This has the potential for being misunderstood all over the place, so I’m going to say this upfront and in all caps….
I’M NOT EXCUSING THE ACTIONS OF THOSE RESPONSIBLE!!! WHAT THEY DID IS DESPICABLE, INAPPROPRIATE, AND ENTIRELY OUTSIDE THE REALMS OF DESCENCY.
There, now let’s chat.
I, like many of you, have watched the video that depicts a handful of what appears to be US Marines urinating on the dead bodies of Taliban fighters. And I, like many of you, share in the disgust and frustration over their actions.
But I have to wonder, and this is the part that might get me in trouble, what else is going on. Again, I’m not excusing what they did, but rather pointing out that the stress of war does something to you. It changes you, and it can lead to poor decisions and coping mechanisms that are foreign to the real attitudes and beliefs of these soldiers. What they did is still wrong, and there is no way to excuse the burden of that guilt. With that being said, however, I am struck at this point with two trains of thought:
- Without excusing the deplorable actions depicted in that video, I would remind people that this is neither a first nor a last of deplorable actions that occur during war. In addition, this is relatively minor compared to the unfortunate and horrible acts that often accompany war. It’s still really bad. Let me emphasize that… REALLY bad! And it is especially outside our expectations and standards for our military.
- With my first thought in mind and understanding that deplorable acts occur among all armed forces during conflict, doesn’t this point to the very real consequences of war on those soldiers and also to the very real need to provide better means of supporting and engaging these men and women in constructive, positive release activities?
In the end, the stupidity of what they did is just that: stupidity. We can debate the consequences and personal liability/responsibility of those particular soldiers until we are blue in the face. The things that cannot be argued, however, are that these things do regrettably happen and that our global inability to (1) resolve conflict without violence and (2) help our own soldiers deal with the very real burden of their missions points to a broader level of guilt and shame that we should all share.
When our armed forces behave in such a manner, we all carry that burden and collective responsibility to commit to being better than that.