A few Marines in Afghanistan did a really dumb thing: They emptied their “short arms” on a trio of Taliban corpses. The act was unacceptable. It was against military regulations and constituted a minor—very minor—infringement of the Geneva Convention. Those Marines showed terrible judgment and should receive appropriate “non-judicial punishment” that will impact their careers. If a non-commissioned officer was involved, his career should end.
But that’s all, folks. This was not an atrocity. No terrorists were harmed in the making of that video. Defiling enemy corpses is wrong, but it’s not murder, torture, rape or any other crime against a living human being. Nonetheless politically correct Washington went into manic-panic mode the moment the news broke about that video. Everybody, from the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs on down rushed to issue public apologies. A high-level investigation (aka “witch hunt”) has been ordered, but the decision’s already been made to hang those Marines and their chain of command. Our military just bent over: Not a word about how remarkably honorable and disciplined hundreds of thousands of our troops have been, and not a word about the Taliban’s very real atrocities.
Of course, President Karzai of Afghanistan condemned the leaky-Marines video as monstrous. He’s mum on Taliban massacres, suicide bombings and torture, though. Our own administration’s fear was that the literal pissing contest would derail the negotiations all the president’s men have begged the Taliban to enter into so we can have “peace with honor” and get out of Saigon. Sorry: I meant “Kabul.”
But the most grotesque and reprehensible behavior has been that of our own media. I’ve been stunned: Cynical though I am about many journalists and pseudo-journalists, I really didn’t think so many of them hated and despised our men and women in uniform so deeply at this point.
What I’ve seen and heard has been near-orgasmic delight in the opportunity to tear down our troops. The establishment media has reported this inexcusable, but decidedly minor incident as if it were a repeat of Vietnam’s My Lai massacre—if not of Nazi atrocities or the Holocaust entire. Nowhere on broadcast or cable television did I hear anyone put the incident into perspective and say, “Sometimes grunts do dumb stuff. The real story is how few such incidents there have been, how amazingly disciplined our troops are.”
Please consider a couple of things:
First, this urination-euphoria in the media has been covered more enthusiastically and with far more airtime than any act of military heroism in a decade of wars. The only time the media cover a heroic act by a soldier or Marine is when President Obama personally presents a medal and the White House press corps can focus on his role as “noble” commander-in-chief. Of course, homeless vets get some attention as a backdoor way to attack the military, and amputation stories meant to discourage enlistment are always big, but how many stories have you seen, heard or read about the amazing discipline of our troops under the grinding stresses of this kind of warfare? For all the media’s determination to show that our Soldiers and Marines are really a combination of rednecks and SS butchers, you can count the verified incidents of U.S. atrocities from two grueling conflicts on one hand—and that includes Abu Ghraib (the civilian-wrought atrocities by the civilian mercenaries our government hired are another matter).
And every atrocity charge against our troops has involved low-level actions by a handful of junior personnel. Contrary to the implications of leftwing propaganda, bad behavior has never been policy—not even at the platoon level. And guess what, folks? When you’ve got 100k to 150k troops on the ground, a few sociopaths or even psychopaths are going to pop up, no matter how thorough the vetting process and rigorous our discipline. That’s humanity. After all, the left’s darling of the moment, the traitorous and infinitely creepy PFC Bradley Manning, made it through. Of course, he has the media’s sympathy for betraying our country. Those combat Marines who risked their lives to fight the Taliban are going to be crucified, though.
In historical terms, the good comportment and discipline of our troops in our recent wars has been unprecedented. Well over a million service members rotated through Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade—and the best the media can come up with to discredit them is a (literally) dumb-dick video of three or four Marines inappropriately celebrating a small victory over a savage enemy.
In thousands of years of recorded history, wars in which different civilizations collide and wars involving different racial or religious groups consistently have been the most brutal, strewn with appalling atrocities. We’ve defied the historical record. To a serious student of military history, the behavior of our troops in these wars has been astounding in its moral rigor and humanity—if anything, we’ve been too gentle too much of the time.
But the media care nothing for that. At last, they have another opportunity to portray our troops as sick thugs. And they’re reveling in it. Because the establishment media remain left-of-center in their biases, and the American left still hates our military. Oh, leftists have figured out that they can’t attack it head-on anymore and even that it pays to pretend to honor the troops now and then. But the left hates, despises and fears those who volunteer to defend them and their freedoms. Aging lefties—many now at executive levels in the media, or in honored emeritus situations—had their glory days during the Vietnam War. They were able to portray themselves as heroes then, and we, the people, allowed ourselves to be gulled. Journalists became the story, with our troops as background color. An ill-managed war played into their hands, along with a ragged draft-era military.
Now we have a professional, volunteer force with unprecedented skills and solid discipline. It’s been terribly frustrating for reporters, who’ve been limited to explaining why they’re smarter than the occasional “real” general who actually tries to fight. Worse, the ambitious, media-adept generals have been able to con the media with politically correct nonsense, and some of the reporters and commentators are beginning to realize they were taken in. And they’re angry. On top of all that comes the Freudian fear that the pallid-professor type feels when he imagines a muscular warrior: It reminds me of that classic scene in the R&B bar in Animal House when Flounder cries, “The Negroes took our dates!” Those who never wore the uniform, but are consumed by intellectual vanity, fear that the Soldiers are going to take their dates (and we do). So the symbolism of those Marines waving their privates was all too perfect. Where’s Dr. Freud when we need him?
Let’s see how long the media continue to celebrate and exaggerate one stupid act by a couple of Marines. And let’s see if a single active-duty general has the decency to say, “Let’s get a grip. This was wrong, but it wasn’t the Katyn Massacre or the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto. We can handle those Marines, and now we’re going to move on.”
My prediction? Ain’t gonna happen. Political correctness and its commissars are in full control of our senior military leaders. It really has been horrifying to see top generals wet their pants because a few Marines peed on Taliban corpses. Come on, guys! Bad things happen in wars. By any reasonable standard, this is small potatoes (or tiny kebabs).
The pathetic truth is that our media want our troops to do awful things—not only because it makes a great story, but because it vindicates their life-choices. If you really want to put things in perspective, remember that all journalists are parasites (even the best of them): They live off the deeds and misfortunes of others. They get paid for being voyeurs. In war, they live on the battlefield’s leavings, just as they profit from crime in time of peace. Without brave men and women in uniform, they wouldn’t be able to make their bones as war correspondents. The fundamental problem here is jealousy (Freudian and otherwise). The journalists want to be the heroes, but want to pay the lowest possible dues in brief installments.
No one so far has attempted to explain the stresses of counterinsurgency operations, what it’s like to face an enemy who refuses to face you, but hides among civilians—and who engages in boundless cruelty and treachery not only against you, but against his own people.
What those Marines did was wrong. But the media’s delight in blowing up the story has been the real crime.
Ralph Peters writes for FamilySecurityMatters, from where this article is adapted.