Sunday, January 15, 2012

It's "Due to the Dead," Not "Do to the Dead"

It's a simple truth of life that no matter how pure and good something is, you can easily find someone standing against it - a task that has become far, far simpler with the ubiquity of the net. The natural corollary is that there is nothing so coarse and vile that you won't be able to find someone cheerleading it. Case in point - the recent storm surrounding the video that made its way into the world, depicting United States Marines in Afghanistan pissing on the corpses of dead Taliban fighters. This is undoubtedly something that has happened times uncountable in the long and bloody history of humanity, but it's not often that the world gets a direct window on it - and just because it's been happened time and again, it doesn't make it any more excusable.

There's a little thing, after all, called having respect for the dead. After all, when the crew of RML 497 recovered the body of Obermachinist Pigorsch in the North Sea during the height of the Second World War, they didn't urinate on it - they buried it at sea in sight of Europe. War is a notoriously dehumanizing thing, and it's through even small courtesies like paying proper respect to the dead that people involved in it can keep from having the abyss swallow them.

History, however, has amply demonstrated that the abyss is plenty hungry in Afghanistan; take the First Anglo-Afghan War, for one example among many. What it hasn't had so much opportunity to show is people back home standing up and applauding barbaric actions - and yes, that's exactly what I think this is, a barbaric action. Pissing on the corpse of a dead fighter is something I'd expect from some grunting Visigoth tearing down the walls of Rome. I goddamn well expect better than that from a member of the United States Marine Corps. People today are supposed to stand above that sort of base revenge - sure, everyone stumbles from time to time, but this is more like throwing oneself off the edge.

Like I said, though, you can always find someone cheerleading for something, no matter how heinous. So it goes with this. Recently Dana Loesch, editor-in-chief of the CNN-contributing news blog Big Journalism, used her talk radio pulpit to argue in support of pissing on the dead. I found coverage of this on Little Green Footballs, a blog that incidentally has changed a vast, staggering amount since I was in university, along with the audio itself on YouTube. Listen to it. Since I don't listen to talk radio myself, particularly conservative American talk radio, I have no idea how "fringe" this is, or even if it is. Certainly the idea that "progressive" is a pejorative term has been spreading slowly but steadily through the American right wing since 2008.

"Can someone explain to me if there's supposed to be a scandal that someone pees on the corpse of a Taliban fighter? Someone who's part of an organization that murdered over three thousand Americans?" she asks, rather rhetorically. "I'd drop trou and do it too. That's me, though."

In situations like this I find it somewhat difficult to fully come to grips with the other person's thought process, mainly because we're hammering at the same situation from two vastly different perspectives. In her subsequent defense against "the usual mob of progressive haters," which I suppose applies to me now as well, she chooses to defend herself by saying, "In my Twitter timeline yesterday progressives called our military 'killers, kids, barbaric trash, murderers...'" and that because the same people didn't raise a stink over the Air Force dumping some cremated partial remains of dead soldiers into a landfill, their arguments are automatically invalid.

That last one is a horrid thing, disrespect for the dead - but disrespect of a different sort, one that should be dealt with a different way. Yet it's not material to the subject at hand. Loesch's defense is a scattershot attempt to discredit the people who disagree with her - which isn't really surprising; she evidently believes from what she's said and written that there was nothing wrong with Marines pissing on dead Taliban fighters, and so she doesn't see any reason to justify it. At least, that's what it seems like to me.

Still, it remains a bad thing, an intensely negative thing, something that's worth being called a scandal no matter how much people like Dana Loesch argue. To see why, simply turn it around - consider a situation where a bunch of Taliban fighters killed some US, or Canadian, or any ISAF troops, pissed on their corpses, and the video got out on YouTube. Would people like Loesch still be saying that this wasn't a scandal? Not likely. If the reverse happened the right-wing blogosphere would be on fire.

"I’ve seen more outrage towards our troops over this incident than I have ever seen towards the Taliban themselves who’ve beheaded soldiers (American and Afghan), raped and tortured women, sent out suicide bombers, and carried out horrific attacks," Leisch wrote. Allow me to be blunt in response.

We expect that sort of thing from the Taliban.

We expect our people to FUCKING BE BETTER THAN THAT.

1 comment:

  1. Right. Ultimately it comes down to "how do we know that we're the good guys ?". How you fight is at least as important as what you're fighting for (or what you claim to be fighting for).