Some Marines seem to have pissed on the cadavers of some Taliban in Afghanistan. We don’t know when or exactly where. It may well have taken place some time ago; a military friend suggests that at least two of the alleged miscreants are no longer in the Corps, and a spokesman at Camp Lejeune said that some of the four have left the battalion in which they served — last year — in Afghanistan. But no matter. Our leaders are in a panic. Hillary and Panetta are horrified, and their public comments verge on hysteria (Panetta called the behavior “utterly deplorable” and Hillary expressed “total dismay”). Afghan President Karzai, a noted humanitarian, declared it “inhumane.” Our full military investigative apparatus, last seen prosecuting Marines subsequently found innocent, is in full activity, and no doubt heads, if not other parts of the anatomy, will be figuratively sliced off.
I wonder if they know there’s a war on, and what sorts of things routinely happen in wartime. It may well be that they are so involved in trying to extend yet another outstretched hand to our enemies, that they are really shocked at the very idea that men on the battlefield aren’t devotees of Emily Post’s rules of etiquette, and even violate the Geneva Convention’s strictures against desecrating dead bodies.
Yes, I condemn the pissing. It violates the Marines’ own rules, and, as a two-time Marine dad, I want to be proud of my Marines, and I want them to follow the rules. For extras, these guys — assuming, as I do, that the video is “real” — were monumentally stupid when they made the video, and supermonumentally stupid when they put it online. So by all means punish them. And while you’re at it, haul their commander in front of a JAG tribunal and find out what he knew, when he knew it, and why he didn’t lead his men as he’s supposed to.
But our leaders’ tone is all wrong, and needless to say, the media feeding frenzy is typical of the breed. I’ve been telling friends for months now that the Marines are winning in Afghanistan. I always add, “it’s obvious, isn’t it? You don’t read much of anything about their activities, which obviously means they’re doing well.” The media pack doesn’t want you to know that, so they don’t report it, and it’s not mainly because they don’t have correspondents willing and able to do it. It’s not even because the news is hard to come by. All you have to do is read the material coming out of ISAF (the International Security Assistance Force) in Kabul, for example this photo essay that’s headlined “Afghan, Marine forces clear remnants of insurgency in southern Helmand.” That’s the area from which the Brits — who are plenty good fighters — withdrew because it was just too bloody. The Marines cleaned it up, and they are now advising the Afghans how to conduct a mopup operation.
To the media pack, the “pissing story” was a welcome present, because they can unleash their full primal scream of righteous indignation against the Marines, whom they resent because the Marines are so very good at what they do. DIGRESSION: As an institution, the military, at least temporarily, is the best we’ve got, and the Marines are the best of the lot, both because they’re relatively small, and because they are well led.
BACK TO THE SERMON: The bottom line is that the media pack is herding our officials into a politically correct apology frenzy, and you can be sure that the Marines have been told to move very fast so that public sacrifices can be staged.
It’s pretty shameful, and I doubt the public views this spectacle with great enthusiasm. I wonder what a Rasmussen poll would yield if the American people were asked if they think the behavior of the pissing Marines was akin to a major war crime. And do they think the Marines should be sent to Guantanamo?
But then, Patton was all about winning, and the media of that long forgotten time felt the same way — as the video proves — and thought it was just great for an American soldier to show his contempt for our enemies in a very traditional way.
I don’t think you’ll find many favorable references to that in the New York Times or the WashingtonPost in the near future. After all, this war’s all about leaving the battlefield, not about defeating enemies.
If I were advising the secretaries of state and defense I’d say:
1. Treat it as a routine matter. “Boys will be boys. Especially in war. Stuff happens. We enforce our rules.”
2. Don’t pass judgment, even hypothetically. Just say, it’s been referred to the investigators. When we find out what happened, we’ll get back to you.
3. If Karzai delivers more moral lectures, have the president of the United States give a speech about Afghan sexual culture, including the treatment of young boys by older men, and the treatment of women by all Afghan men. And then suggest, ever so sweetly, that Karzai is not really in a strong position to lecture us.
Dr. Michael Ledeen is the Freedom Scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He is also a contributing editor at National Review Online. Previously, he served as a consultant to the National Security Council, the State Department, and the Defense Department. He has also served as a special adviser to the Secretary of State. He holds a Ph.D. in modern European history and philosophy from the University of Wisconsin, and has taught at Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Rome.
Dr. Ledeen regularly appears on Fox News, and on a variety of radio talk shows. He has been on PBS's NewsHour and CNN's Larry King Live, among others, and regularly contributes to the Wall Street Journal and to National Review Online. He has a blog on Pajamasmedia.com.
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