War, by its very definition, is uncivil. Oh, we like to believe that we have somehow civilized war with the rules of conduct set forth by the Geneva Convention, but as we have seen time and time again, those rules really don’t mean much. The history of war is replete with the use of boiling oil, mustard gas, depleted uranium encased shells, napalm and nuclear bombs. It is also replete with atrocities such as what was witnessed in World War II and in numerous civil wars, including our own.
Though I am surprised to find out that a group of Marines serving in Afghanistan had not only pissed on the corpses of Taliban troops but also videotaped it, I am not shocked that such an act occurred. Because war is uncivil, atrocities happen. War is our human nature at its worst. This is in no way an excuse for what the Marines did, but an acknowledgement that what they did attests to the very uncivil nature of war.
As much as we would like to make this a teachable moment, it cannot be. If it could be a teachable moment, we could hope that it would never happen again. But it will. Maybe not by those wearing the uniforms of the United States military, but it will be repeated. Just as the ethnic cleansing of peoples in Rwanda and the Balkans are repeats of what happened in Armenia and the concentration camps of World War II. Human beings have never really learned from our mistakes. We just seem to come up with better ways of repeating them.
So, take a deep breath. The Marines in that video will be prosecuted and punished. Justice will be served and the wheels of war will continue to grind on.