My precious

The four Marines seen in a video that purports to show them urinating on dead bodies in Afghanistan have been identified and will face charges soon, a senior military official told Fox News.

… the Marine Corps has appointed a three-star general to decide what disciplinary action to take against the four Marine snipers.

These soldiers are trained to kill people whom their officers inform them are their “enemies”. Now, I’m really only guessing, but I would say it takes more hatred than love to kill your enemies. So at some point during either their training, their deployment or a specific mission, the men must spontaneously generate, or their officers must carefully invoke in them a considerable strength of hatred towards those they are about to harm. Without it, the killing probably could not take place.

It presents a confused picture. Most people have an abiding sense of good manners or propriety towards the dead and hesitate to abuse or ill-treat a dead body. We don’t even like to speak ill of the dead. But these men are the enemy. You’ve just been doing all you can to hate them, harm them or kill them. What manner of man could instantly turn about and respect the enemy? It would take time.

How strange that neither the men’s officers nor the society they live in can acknowledge the need for hatred, imagine other outlets for it, nor tolerate a failure to switch the hatred off after the mission. But that must be so very hard. I would go so far as to say it requires a level of self-control most people can neither imagine nor summon. They hold the soldiers who do their dirty work to higher standards than themselves.

Urinating on the enemy while alive would have been disrespectful yet would have done no harm. But after death, it becomes irrelevant. In India, during a cremation, if the body slides off the fire, the relatives push it back again with pokers, though nobody would have dared push the deceased around like that while alive for fear of giving offence.

However, it has become more offensive to show disrespect to the empty corpses of those we hate than to kill them in the first place. Even though after death the person is absent and no insult is possible.

What precious principle have these soldiers breached that might deserve a criminal prosecution? They’ve earned a stern rebuke, certainly, for a sickening breach of etiquette, but it’s hardly a crime.

Peeing on your enemy is hardly equivalent to, say, spying on your enemy—now there’s a crime you can get killed for.

One Thought on “My precious

  1. Richard C (NZ) on January 15, 2012 at 9:45 am said:

    Celts (my ancestry), Maori and many others I’m sure, prized severed heads as trophies (today’s badges for the MacNabs, Menzies and Muirs all feature severed heads), often impaling them high up on stakes around a fort for prominent display.

    Makes peeing on them that much more difficult.

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