What Fresh Hell Is This?

January 17, 2012

Another Reason Torture's Immoral

I start today with the P-G's Tony Norman:
Last week, video footage of four U.S. Marines urinating on the bodies of three dead Taliban fighters went viral. With the exception of a handful of morally dead ideologues on the right, the reaction to the video was one of revulsion at home and fury abroad.

As Americans, we were reminded that just because we choose not to pay attention to the war in Afghanistan, we share moral complicity for wars fought in our name. The callousness of the four Marines wasn't unprecedented. Relative to the toll on civilian lives in three countries because of American drone attacks, public urination on enemy corpses pales in comparison as a war crime.

In a widely read essay in The Washington Post, war correspondent Sebastian Junger astutely pointed out that a "19-year-old Marine has a very hard time reconciling the fact that it's OK to waterboard a live Taliban fighter but not OK to urinate on a dead one."
While Tony spends more time pointing out this nation's faith-based hypocrisy:
It is a sign of how decadent much of American Christianity has become: A candidate who enthusiastically condones assassination is the same man who 150 "Christian" leaders have decided best exemplifies the Christian values they want to see at work in the White House. Where does Jesus Christ fit in this scenario?
Sebastian Junger, in that essay Tony referenced, touches more on the sociological impacts of two administrations accommodation of torture:
When the war on terror started, the Marines in that video were probably 9 or 10 years old. As children they heard adults — and political leaders — talk about our enemies in the most inhuman terms. The Internet and the news media are filled with self-important men and women referring to our enemies as animals that deserve little legal or moral consideration. We have sent enemy fighters to countries like Syria and Libya to be tortured by the very regimes that we have recently condemned for engaging in war crimes and torture. They have been tortured into confessing their crimes and then locked up indefinitely without trial because their confessions — achieved through torture — will not stand up in court.

For the past 10 years, American children have absorbed these moral contradictions, and now they are fighting our wars. The video doesn’t surprise me, but it makes me incredibly sad — not just for them, but also for us. We may prosecute these men for desecrating the dead while maintaining that it is okay to torture the living.
From The Geneva Conventions, Chapter 2 Article 15 on the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field:
At all times, and particularly after an engagement, Parties to the conflict shall, without delay, take all possible measures to search for and collect the wounded and sick, to protect them against pillage and ill-treatment, to ensure their adequate care, and to search for the dead and prevent their being despoiled.
I'd say pissing on some dead enemy combatants certainly qualifies as "despoiled."

Legality aside (as if that's possible here) I want to emphasize another downside of allowing the Bush-endorsed waterboarding to go unpunished or even unprosecuted (as the Obama Administration is doing): it desensitizes us to all other "paler" war crimes.  War crimes done in our name.  Some with our grudging acquiescence.

To feel like we're protecting our safety, we despoil ourselves.

No longer the city on the hill.  No longer on the high moral ground.  Look at us.  Look at what they make you give.


Heir to the Throne said...

Once again Dayvoe grants full Geneva Conventions rights to those who do not follow/abide with the Geneva Conventions rights.

From The Geneva Conventions, Part 1 Article 2
"They shall furthermore be bound by the Convention in relation to the said Power, if the latter accepts and applies the provisions thereof."
in other words
If the party does NOT accept and apply the conventions, the other parties are not bound by them. Convention protections are reciprocal.

Donn Nemchick said...

Those who have not experienced combat are quick to judge the combatants. Yes, the 4 Marines should have known better however we owe it to them to hear their side of the story. The "suits" in Washington sent them to that rock pile, what did they think would happen? Nation building or war? The two are not the same.

Anonymous said...

Dorin, what "side" of a story would make desecration of a corpse acceptable?

httt, why are we in Afghanistan? If the answer is nothing more than to kill Afghans, and piss on their bodies, then, perhaps, it's time to go home.

Ol' Froth said...

It really doesn't matter if the Taliban doesn't follow the Geneva COnventions. The US is a signatory to the conventions, and so we abide by them. The actions of others, while deplorable, don't give us license to act the same way.

rich10e said...

BS..."revulsion @ home and fury abroad".More BS...a "19-year-old Marine has a very hard time reconciling the fact that it's OK to waterboard a live Taliban fighter but not OK to urinate on a dead one." The number of those waterboarded was small single digits and no 19 year marines were involved.It was stupid to do ,even more stupid to film.GET OVER IT!
I'd rather get my perspective on this incident from Alan West who's been there than Tony Norman sitting in his cubicle on the Blvd of the Allies!!

Anonymous said...

To paraphrase an old saying: What profit a nation, if it gains the whole world, but loses its own soul?

Anonymous said...

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The Heathen Republican said...

"two administrations accommodation of torture"

No administration has accommodated or condoned the use of torture. In fact, the Bush administration denounced torture repeatedly. The entire premise of your post is a straw man because no one on the right is in favor of torture.

Carbolic said...


Blue Number 2 said...

THR...yeah, after they cooked up some convoluted definition of waterboarding (one that no one in the world or in history has ever used) to say it wasn't torture. This was WAY worse than it depending on what the definition of "is" is.

HTTT and all...this isn about them. It's about US. What kind of people are we? More importantly, what kind of people are the US as a whole. HTTT...you think that torturing people who didn't sign a piece of paper is a great thing and you're eager to do it...you can believe that. But I'll be damned if this country that is supposed to represent the best of humanity makes it standard policy...even for "single digits".