Statement from the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James F. Amos, on the Afghanistan video incident.
"I have viewed an internet video that apparently depicts Marines desecrating several dead Taliban in Afghanistan. I want to be clear and unambiguous, the behavior depicted in the video is wholly inconsistent with the high standards of conduct and warrior ethos that we have demonstrated throughout our history. Accordingly, late yesterday I requested that the Naval Criminal Investigative Service pull together a team of their very best agents and immediately assign them responsibility to thoroughly investigate every aspect of the filmed event. Additionally, I am assigning a Marine General Officer and senior attorney, both with extensive combat experience, to head up an internal - Preliminary Inquiry - into the matter. Once the investigation and Preliminary Inquiry are complete and the facts have been determined, then the Marine Corps will take the appropriate next steps. Rest assured that the institution of the Marine Corps will not rest until the allegations and the events surrounding them have been resolved. We remain fully committed to upholding the Geneva Convention, the Laws of War, and our own core values."
How many other abuses took place off camera? How many Hadithas? How many My Lais?
So now it's snapshots of US Marines pissing on the Afghan dead. Better, I suppose, than the US soldiers pictured beside the innocent Afghan teenager they fragged back in March of last year. Or the female guard posing with the dead Iraqi prisoner at Abu Ghraib. Not to mention Haditha or the murder videos taken by US troops in the field – the grenading of an old shepherd by an Iraqi highway comes to mind – or My Lai or the massacre of refugees by US forces in Korea or the murder of Malayan villagers by British troops. Or the Bloody Sunday massacre of 14 Catholics by British troops in Derry in 1972. And please note, I have not even mentioned the name of Baha Mousa.
The US Marines' response to the pissing pictures was oh so typical. These men were not abiding by the "core values" of the Marines, we were informed. Same old story. A "rogue" unit, a few "bad apples", rotten eggs. Maybe.
But if there is one game of pissing on the dead, how many others happened without pictures? How many other shepherds got fragged in Iraq? How many other Hadithas have there been? There were plenty of other My Lais.
by Andrew Exum
We should not be shocked by this kind of thing, though. Just look at the official propaganda from the Second World War, a conflict most Americans have seen only through a sanitized Spielbergian lens. Look at the lengths to which the United States and Japan went to dehumanize the other. Now imagine how that translated down at the platoon and squad level in heavy combat. One big difference today is the diffusion of camera phones and other media allow the ugly dehumanizing effect of war to go viral. In a way, I am glad. Since so few Americans actually fight in our wars, it's good that Americans see the effect war can have on other people's sons and daughters.
War is an awful human experience. It is sometimes necessary, but it is never sanitary.
by David Betz
Kings of War
Perhaps this is precisely the point: that the nineteenth century idealists, and all those in the business of representing war ever since, were not really searching for true depictions of war but rather drama, heroism and humanity as perceived by those of us who have never been there. As a consequence what they were seeking was not images of war, but ‘war photography’, a genre that would suitably reflect these elements. Perhaps that is why the snapshots taken by soldiers that capture fragments (and that is all a picture can do) of the brutal, mundane, frightening, and shameful world of war, that ignore the conventions of photography, are deemed problematical, confusing or unacceptable.
by Andrew Marr
People's reactions to the stories of mistreatment by British troops of prisoners in Iraq tend to divide into two camps: those who feel it is awful and a national shame, and those who agree, but point out with a small laugh that it was nothing compared with one's boarding school in the 1960s.
But the even bigger story is about technology. Dreadful things have always gone on in wars, and immediately after them, but in the old days the soldiers came home again and rarely said a word, except very late at night after the eighth beer.