I got a call today from the local NBC affiliate to come in and give a Marine’s perspective on the video that surfaced of the Marines in Afghanistan urinating on dead Taliban fighters. So, I headed in to the studio completely conflicted.
On one hand, I think, who really cares. The Taliban has done much worse than this. But, I was also thinking, was this necessary? Something you know will cause an international incident probably isn’t the right call. I think this comes down to horrible judgment. I have to assume that these guys had just gotten through a gun fight with these terrorists, were still amped up and just made a bad call. Probably the worst call of the situation is deciding to take video. There are a lot of things that happen in a combat zone that aren’t “edited” for popular consumption, nor should be. For those who have never been down range, be careful in condemning someone’s actions too quickly. Are their actions completely excusable because of the stress of combat? No. But, I think they at least need a certain amount of leeway. Let’s be realistic, they didn’t kill innocent civilians, drag the bodies through the streets, or hang them from a bridge.
I’ve read articles about the situation citing possible criminal prosecution for war crimes under the Geneva Convention in regards to the desecration of war dead. These Marines are probably going to be made an example of by our media and the military brass, for the benefit of the global stage. Do I think they should be punished; Yes. Possibly some paperwork for “conduct unbecoming”, but I really hope they don’t get slammed to the point of jail time. Let’s face it, we train our warriors to be just that, warriors. Then, expect them to be able to flip the switch and instantly deal with the harshness of war. The enemy is completely de-humanized from the start of a conflict, so what should we expect. I don’t know. Most guys I know can flip that switch, but everyone deals with stress differently.
All in all, I can’t condone their actions and feel it was absolutely in horrible taste. But, I can definitely see where the frustration and contempt comes from. I can’t help but think back to when I was on active duty. My God, we would have been absolutely hammered if anyone on my team had done anything like this.
Kit Up! contributor Bill Janson is a former Recon Marine and is the founder of Eleven 10, a tactical gear manufacturer.