It is not what the few do but what the many don’t do. That really represents what we are all about, co-conspirators in a sea of silence. Marines who view despicable acts committed by other marines remain silent; the officers, who are well aware of this behavior, condone it, invariably following the “ethical criminal” attitude in war morality of “when in war, shit happens”; and the nation prefers to play the part of Pontius Pilates.
Hillary Clinton, most everyone in our government, and those hypocrites at the Pentagon should not be acting surprised at the outrageous and contemptuous behavior of those four marines from Camp Lejeune desecrating the Taliban’s corpses. The four have received no different training, or possess different brainwashed mindsets, from the other 200,000+ marines now on active duty, or the 1,600,000+ empire-warriors comprising our international police force.
No, the Marine Corps does not teach its men to do such detestable and gravely outrageous things, none of the military services do; but neither do they teach them not to do them, or demand that honorable conduct be peer-enforced. Therein lays the problem, honorable conduct taking a back seat to fellowship and camaraderie among fellow servicemen, particularly marines. And not just honorable conduct but humane, moral conduct as well!
And no, these are not only isolated cases that occur; only isolated in how they come to be public knowledge, their frequency just a minuscule fraction of the instances in which they happen. Ask any member of the military. I have, and ‘been there myself. If the academies do not demand, and unequivocally enforce, that honorable conduct be peer-enforced, how can such be expected to take place in the enlisted ranks?
Human rights and dignity have never been part of the military code of ethics, not in the officer nor in the enlisted ranks. In fact, ethics most often stands in the way of all military missions no matter how we try to rationalize soldiers’ behavior, embellish it, or try to find glory where there is none. American citizenry, no different from that in other countries, has been content to have its military stick to vague or irrelevant terminology such as that used at the Military Academy at West Point: “Duty, Honor and Country.”
West Point’s Cadet Honor Code, similar to that of the other military academies, states that “A cadet will not lie, cheat, or steal…” but it took until 1970 to have a most important clause added, as military criminal behavior in Vietnam was becoming better known through inductees returning home, or tolerate those who do. And, as it became evident with the cheating scandal at Annapolis just two decades ago, misguided loyalty to their peers persists, appearing to take precedence over any established code of conduct. And that, no matter how often it is denied, is an irrefutable fact.
In any event, it is less about honor and more about morality, two things that all too often we tend to use interchangeably. Our own “Sage of Baltimore”, H. L. Mencken, proved to be right on target when he stated that “the difference between a moral man and a man of honor is that the latter regrets a discreditable act, even when it has worked and he has not been caught” [Chrestomathy 617].
A well-known four-star general (US Army, retired) and television military analyst, Barry McCaffrey, when commenting on this recent marine incident eluded to the fact that soldiers under similar circumstances [assumed to be in combat or post-combat] can walk a fine line between acting normal and becoming animals. I am sure he meant irrational, for most animals have set behaviors, and seldom develop deviant ones.
That brings me to man and his best friend in the animal kingdom: the dog. For whatever reasons, invalid and repulsive to many of us, man (or at least some men) has decided to breed and train dogs with some undesirable characteristics, such as combative ferocity and instinct to kill. Americans have done a masterful job in this regard with the Pit Bull Terrier. And now, we as a nation are doing the same thing with the young men we are sending to fight our illegitimate wars – not to cast legitimacy to any war. Our grunts and junior officers have become the pit bulls fighting the wars, the military brass and the nation as a whole becoming their handlers, directly responsible for their amoral acts.
No one in the world is going to buy into our defensive hypocrisy of this incident, Madame Clinton. If we don’t want “shit to happen,” let’s just stop having these wars. Better yet, let’s tell the world our hypocrisy is coming to an end by renaming our Department of Defense for what it really is, our Department of War.
Ben Tanosborn is a syndicated columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ben’s website: www.tanosborn.com