Civilization hasn't successfully drawn a moral border at the sanctity of human life itself, but because it needs to put some limit on human behavior, it has, apparently, taken a last stand at the dignity of corpses.
It's OK to kill your enemy, but not to urinate on him, at least not after he's dead.
The latest scandal of the war on terror -- the release of the video of four Marines urinating on the corpses of two dead Afghanis ("Have a good day, buddy") -- has turned the game of geopolitics downright surreal. Secretary of State
It was almost as though, in the game of war, where nothing is sacred except the supremacy of power -- winning -- this is where power stops and humanity begins: You must respect your enemy's dead body. It says so right there in the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
However, upon reflection, it seems to me that, in all likelihood, in an era where positive spin is crucial to a successful war effort, the official stand in defense of the dignity of corpses may not be in deference to morality so much as public relations. If skewering the head of one's enemy on a pike furthered a political end, official "thou shalt not" morality would manage to find a loophole for such behavior (it's for the greater good), and the nation's ultimate moral stand would retreat even further into obscurity and irrelevance.
My point is this: Morality is no match for the need to win, for the culture of domination. And the moral bedrock of civilization is nothing but sandstone.
This is not a plea for sterner morality but for a shift away from domination mentality, whether at the personal, the corporate or the geopolitical level -- or at least for public awareness of the price we pay when we build a nation around the endless defeat of enemies, real and imagined.
"When you ask young men to go kill people for a living, it takes a whole lot of effort to rein that in."
The quote is from a breezy
The point is made with more vehemence further down in the story, when the reporters quote a
It's just part of the time-honored tradition of war, from Achilles and Hector onward through the bloodstained millennia. The AP story reads like the shadow version of the speech President Obama gave at Fort Bragg last month, announcing the shutdown of the
When war is merely upcoming -- with
Such quotes, however, did not accompany the recent stories about another former Marine, 23-year-old Itzcoatl Ocampo, who served in
Ocampo, by all accounts, suffered not only serious and untreated PTSD related to his military service, but had this condition compounded by poverty. "After he left active duty in 2010, Ocampo returned to
The psychology here is over the edge, but "when you ask young men to go kill people for a living . . ."
Let us stop shrugging off the madness of war -- and I mean that term literally. We try to contain this madness with crisp rhetoric, discipline and honor codes, but human psychology will have none of that.
When the glory of victory eludes us, we can only impose our will on corpses.
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