound in violence, with Germany no longer seen by Britain as the home of Bach and Goethe, part of a shared European culture, but of the Hun.

  188. 188
    Samara Morgan says:

    @gaz: healthy urine is relatively sterile.
    the marines should have taken a dump on the talib corpses or shit on the village water supply path for biological warfare.

  189. 189
    Samara Morgan says:

    @gaz: other guys are worse bulshytt.

    The Taliban did some pretty ugly shit as well – (war and outside the war, such as acid attacks on women). And even the non-violent stuff the Taliban has done is pretty ugly – destroying those ancient buddhist statues for example. I felt heartsick over the loss of history that vandalism represented. More importantly, denying young girls a chance at any kind of education or even basic literacy.

    no moral equivalence.
    there you are preaching western culture superiority.
    GTFO Big White Christian Bwana.

  190. 190
    Evolving Deep Southerner (tense changed for accuracy) says:

    @gaz: True all that. This is a PR nightmare. It’s not that I ever failed to see it as a nightmare of optics; I think I was just looking at it more through the cynical atheist lens than most.

  191. 191
    gaz says:

    @THE: Frankly I think you’re being dogmatic yourself.

    The best model is whatever happens to work for a particular population group. The chinese, have arguably developed a system that in many ways works well for them. (Not great in all ways, bad in some – just like anything). I don’t think we could adopt that model, we’re simply not “wired” for it.

    I’m not arguing for a theocracy either. But simple answers to societal systems are all lacking, and reek of One True Wayism that permeates all failed ideological (even secularly ideological) structures.

    Frankly, I think Samara is guilty of this as well.

  192. 192
    Samara Morgan says:

    @gaz: ORLY?
    what about American atrocities?
    what about slavery? what about bull connor? what about Tuskegee?
    its fuckers like you and your moral certitude that debased all those young soldiers.
    DIAF.

  193. 193
    THE says:

    @gaz:
    If China continues to grow at 10% per annum indefinitely (and I am not saying they will) then USA will adopt their model or USA will lose.

  194. 194
    Samara Morgan says:

    @gaz: my one-true-path ideology is SCIENCE.
    To a Sufi, all paths are the One Path.
    You are whatever you have the genome and phenome and memome to be.
    ;)

  195. 195
    gaz says:

    @Samara Morgan: Wow. What a response.

    I didn’t think I’d have to relist Abu Gharib, torture-as-a-policy, nukes in hiroshima, internment, the target practice with the vietnamese women and children, etc.

    Especially to you, as I’m sure you can recount 100 of the top of your head.

    It seems if I don’t kiss your America is Evil ring though, you go batshit.

    My whole point is that it all happens. I don’t like the shit the Taliban is about, and yet I’m in rabid agreement with Noam Chomsky about American hegemony.

    Yet you go tilt if I don’t bow and list every american atrocity on every post about the Taliban?

    to paraphraze an internet meme:
    Ahhh, U CRAZY!

  196. 196
    Samara Morgan says:

    @gaz: you went right to taiban atrocities.
    obvi moral equivalence.

  197. 197
    gaz says:

    @Samara Morgan: one-true-wayism is still one-true-wayism. And science doesn’t explain everything, nor does it claim to. It might help if understood what it was designed to measure. There’s a lot more to life than science. Although science is wonderful.

  198. 198
    Xecky Gilchrist says:

    I don’t know about all this – Admiral Halsey notified me that he had to have a berth or he couldn’t get to sea. So I had another look and I had a cup of tea and butter pie.

  199. 199
    gaz says:

    @Samara Morgan: your keyboard must be broken.

    BJ has edit.

  200. 200
    Samara Morgan says:

    @gaz: wanna make a spreadsheet and total up atrocities?
    did the taliban come here and throw acid?
    no our soldiers went there and took trophy fingers and pissed on the path the village women had to walk to get water.
    why?
    because they are KIDS who got tossed into a fucking meatgrinder for 10 years with no explanation except “the Taliban are monsters”.

  201. 201
    gaz says:

    @Samara Morgan: Managed to decode your response finally:

    I’ll clarify what I was arguing.

    I refuse to argue acts of moral judgement when it comes to warfare. The only moral argument I’ll make on the subject is that WAR IS WRONG.

    The reason I listed Taliban atrocities, and didn’t bother with American atrocities, is that it seems a little redundant considering the TOPIC OF THE DAMNED THREAD. Also, as I said, I didn’t think you’d need any help.

    Your accusation of moral equivalence is a non-sequitor. If I was not clear enough when I said this the first time – Moral claims around these atrocities are a non starter. I did list my personal feelings on the things the Taliban has done that I find disgusting. I *NEVER* said they were worse than the American Military. I in fact avoid MAKING MORAL VS. CLAIMS LIKE THAT IN THE FIRST PLACE.

  202. 202
    Samara Morgan says:

    science doesnt explain everything….yet.

  203. 203
    Samara Morgan says:

    blah blah blah.
    the first thing your mind went to was the horror of the Taliban.
    the very first thing.

    Why? you are obviously COMPARING atrocities.
    that is how bush scammed us all, including our ruined young soldiers.
    That we went there to “help”.

  204. 204
    gaz says:

    @Samara Morgan: And if you ever think it will explain why a particular piece of poetry, a particular piece of music, or a novel, or the Quran ;) is beautiful to you, then I guess I almost feel sorry for you over your lack of vision.

  205. 205
    Yutsano says:

    @gaz:

    You’re accusation of moral equivalence is a non-sequitor.

    It’s her stock in trade.

    @Samara Morgan:

    science doesnt explain everything….yet.

    Science never will dear. The questions are infinite.

  206. 206
    gaz says:

    @Samara Morgan:

    Why? you are obviously COMPARING atrocities

    So the fuck what? All I’m saying is you can find horror all over the place, and your magic Islam pony is not the whole solution either.

    Since you are clearly trolling, *and* since it’s no longer entertaining, I’m going to disengage from you further.

    You know, because I like to kill and torture muslims. Go troops!.. WHAT THE FUCK EVER.

  207. 207
    PST says:

    @TOP123: I heartily second the recommendation of War Without Mercy: Race & Power in the Pacific War. John Dower is a great expert on Japan, and part of the power of the book comes from looking at the brutality of war and the intensifying effect of racism from both sides, using Japanese sources as well as American, with abundant illustrations of propaganda from each. I’ve known people who thought it a cheap, contrarian deflation of American self-regard — a sort of Not the Greatest Generation — but I don’t think that was the author’s intention at all, and it was not what I took from it. Two comments have also mentioned Eugene Sledge’s With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa. That is one of the only books I’ve ever read that deserves to be called unique. Sledge’s ability to recreate after many years his experiences as a young marine in combat in the Pacific is remarkable for much more than its description of occasions when ordinary American kids can act in ways that would ordinarily be unthinkable.

  208. 208
    gaz says:

    @Yutsano: I disagree. The questions are only as infinite as one’s imagination allows for.

    That says a lot about our resident troll, I think.

  209. 209
    Yutsano says:

    @gaz:

    The questions are only as infinite as one’s imagination allows for.

    Once you’ve imagined the question, you set off on the answer. Not only do you find more questions along the way, you see even more questions meet you at your answer. The questions split and split and split more. It’s the beauty of discovery.

  210. 210
    Donut says:

    @Brian S

    And how long have “we” been keeping records of exactly how many people die in wars? And how accurate are the numbers? Sorry, dude, I call bullshit on that. I will grant you that perhaps in the 20th century and beyond, there may be some relatively accurate numbers tallied, but to make seeping generalizations about humanity evolving away from war based on semi-accurate data is, again, damn myopic, and you cannot seriously argue you know how shit will go down in the future.

  211. 211
    gaz says:

    @Yutsano: Absolutely, man.

    I was just pokin atcha! (or the troll, not sure which)

  212. 212
    Chris says:

    @gnomedad:

    I have never been shot and don’t presume to judge the behavior of those who have. But the injustice of some measure of accountability is no worse than the injustice of sending them to be shot at in the first place. The job just sucks and there’s no fixing that. As has been observed, war itself is an atrocity.

    I’ve never understood this “we can’t judge the soldiers unless we’ve been in their shoes” logic. While I can respect the fact that they’re living in truly horrific conditions, I’d still point out three things:

    One, it’s an all-volunteer force. The soldiers do live in one of the most horrific environments humanity can manufacture, but they also signed on in the full knowledge that they could be called upon to do that – unlike the civilians in these war zones who never asked for it, have a lot less training and equipment to deal with it, but have to live in these wars anyway.

    Two, yes, soldiers have a job that’s much harder than your average civilian job. But their jobs also affect their fellow human beings in a drastic way that your average civilian job doesn’t. The average civilian job isn’t likely to give anyone opportunities to loot houses, imprison and/or abuse people, or kill them.

    Third, and most important if you’re concerned with the point of view of the soldiers, I’d like to point out that there are quite a few veterans who’ve also openly voiced disgust for the abuses committed by U.S. troops abroad. Jack Murtha, one of the louder voices against Haditha, was a Vietnam veteran. So was my grandfather, a Green Beret who did three tours in Southeast Asia, and he had no problem voicing his disgust to my father for the soldiers at My Lai when their actions came out. And of course there’s Hugh Thompson himself. I suspect those soldiers, at least, would be grateful if we as a society had their backs in trying to enforce accountability in the military, rather than doing the “wasn’t there so can’t judge” dance so many people seem to fall back on.

  213. 213

    Shot straight to the bottom, so sorry if this recommendation is redundant, but Fussell’s The Boys’ Crusade is also excellent, as is Abrose’s Citizen Soldiers. I loaned the former to a young wing-nut coworker who was just taking the plunge into WWII history, and when he returned it he offered this critique: “This book sucks. It makes war look bad.”

  214. 214
    AxelFoley says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    @Evolving Deep Southerner (tense changed for accuracy):
    @geg6:
    If I understand you correctly, you’re arguing that a human being’s dead body is a mere empty shell; that it’s proper to venerate only what is worthy; that it is thus absurd, maybe a little superstitious, to speak of “desecrating” such an unimportant thing. From a strictly materialist point of view, I guess that premise is true.
    __
    But I have to disagree: a dead body isn’t really just a dead body. Respect for one isn’t merely superstitious awe that it no longer lives and breathes and moves. It is respect for death itself as part of the cycle of life. That respect is so deeply ingrained in us that every human culture and every belief system (well, almost every belief system) has rituals for the handling and disposal of dead bodies that address more than the hygiene issue of leaving corpses lying around.
    __
    That’s why desecrating a corpse isn’t nothing. It’s not just that pissing on a corpse is rude. It shows a loss of respect for life itself, of a fundamental aspect of one’s humanity. That respect is why Admiral Halsey’s wartime exhortation now makes us uneasy that one of his quality should feel, let alone say, such a thing. His words are a reminder that even the best of us can forget their humanity in wartime. That, as much as the wholesale slaughter and destruction, is the horror of war.

    I can only add: This. All this.

  215. 215
    gaz says:

    @Chris:

    One, it’s an all-volunteer force.

    If it weren’t an all volunteer force, we’d be drafting. IOW: they volunteer, so you don’t have to.

    What I don’t care for is the fact that people put the blame on soldiers in general for being fucked up and spun through the military meat grinder, and then subjected to active combat duty. How much better would *you* fare?

    And in any case, it’s all just stupid to direct ire at the troops, when the real problem is war it self – and the politics of war.

    I think the people involved in pissing on the corpses should be subject to our military justice system. It’s tactically bad for our troops to engage in this behavior, morality of it aside.

    However, I’ll stop short of pointing the finger at GI Joe because we tend to fuck them up in the first place – (we instill sociopathic tendencies in them as a part of training – combat situations further instill it – what could we expect?).

    So… pointing the fingers at the soldier in general is counter productive. It accomplishes nothing, and changes nothing. It’s not even the heart of the problem. The actors in this specific instance should be prosecuted, because yes I’m not excusing the actions of an individual soldier, even if we made them that way.

  216. 216
    THE says:

    @gaz:

    And if you ever think it will explain why a particular piece of poetry, a particular piece of music, or a novel, or the Quran ;) is beautiful to you, then I guess I almost feel sorry for you over your lack of vision.

    This time I will defend Samara. I think science can explain this.

  217. 217
    gaz says:

    @THE: When it yields fruit, be sure to let me know.

    But I agree with Yutsano, figuring this out will basically just raise more mystery.

    Douglas Adams said this:
    There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.There is another theory which states that this has already happened.

    And even though he was being silly, I agree with him. Also, I agree with Einstein, who after grappling with gravity, became a committed rationalist.

  218. 218
    OzoneR says:

    @gaz:

    How much better would you fare?

    I probably would have shot myself in the head or done something stupid and died in combat.

    I’d like to think I wouldn’t be pissing on dead bodies.

  219. 219
    THE says:

    @gaz:

    When it yields fruit, be sure to let me know.

    When we figure it out, the supercomputers will be able to tell you themselves.

  220. 220
    gaz says:

    @OzoneR: And chances are you may not. The majority of our troops don’t either.

    But you’re far more likely to after all of the shit we do to you in bootcamp, followed by all the shit that is happening around you in wartime.

    That’s what I’m saying here. We do it on purpose, they lose their humanity on purpose because we turn them into killing machines. We’d do the same to you – if you served – then we already did – maybe you handled it well. We *can never expect* this kind of thing to end as long as we have a place for soldiers. The very act of war itself creates this problem, and only by reducing (and maybe one day) eliminating war will we ever free ourselves from this kind of stuff.

  221. 221
    gaz says:

    @THE: I’m not sure, but I think the fact they haven’t yet basically underscores my point. =)

    I’ll bet you anything it’s a variant of “forty-two” ;) when they do. Such is the nature of scientific discovery. There’s always more to learn.

  222. 222
    OzoneR says:

    @gaz: That’s true, but I always thought even in bootcamp, they teach you had to be good honorable killing machines.

    I mean I guess we don’t. My friend taught high school on Long Island and there was a kid in her class who was being bullied and told her he wanted to kill himself. In light of whats been going on around the country, she called in the parents of one of the kids bullying him. To her surprise, they encouraged their kid to do it. His father said “I want my son to be a warrior. That kid is weak. It’ll toughen him up and if he kills himself, he was just a weak seed.”

    My friend was so mortified, she ended up quitting teaching and taking another career route. (This was the last straw of a serious of reasons)

    Turns out the father was an Iraq war vet- a Marine.

  223. 223
    gaz says:

    @OzoneR:

    good honorable killing machines.

    heh.

    And those people sound like they have no business raising a child.

  224. 224
    Chris says:

    @gaz:

    How much better would I fare? I have absolutely no guarantees that I’d fare better than the people who did My Lai or Haditha. I’m no saint, and as you said, none of us can be absolutely sure what we’d do if we were in that situation.

    But if I did fare that badly, I think my victims would have a right to expect to see me prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and locked away in a cold dark place for a substantial amount of time, even if I was in uniform and even if my victims were Iraqis or Afghans.

  225. 225
    THE says:

    I think the fact they haven’t yet basically underscores my point.

    It’s a question of raw processing power. Todays computers don’t have enough symbol crunching speed to emulate a human brain. But the power of computers doubles every 18 months or so, so many people believe it’s only a matter of time.

    Also at the other end, our models of the biological systems are growing rapidly more-detailed too.

    There is a convergence here that suggests we should perhaps expect a definitive test of the theory that computation can model the human brain, within this century. Markham thinks within a decade or so.

    I’m agnostic, but I think it will come this century. Probably the first half.

  226. 226
    gaz says:

    @THE: Ray Kurzweil, also too.

    Hey I can put a half throated defense up for your POV – but in the end, the amount of science we have left to find out is infinite in scope.

    Also too: I do a bit scientific modelling using CUDA – more for audio stuff, but I know how this works. I’m fairly familiar with CAS theory, systems theory in general, and neural networks. Even in all their glory, they still “compute in 2d”… bio-nets may be a bit more plausible, but then just because you can grow it doesn’t mean you can grok it. =)

  227. 227
    gaz says:

    @Chris:

    I think my victims would have a right to expect to see me prosecuted to the fullest extent

    You’ll kindly note that I have said the same thing repeatedly on this thread – and furthermore, none of my explanations as to why the troops do it was to be read as an excuse for the individual actions of a specific soldier. Which I believe I also said, in not so many words.

    I draw the line at blaming troops in general. If not because I think there’s no blame to be had, but simply based on the idea that it is a distraction, it is utterly pointless, and serves to keep us from talking about why we’re at war in the first place, at least taken generally. It’s really not about the troops at all.

    And yes, again, these specific bad actors need to be prosecuted for their actions.

  228. 228
    THE says:

    @gaz:

    the amount of science we have left to find out is infinite in scope.

    Humans are not infinitely complex though.
    It only takes 23 000 genes to build a human.

    You could fit our entire genome on a flash memory.

  229. 229
    Samara Morgan says:

    @gaz: i dont know what is in your head. i only know what you SAY HERE.
    I only know that you went directly from marines pissing on corpses to how evil the Taliban are.
    Bam.

    I will say that it’s functionally bad for our troops to commit these acts. It makes their job even more dangerous. That’s as simple an argument as it needs to be, AFAIAC.
    __
    The bad actors here should face military court. I’d be satisfied with that.
    __
    PS: expounding on my highly subjective views from the above:
    The Taliban did some pretty ugly shit as well – (war and outside the war, such as acid attacks on women). And even the non-violent stuff the Taliban has done is pretty ugly – destroying those ancient buddhist statues for example. I felt heartsick over the loss of history that vandalism represented. More importantly, denying young girls a chance at any kind of education or even basic literacy.

    why isnt that moral equivalency?

  230. 230
    gaz says:

    @THE: And I’m not ready to take SM’s approach and limit the scope of my understanding to what humans may be able to observe with our senses. Which was the crux of my initial point. =)

    Edited for clarity

  231. 231
    Samara Morgan says:

    if it quacks like a duck and walks like like a duck, odds are its a duck, right?

  232. 232
    Dustin says:

    @Brian S: We kill fewer of each other in wars and in everyday violence, per capita, now than we ever have. We’re also more horrified by violence now than we ever have been in the past. We don’t blindly accept violence as a part of our daily lives anymore, not the way that people 100, even 50 years ago did. And I’m not talking just about war—I’m talking about violence toward each other, toward spouses or significant others, toward children, even toward animals. We are evolving away from violence as a species, and there’s data to prove it.

    It’s obvious that we’re both using differing definitions of evolution here so we’ll shift over to your definition. From what I gather you’re referring to a cultural zeitgeist shift in favor of non-violence.

    I agree, in that case the per-capita data shows a marked trend towards lower rates of death and violence. However I also know, from personal experience, that the meta-trend means absolutely nothing to front line combat soldiers. When I joined up and was accepted into the 75th I wasn’t a violent person by nature. Hell, I like to think I’m still not. But war is different. Your mind shifts. All of the cultural ‘evolution’ in the world doesn’t make a lick of difference. Even the most gentle person on the planet, when put into that type of situation, will either survive or die, and the survivors aren’t the ones who shirk at putting a guy’s own knife through his gut if he sneaks up on them and that’s the only way out.  Will there be nightmares? You bet your ass, but in the heat of the moment that all fades away.

    If you’re still coming down off that combat high and you’re still around the bodies the urge for retribution is extremely strong. Some guys can’t handle it, they let their inner animal loose. We didn’t get a lot of them in my regiment because they tended to wash out before they finished training. But regular grunts? Yeah, you’ll hear about guys who go too far, especially if their unit suffered casualties.

    To answer your question Evolving Deep Southerner @145, about how far up the chain it usually originates from? It usually takes both a bad CO and “alphas”. The Alphas because they’re the ones who start normalizing such behavior and the bad CO because it’s his job to weed them. That’s why this behavior is so rare. It takes at least a two-link failure

  233. 233
    gaz says:

    @Samara Morgan: I explained my position. If you choose to understand it that way, don’t let me stop you. The answer is laid out (actually repeatedly) to you. Your only barrier is your inability to take in the entirety of what I said, rather than glomming on to the fact that I dared list some of the crap the Taliban has done.

    To the degree that you read moral equivalency in those claims, despite my repeated and explicit denunciation of even posing such an argument, that’s *your* problem. Don’t make it mine. I feel I’ve explained myself sufficiently on this point. I’m already breaking my promise not to engage you on this any further. So let me reiterate this time. I’m not going to go there with you. As much as it would make you goo, I really don’t care to air all of Americas dirty laundy on the thread. I have better things to do. Don’t you have any like minded friends? I find the topic to be well addressed already in Noam’s books. And he’s a far better writer than you’ll ever be. So continuing on this path with you would be something of a downgrade, intellectually.

  234. 234
    Samara Morgan says:

    @gaz: i do not do that.
    Kurzweil is likely off by an order mag (Penrose and Hamerhoff 2010).
    But that just means the technological singularity will take a bit longer to arrive, like THE says.
    its kinda like the god argument.
    you cannot prove god exists, and also cannot prove god doesnt.
    consider the classic example of Satan and the Black Box. we do not have Friendly AI right now– but you cannot PROVE we will never have it.

    AND im a muslim–
    there is no god but Allah and Muhammed is his prophet.

    i believe in computational metaphysics and all kind of “supernatural” stuff.
    Im mostly interested in the border between the quantum and classical worlds right now.
    you know…..spooky action at a distance?

    :)

  235. 235
    Samara Morgan says:

    @gaz: since you so badly misunderstood my position from reading combox content, it is possible that i misunderstood yours.
    but you must admit it sure had the EMPIRICAL APPEARANCE of atrocity equivalencing.

  236. 236
    Samara Morgan says:

    @Dustin:

    That’s why this behavior is so rare

    its not rare.
    its just that before social media, capturing it on media was rare.

  237. 237
    Samara Morgan says:

    @gaz: I dared list some of the crap the Taliban has done.

    see? wat i say.
    you are doing it again.
    what the Taliban did HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH MARINES PISSING ON CORPSES.

  238. 238
    gaz says:

    @Samara Morgan: Science is a human construct, it only tells us what we know at this point.

    That’s why I say their’s more to life than that. I’m not waiting around for science in order to explore the mechanics of beauty, for example.

    And most of the crap you say that applies to Islam WRT to creating a wholistic view of the universe can also be made WRT to buddhism. Particularly, much of Tibetan Buddhism. It all depends on your POV. For each person, they may find what they are looking for in some sort of spiritual school of thought that agrees with them. I don’t think you’re crazy until you start pretending it’s a magic pony that is superior to everything else. That’s born again bullshit is all it is. Once you get over your Islam and start to understand it, you’ll start to realize that it’s just another cog in the giant wheel of human existence. Not inherently superior or inferior to any other belief system. And just as wrong as all of them.

  239. 239
    Benjamin Franklin says:

    It’s another episode of the Samara Morgan Show.

  240. 240
    gaz says:

    Yeah I’m done. Sorry about that. She got less interesting as the posts piled up.

  241. 241
    Soonergrunt says:

    @Kola Noscopy:

    In the same way that reported rapes capture only a small percentage of actual total rapes occurring, wouldn’t it make sense that reported/recorded instances of these kinds of things in the military are the tip of a large iceberg?

    Well, since I don’t accept either premise as reflective of my experience, nor that of the people I know and interact with, I would have to say no.
    Again, thanks for the dialog.

  242. 242

    Taking a breath; murder, rape, torture and pillage are one thing and this pissing is another. It was stupid and probably illegal on more than one level. One of the things implicit in Sooner’s comment about the chain of command is that the steps between lawful conduct in warfare and getting to murder etc are not that large because of the situation people are in.

    The entire combat experience starts out at a point removed from “civilized” or socially acceptable behavior, you have already taught people that it is a good thing to kill and maim, the steps from that to outright murder are small enough that command has to ensure that the troops don’t start down that route. It is a really damn difficult thing to do, anyhow, and the conduct of your opponents feeds into it. People who are supposed to be good at killing and maiming have to be discouraged from taking the next steps and when that fails the “clan” of a unit will reinforce behaviors especially in light of the difference between front line and overhead and the regard overhead is awarded.

    As sick as it is to say, warfare makes it clear that there are levels of inhumanity that have to be regarded as acceptable and unacceptable and be enforced.

  243. 243

    @Samara Morgan:

    what the Taliban did HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH MARINES PISSING ON CORPSES

    That is outright stupidity. It has nothing to do with justifying what the Marines did but it certainly does have a lot to do with the regard they have for their opponents. It also has something to do with what regard the Taliban hold their opponents. You’ve folded both ends of your fucking string together and now the middle has fallen out.

    Taliban don’t count / Marines do – a really stupid proposition and you’ve made it.

  244. 244
    Keith G says:

    You are so correct, Ben. Another post where Samara makes it about herself. The compensations of a frail ego?

    Twas typed above:

    I think my victims would have a right to expect to see me prosecuted to the fullest extent

    I would like to think that first these soldiers get screened for cognitive and emotional dysfunction. They acted out. Why? Maybe they were just bad people. Maybe they were just n’ere-do-wells making yet another screw up. Or maybe something bigger and darker is involved.

    Maybe their choice (without them knowing it) was between pissing on the corpse of a deadly enemy or going back home and putting a 357 in their mouth after killing a wife and child.

    For all of you who aren’t too bothered by this, if the corpse were someone you loved, laying there on the ground, and someone decided to relieve themselves right on your loved ones head, would you still not be too bothered by it? These people are someones loved ones.

    Lordy. Self-righteous much?

    I

    am

    fucking bothered by those boys pissing on the bodies of those who were just trying to kill them, but the wet corpses and their extended families are not the only victims. What changed these young men? What took them beyond the limits of acceptable combat behavior? (funny concept)Why could they not just kill the way we order them to kill?

    Maybe they were, and are, monsters, but I am going to start out thinking that they are not. Maybe just a while ago they were just like the teens I work with, happy guys, wonderful to be around.

  245. 245
    anon says:

    @WereBear:

    But there are other factors; for one, they started it.

    That’s hardly clear. The Western powers decided to cut off Japan’s oil supply, for example, well before Pearl Harbor.

  246. 246
    gaz says:

    @Keith G:

    What took them beyond the limits of acceptable combat behavior? (funny concept)Why could they not just kill the way we order them to kill? / Maybe they were, and are, monsters, but I am going to start out thinking that they are not. Maybe just a while ago they were just like the teens I work with, happy guys, wonderful to be around.

    This.

    I’d quote you entirely, but frankly, above is succinct, and easy as hell to wrap one’s head around. The first part, well, still I’m still parsing =). In any case. Well said.

    Edit: hate @blockquote FYWP!

  247. 247
    anon says:

    @THE:

    There is a convergence here that suggests we should perhaps expect a definitive test of the theory that computation can model the human brain, within this century. Markham thinks within a decade or so.

    A decade? LOL. No way.

  248. 248
    TOP123 says:

    @anon: Absolutely. The ‘they started it’ line is in real need of constant refutation. Even in China, where Japan did much, much more horrible things than they did at Pearl Harbor, the story is a lot more complicated than that. The guilt of the IJA and government militarists toward China is massive, but Japan even there was acting as yet another imperialist trying to exploit the collapse of the Qing dynasty for its own interests; in a brutal way, certainly. The Japanese actions against the US could be considered more in the light of a bad choice along a spectrum of bad options.

  249. 249
    gaz says:

    @TOP123: I think the whole damned thing is a rabbit hole.

    They started it! is something “the reason I don’t have kids” would say when they wanted me to get in the middle of a *pointless* fight between them.

    I leave any analogies about war and the above as an exercise for the reader.

  250. 250
    TOP123 says:

    @gaz: I take your point, as I understand it through this discussion, that war is generally horrible no matter who’s to blame. I think it’s worth cauterizing historical misrepresentations of fact, however, when they can lead to harm down the generations. I recently heard a discussion of whaling (!) between two people I work with, who are in their early twenties. One held that Japan deserved criticism on the issue… because of Pearl Harbor. The opposite view was that Japan should be able to hunt whales if they want… because of Hiroshima.

  251. 251
    gaz says:

    @THE: China is arguably going through an industrial and technological revolution. One which we began on and so far we’ve been ahead. The relative speed of the emergence of their economic status will not continue unabated. And I don’t see where you are drawing a connection between China’s success and us adapting their model. For starters, it was them adopting ours that lead to China being where it is now.

    I for one, rejoice in the emergence of a Chinese middle class. I think the fact that they now need to outsource some of their manufacturing to offset labor costs is actually sign of an overall positive change. I’m not afraid of it. Macroeconomics is not a zero sum game.

    China is what it is – if you are seriously advocating the installation of a Chinese style government on American soil (even if at some non-determined point in the future) then you sir, have gone over the high wall. I’ll not follow you there. Thanks for playing though.

  252. 252
    Amir Khalid says:

    @TOP123:
    I am mystified by this argument you speak of. I couldn’t even begin to imagine a logical progression from “Japan attacked Pearl Harbor” to “Japan shouldn’t go whaling”. Or the other one, either.

  253. 253
    gaz says:

    @TOP123: it kinda just seems weird to me to juxtapose whaling and WWII. Unless this is all about IWC/ICRW stuff. http://www.icrwhale.org/eng-index.htm

    I don’t really follow the issue of whaling.

  254. 254
    John M. Burt says:

    “Arizona war worker writes her Navy boyfriend a thank-you-note for the Jap skull he sent her”

    I wonder what has become of these MIA remains? Were they ever returned to his family, do you suppose?

    Think of that, the next time you see someone flying that black-and-white flag….

  255. 255
    gaz says:

    @John M. Burt: Nothin’ wrong with the Jolly Roger! =)

  256. 256
    TOP123 says:

    @Amir Khalid: @gaz:

    Sorry, that was my poor explanation, not your lack of understanding. I was, myself, mystified… and a bit concerned… that those leaps were being made. That was my point, that a lack of understanding of history, and a simple assignment of blame (on the Japanese for Pearl Harbor, on the US for Hiroshima), can lead to rather strange conclusions, even down the years, where we can find a person’s opinion of war guilt from the Pacific War applied to an issue like whaling. I guess my example was so absurd, and poorly enough expressed, as to cause confusion… sorry.

  257. 257
    THE says:

    @gaz:

    One which we began on and so far we’ve been ahead.

    There are so many ways China has passed US already that it is hard to know where to start. By the time they catch up in purely per-capita GDP terms, say by the 2040s they will be a distant speck on the horizon compared to USA.

    Lets see: Worlds Fastest Computer (briefly but they’re only getting started). World’s longest high speed rail. Worlds largest car industry in numbers of cars per year. Worlds longest expressway network (passing US right now). Worlds longest bridge, largest hydroelectric dam, They are completely taking over the global solar PV panel industry.

    That is a sampling.
    Learn Mandarin. That is my advice to any young person.

    Oh I thought this was cool.

  258. 258
    gaz says:

    @THE: World’s most populous country… and?

    I don’t care. Let them have their Guiness entries.

    I have no fear of them. In fact, I welcome our Chinese overlords.

    honestly though – get a grip – so what? if anything – good for them. If we can’t keep up it might be that maybe we need a few more engineers and a few less MBA’s hmm?

    I don’t believe in Crab Bucket politics. The logical extreme of fearing the rise of china is that we should like to keep them down, because we can’t compete. I want no truck with that mentality.

  259. 259
    gaz says:

    @THE: and… I totally misread your post until the edit. apologies.

    My wife is studying mandarin at the moment, but I’m not the language buff.

    I respect what the Chinese are doing, but now that I recall what you were arguing earlier, I still don’t think it’s either necessary, nor inevitable that we adopt chinese socio-economic systems. In fact, in terms of western democracies, the hybrid socialist democracy+free market system generally serves us pretty well when we don’t purposefully allow it to get derailed by assholes.

  260. 260
    Chris says:

    @gaz:

    You’ll kindly note that I have said the same thing repeatedly on this thread – and furthermore, none of my explanations as to why the troops do it was to be read as an excuse for the individual actions of a specific soldier. Which I believe I also said, in not so many words.

    Fair enough, but you’ll also kindly note that I didn’t blame troops “in general” – I’m saying that the difficulties they’re in don’t mitigate their obligations as soldiers, and citizens and as human beings, which we’re basically in agreement on. (As I pointed out, there are more than a few of the troops who are equally disgusted with the criminals among them).

    As far as “blaming troops in general” – I’d be a lot more concerned about that if I saw any indication that it was a problem in this society. On some liberal blogs, maybe, people do do that – in society at large, though, it seems to be either “it’s just a few bad applies, and don’t you dare talk too much about Abu Ghraib or that stuff or else you’re not being fair to the rest of them” (the conservative position) or “the troops are heroic, and it’s just Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld’s fault for putting them at risk in the first place” (the liberal position).

    I see little inclination among Americans to blame “the troops in general.” You generally have to have pictures like Abu Ghraib plastered on the front page of the New York Times before they’ll even consider that some of the troops may be behaving badly; even then, they usually seem happy to accept the “few bad apples” explanation and forget the topic, even in cases where, as Sooner pointed out at 105, the entire chain of command had failed spectacularly, which should prompt digging a little deeper.

  261. 261
    gaz says:

    @Chris: Fair enough. And as to your last sentence, I sincerely hope that as this winds through the military courts that that’s what will happen. Whether or not I hear about it.

  262. 262
    JoeShabadoo says:

    It amazes me that so many people here can’t understand the concept of respect. Not just respect for the lives that once were, but respect for those who lost those people and must now witness someone literally piss all over their memories.

    The particular excuse of “this happens in war” is the worst as it can be and usually is used to justify anything that soldiers do wrong.

  263. 263
    TOP123 says:

    The Chinese languages are great, and learning one of them. particularly Mandarin, would be great advice for a young person; any of the East Asian languages are important, challenging, and rewarding, for that matter.

    As for the speck on the horizon… perhaps, but (and figures here are entirely off the top of my head/from memory/out of my posterior) I think China is faced with a problem rather succinctly expressed like this:

    USA v. PRC

    Area: Comparable
    Population .3 billion to 1.3 billion
    Arable land: at a crisis point in China; US farmers paid subsidies to reduce planting.

    Tech industries are one thing, but in a global food market, faced with climate change, and with a huge and growing population, one expecting a higher standard of living than their parents’… China has some big challenges ahead of it.

  264. 264
    THE says:

    @TOP123:
    The Chinese government worries greatly about that too. From their perspective the arable land shortage is really a water shortage. Their focus is two-fold:

    A major national project to divert surplus seasonal water from the south of the country to the north.

    Desalination as a key technology, particularly co-generation of fresh water and electricity – thermal plants using waste heat and surplus off-peak electricity to desalinate.

  265. 265
    Name says:

    @anon:

    That’s hardly clear. The Western powers decided to cut off Japan’s oil supply, for example, well before Pearl Harbor.

    Yes, how dare we impose sanctions on a nation that was brutally slaughtering millions of civilians in China. Clearly, Japan was well within its rights to then attack our military installations and murder the servicemen and civilians of a nation it hadn’t even declared war on yet.

    I can’t even wrap my brain around the moral axioms that justify the depraved worldview you’re espousing here, but I’m pretty sure I don’t care to understand them. It sounds like I could apply your views to say that it’d be okay for someone to walk into your house and shoot your whole family because they wanted your home entertainment system, and if your neighbors called the cops it’d be fine to go kill them too for disrupting the theft and murder.

  266. 266
    JoeShabadoo says:

    @TOP123:

    Absolutely. The ‘they started it’ line is in real need of constant refutation. The guilt of the IJA and government militarists toward China is massive, but Japan even there was acting as yet another imperialist trying to exploit the collapse of the Qing dynasty for its own interests; in a brutal way, certainly.

    No, that line is not in need of constant refutation. We cut off oil to Japan because of their actions in China where they were literally slaughtering entire cities. Actions have consequences. That’s like saying Germany didn’t start it just because they invaded those countries near them.

    I can’t belive you give them being an imperialistic power as a fucking excuse for them doing some of the most horrible things in recent history. “They are guilty, but they are just imperialists…” That is not an excuse for fighting a war with another country and committing genocide! Are you reading what you put down!

  267. 267
    TOP123 says:

    You mean like the Grand Canal?

    Okay, that was not entirely fair snark. The water issue is hardly new in China, though, as you know, nor the wheat & coarse grain/rice, north/south divide, and the efforts to divert the produce from one area to the other. Water is one giant issue in modern China’s struggle over lack of arable land, but hardly the only one, and it’s not just the horrifying threat of desertification, either. The urbanization rate and industrial land use are huge factors eating into the percentage available. I think the overall figures are comparable, again, USA/PRC (c. 18-20%?) and China is already using what they have… and are losing that to shrinkage, water issues (as you quite rightly point out) and population growth. Not to even mention terrifying pollution. Where do they go from there?

    I’m not in any way saying it’s not possible, just that I don’t see the speck confidently sailing out ahead of the rest that you do.

  268. 268
    TOP123 says:

    @JoeShabadoo: Ahem. I believe your block quote is missing a few important words, such as “Japan did much, much more horrible things”, which might help emphasize that I was not defending the record of Japan and the Japanese military in China. I would be offended at such a suggestion if I didn’t assume that you had either misread me, or I’d misstated my case badly.

    However, to state that the US imposed an embargo on Japan, knowing very fully well that this would lead to war, as a response to genocide and human rights abuses in China is simplistic… as it would be to imply that the US fought Germany because of its abuse of the Jews or other minorities. The US was a minor player in the imperialist division of China, though a growing power in the Pacific, and to suppose that its path to war with Japan was the result of principle or a response to the Chinese missionary lobby is mistaken. Certainly, those were factors, as was a general public horror amoung the US public to the disgusting atrocities Japan perpetrated in China. Balance of power in the Pacific, rivalry with Japan and the European powers (particularly Britain, France, Germany, and the new USSR as heir to Russia), and potential conflict elsewhere… these were the important factors behind the embargo.

    I would also say that I had no intention of using ‘imperialist’ in any remotely positive way, and if I inelegantly led you to suppose I meant that as a defence of Imperial Japan’s actions in China, I am embarrassed. I thought I was pretty clear that Japan was an imperialist power amoung several, a late comer to a group that had been tearing apart late Qing China for quite some time before the period we are discussing.

  269. 269
    Uriel says:

    @Xecky Gilchrist:
    Butter pie?!!

  270. 270
    THE says:

    @TOP123:
    The water issue I already try to address. Pollution? I think a large part of the pollution is associated with coal use, and China is focusing on renewable energy technology development, where it is now the largest manufacturer of solar and wind plants and also its major effort in nuclear. China is building natural gas pipelines across Eurasia.

    The urbanization thing is a mixed story. The cities are mainly being developed on the coast so they are prime targets for the desalination project. This will free-up inland water for agriculture.

    Also China does not seem to be willing to go so far down the suburban sprawl model of USA-Canada-Australia. There is a focus on high density urbanizations.

    These are by no means final answers, but given this is still a “developing country”?

  271. 271
    TOP123 says:

    @THE: Fair enough. Your point about renewables is a good one. I wonder how the coastal city model (and the riverine urban network of traditional through modern China) will survive potential coastline inundation under future global climate change scenarios, though China is hardly alone there… but it’s coastal cities are pretty big. I also wonder whether the focus on high-density models will survive a potential future transition to a more liberal form of government with freer population movements. I know in other parts of Asia with freer markets, second houses and rentals in the country are a big status item for the middle class, and can imagine suburban sprawl could easily result in China without strict zoning.

  272. 272
    JoeShabadoo says:

    @TOP123:
    I was being generous by not quoting that part which you in fact did not quote in full.

    Even in China, where Japan did much, much more horrible things than they did at Pearl Harbor, the story is a lot more complicated than that.

    You give excuses that you never name for these horrible things by saying “its a lot more complicated than that.” This quote implies that China bears blame for being taken over and killed by an imperial country as it follows the “they started it” line.

    Certainly, those were factors, as was a general public horror amoung the US public to the disgusting atrocities Japan perpetrated in China.

    Doesn’t exactly look like the US started it when this factor alone would justify cutting off their oil regardless of the other concerns which certainly would have been more important to some people.

    If in the future you don’t want to use imperialism as an excuse don’t say something like this: “The guilt of the IJA and government militarists toward China is massive, but Japan even there was acting as yet another imperialist.” Using but in that context is giving an excuse. For example “I ate cookies despite my diet but..”
    I understand that you are trying to say that there were other imperial powers there, I know that. However, that does not excuse what Japan did nor does it wash away the extremely horrific things they did byond the others.

    I feel you must have simply articulated your point badly and don’t believe you defend these things. You seem to be focusing on the details too much that you miss the big picture. Every motivation does not need to be virtuous to make something justified.

  273. 273
    Samara Morgan says:

    @Keith G: maybe all of America should be screened.
    we sanctioned Viet Nam, we sanctioned OIF and OEF.

    i think the Samara Morgan Show is a step up from John Cole Ganks ABL, Mixie and DougJ Pimp Glibertarians EDK and Elias IsQueef, and Anne Laurie Sukks Paultard Dave Weigel’s Cock.

  274. 274
    THE says:

    Samara did you see the Rama video-link I emailed you?

  275. 275
    John M. Burt says:

    @gaz: Lots of black-and-white flags, each with its own, ahem, checkered history.

    This one is my favorite, FWIW: http://www.worldflags.es/ampli.....TAPRXS.jpg

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