Rep. Allen West on the Marine “urination” incident: “War is hell.”

Rep,. West

Representative Allen West (R-FL), a former Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army, commented today on the video of U.S. Marines urinating on Taliban corpses.

“The Marines were wrong. Give them a maximum punishment under field grade level Article 15 (non-judicial punishment), place a General Officer level letter of reprimand in their personnel file, and have them in full dress uniform stand before their Battalion, each personally apologize to God, Country, and Corps videotaped and conclude by singing the full US Marine Corps Hymn without a teleprompter.

“As for everyone else, unless you have been shot at by the Taliban, shut your mouth, war is hell.”

Rep. West also noted that he saw no similar liberal outrage over the crimes and atrocities committed against our men and women by the Taliban and insurgents in Iraq.

Unacceptable. Ever.

Two comments. First, I think we hold Marines to a higher standard than the Taliban. What they did was wrong, and Rep. West is right: they should be punished.

But comparing this to what the Taliban has done is pointless. We’re not savages. They are. And we shouldn’t even consider comparing our behavior to theirs. I understand Rep. West’s anger, but we all know by now that media “outrage” is highly selective, and we might as well not play that game.

I also disagree with “shutting our mouths” about it. We already carve out far too many exceptions where we hold the military beyond criticism. This is a democracy, and the Marines wear our flag and act in our name. It’s okay to be critical of this — even if that criticism does come from sanctimonious jerks who hate the military no matter what it does.

It is no favor to the Marines to simply say “War is hell” and be done with it. Let’s continue to hold our men and women in uniform to the highest standards, call them out and punish them when they screw up, and move on.

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  1. It’s unfortunate that much of the media is ignoring the important part of Rep. West’s comment, where he advocates a very proper punishment for these idiots. Since virtually nobody in the media knows anything about UCMJ and military justice, they expect a huge public spectacle; anything less is “approving” of the incident. I call BS.

    Of course we hold ourselves to a very high standard; anyone who has ever been near a warzone in recent memory knows just how seriously the US military takes ROE and all efforts to spare innocent lives.

    Urinating on enemy dead is disgusting but routine, and a whole lot less than what the Taliban do to dead enemies, military or civilian. Not to mention a whole lot less awful than Abu Ghraib, Haditha, et al. Let’s not make this out to be a Mini My Lai here. The unconscionably stupid part was filming it.

    Let them be punished as Rep. West has recommended – and get on with it.

  2. One word: bearing. I don’t think that this kind of behavior should be tolerated by a professional military, first and foremost because the US military isn’t about peeing on people, it cheapens the image of the entire force, second of all – and to quote US Army Field Manual 27-2, “Attacks on personal dignity or other humiliating or degrading treatment are strictly forbidden” and “Do not strengthen the enemy’s will to fight”. I would imagine that this kind of thing is counterproductive to projecting the image of the US as “the good guys” and in fact would only make terrorist recruitment easier.

    I don’t think that peeing on people – dead or alive, enemy or ally – is proper military bearing. It’s unprofessional and it puts our own people at risk because if our men are captured or killed, are they going to be peed on as a result of this? This is not what wearing the uniform is about.

  3. Degrading, desecrating, even mutilating enemy dead is a natural part of war, especially when that war is “societal” ie between mutually hostile civilizations. I won’t even get into the Taliban version of UCMJ.

    What the Marines did is morally repugnant to civilians, for obvious reasons and – to repeat myself – the young men responsible ought to be punished as Rep. West has suggested.

    As for “proper military bearing” there are different standards for the parade-ground the the battlefield; I suggest you read sometime how the US Army dealt with Moros in the southern Philippines a hundred years ago (hint: the idea of burying dead mujahidin in pig-skins – highly effective IO, BTW – didn’t originate with the Russians in Chechnya a few years ago).

    I’m sure this incident will make Muslims angry, but those who get really hot and bothered about this hated us already. Frankly the psycho-sexual mindf*ck of Abu Ghraib was infinitely worse than this as it hit dar al-Islam right in the heart of its conflicted worldview.

    You need to be aware that AQ was already torturing and decapitating Western prisoners well before this incident – this will make no difference.

  4. What should be done is what is found politically expedient at the grand strategy level, although it isn’t a surprise particularly, as Sherman was right, and he would know its heart of darkness quality better than most.

  5. So you’re telling me that COIN is still war? (I know, just barely; perhaps that’s what is confusing everyone.) War is hell? In other words, war is still war. Newsflash to some, but degradations and atrocities are part of the human condition during war, as are timeless aspects like dehumanizing the enemy. Heard of Achilles dragging Hector’s corpse before the walls of Troy? Sebastian Junger, author of War and the documentary Restrepo about the Korengal valley, just reminded readers of the WaPo of this –

    Those in combat deal with death (and fear thereof) in all kinds of ways – some comedic, some pornographic, some profane. Always have, always will. The rules of engagement and the military justice system are meant to keep these reactions in check, and they do, by and large. The Marines in this rather tame case will be dealt with accordingly and the storm of outrage will pass.

    Final thought: apparently these guys didn’t get the memo from VP Biden that the Taliban is not the enemy, though the TB are sure trying to kill or maim as many Americans as they can while watching the calendar and waiting for 2014. Let’s not be naive about what we’re asking these young Americans to do: kill the Taliban, just don’t offend them? Everything the US military does is in this country’s name: the good, the bad, the ugly. Strategic corporals’ actions swing both ways.

  6. While I agree with the Honorable LTC (ret) West, he doesn’t go far enough. After punishing the offending marines per the UCMJ, every marine officer in their chain of command from squad on up to brigade level should be relieved — AND THEN MOVE ON! Appears the discipline we all expect from our marines has eroded to a degree that is unexceptable — regardless of war being “hell” or not.