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What are we doing to ourselves?


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The latest thing we’re all being forced to try to make sense of and/or pick up the pieces from is the video of four US Marines urinating on dead Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.

Last Friday I woke up at 2 am feeling an itch in my brain, so I got out of bed and wrote “Marines Urinating on Dead Taliban: How Low Will We Go?” If you want to know what I think about the incident itself, please read that article. This article is about some of the comments posted on that one, which brought home that some things that seem glaringly obvious to me are quite a bit less so to many of my fellow Americans.

“To call for these four guys’ heads over something so minor is ridiculous,” asserted one reader.

In response to my remark that I’ll remember the urination incident the next time I witness passengers in a US airport breaking out in applause when the gate agent or flight attendant congratulates “our men and women in uniform,” another wrote: “You are free to think that, you are free to write this column … thanks to men and women in uniform. Your statement shows your ignorance of the service and sacrifice of people like myself who give of ourselves and willingly put ourselves in harm’s way to ensure our loved ones and people like yourself can be free. This also shows blatant prejudice of an entire group based on the actions of a few. May you continue to enjoy the freedoms earned by men and women that volunteered to ensure you never lose them.”

My response to such pro-military bullies and blowhards is: No, I’m not free because of the sacrifices of “our men and women in uniform.” I’m free because I’m free. You can’t give me my freedom, nor can you withhold it. It’s mine by right. That’s what America is all about – right?

I’m prepared to insist on that point because, even though freedom is mine by right, I can keep it only by exercising it. So I’m going to continue exercising it, because it’s not possible to be both completely free and completely secure, and I prefer freedom.

Fetishising “our men and women in uniform” leads to justifying, excusing, or explaining away whatever they might do in the heat of battle. But should they even be in battle in the first place? And, despite their bravery and training, “our men and women in uniform” seem somehow to have failed or neglected to protect me from the National Defense Authorisation Act, which since December 31 provides for indefinite detention of US citizens. It’s fair to ask whether the Taliban are truly more dangerous to Americans’ freedom than the United States Congress or Supreme Court.

A commenter on Sebastian Junger’s fine Washington Post article “We’re all guilty of dehumanising the enemy” wrote: “It’s tribal. It’s not a police action. While these acts are deplorable, they are also understandable. In a warrior’s mind, they already dehumanised the enemy.” I can’t disagree with this; as Junger pointed out, “A 19-year-old Marine has a very hard time reconciling the fact that it’s [allegedly] okay to waterboard a live Taliban fighter but not okay to urinate on a dead one.”

We can’t deplore (such a milquetoast word) enlisted Marines urinating on people we’ve defined as our enemy without acknowledging that (another lame phrase) “our political leaders” – which is to say all of us, especially if we still believe in democracy – are guilty well prior to the Marines themselves. What could the Taliban do to us that’s worse than the things we’re already doing to ourselves and each other? And is allowing ourselves to commit atrocities preferable to leaving ourselves vulnerable?

How you see this incident depends on whether you’re willing to acknowledge that the corpses urinated on were those of human beings.

Read full article here.


Ethan Casey is the author of Alive and Well in Pakistan and Overtaken By Events: A Pakistan Road Trip. He can be reached at and

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (22) Closed

Muhammed N Huda Jan 17, 2012 03:21pm
Finally you got your point on a truthful brilliant article. Please keep going for the sake of truth and may you explore all the avenues to uncover all the rotten and stinky piled up lies and let freedom speak for itself with dignity and truth.
Tariq Majeed Jan 17, 2012 03:55pm
When you put someone else security at risk, you put your own security at risk. Margin of error is 0%
raika45 Jan 17, 2012 04:04pm
It is easy for you sitting behind secure walls to mouth your philosophy.Only those willing to face death protecting the vulnerable people of Afghanistan can sometimes loose control under tense conditions.That too when you are hardly battle hardened.For your information the taliban are no angles.
miramshah Jan 17, 2012 07:31pm
I was wondering who would have the guts to state the facts. But I also worry for you Ethan, as I believe Americans are not yet ready for the truth as Television media brain washing continues. My salutes to you.
Khalid Jan 17, 2012 08:17pm
I am yet to read something better then this one and I have all the praises for the Author. At least some one is having the sense and courage to point it out.
Sohrab Jan 17, 2012 09:13pm
'You are free because you are free". No my frined you are both naive and thankless. You feel entitled to your freedom thanks to this country. While most in the US will find this act despicable, do not take your freedom for granted lest it be taken over by rabid, un-educated men. I salute and thank all those men and women in uniform, both in the US and Pakistan, who preserve my freedom. I can only feel sorry for your entitled liberal views while you are confortably seated in a safe and secure environment.
Bardas Jan 17, 2012 09:39pm
Well done Sir, great writing, thank you and god bless.
aqabdulaziz Jan 18, 2012 01:15am
It is fascinating to note how Pakistanis say, "Brilliant aricle. You hit the nail on the head," whenever they see a Western article that makes American effort in Afghanistan seem fruitless. But when countless of articles point to sad reality in Pakistan, these very people in Pakistan say, "This western media is biased." In the heat of the moment, some soldiers of any nation (including Pakistan; hint Bangladesh and Balochistan) do awful things. American soldiers and American medical help save hundreds of Taliban and Afghan civilians. Therefore, it is not all that bad.
Cog Jan 18, 2012 02:21am
I think you have to consider the actions of those they are fighting for context. The Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan have absconded from any semblance of accepted laws of armed conflict or Geneva Convention codes of conduct. Yes it is deplorable what the soldiers did and they should be reprimanded harshly in addition to initiating a full review. In the last few months the Taliban have posted video of mass executions of Afghani and Pakistani police, desecrated a dead Afghan soldier (while lying on the video and saying he was an American), and killing a tied up Pakistani policeman with a recoilless rifle while everybody on the video cheered and said god is great. Three small examples of hundreds of videos posted online over the last year that don't begin to touch on the wrath they are inflicting with IED, mortar and ambush attacks on regular Afghan civilians. Yes what the Marines did is horrible. but it doesnt go near recruiting children as suicide bombers, buying poor farmers and brainwashing them to attack hotels, or hiding in Burqas to attack civilians and police. I don't think it is the Marines that need to acknowledge humanity.
Saad Salman Zia Jan 18, 2012 02:57am
It's even more so for you to sit in closed walls and criticize the person who bothered to raise his voice. Yes the Taliban are no angels, but this dehumanized behavior does not bode well with a professional military organization which is by no means comparable to an independent militant movement such as the Taliban. This acts as a perfect recruiting tool for militants to show how inhumane the occupiers can be. The Americans are negotiating with Mullah Omar on one hand and on the other, this shows up on global media; a bit of a hypocritical conundrum isn't it? You can make a fetish out of military personnel but that gives you no reason to justify any inhumane acts committed from their end. This behavior is animalistic and deserves nothing less than an immediate court martial. They bring shame not only to their own country but to all humanity.
anony Jan 18, 2012 09:13am
First abu ghraib...then rape of an iraqi minor girl and now this urinating incident....It seems like the americans are simply 'sick' in their minds. It seems like all that crosses their minds are filth, private body parts and obscenity. And then they wonder why they are hated so much throughout the world. The only countries that like them have something to gain from it.
Gaurav Arya Jan 18, 2012 11:42am
It is sad that you choose to write in such a vein. The guilty four should and will be punished, but lets understand that it is an aberration and not the norm. Sir, your freedom has been given to you. You may not accept it but a contrary view is surely utopian. People are crushed every where. Someone has to stand up for the little guys. The United States Marine Corps does that everyday.
AnAmerican Jan 18, 2012 11:51am
Desecrating dead bodies is against Geneva conventions as well as moral code. So at no time Americans should be defending wrong acts of their soldiers. Supporting our troops doesn't mean defending wrong behavior of our troops. The problem is in US popular culture where people see things in black and white. We are good, so our enemies are bad guys and hence we can do no wrong is the attitude of so called conservatives. Unfortunately they are the vocal and hence influential group. It is true that America will be brought down from within instead of an external enemy. Look at what the country has done in last 12 years and one can see how American is declining. A major political party would rather run the country to the ground than compromise with the other party to do things that are in the best interest of the country.
Raoul Jan 18, 2012 01:00pm
Urinating on a dead person is sick. Period. Incidentally, that does not take away from just ONE key fact.....the Taliban are the enemy of Pakistan, US, and Afghans as they kill. They do so for an ideology they believe is right and they do NOT kill only the enemy warrior/soldier, but the girl on the street, the mother with child, the old man going home etc. They are also extremely medieval in their mindset and torture victims, torture the enemy soldiers including cutting off genitals, fingers etc apart from the head. The US marines are WRONG and the anti US feelings and the glare of the spotlight on their actions thru an active pervasive media rightly shows their errors. It must stop. The silent buthery of the Taliban needs to be also written about as a Human Rights Issue I feel, though. A butcher by any name or ideology should be held upto light. Other wise, fanatasy monegring crazy fringe in the nation of Pakistan will idolize the bad habits of the Taliban too, instead of asking them to mend their ways and not kill/torture civilians etc.
Wakil Jan 18, 2012 01:17pm
Every country has bad people. Every army has rouge soldiers and some also have rouge generals :). I am sure that those 4 american soldiers will not be spared by America, as American army has highest rate of successful prosecution.
Farooq Jan 18, 2012 01:32pm
Your words are too little ... too late ..... It's not just Americans who are being brainwashed by the mighty few it's the whole world.... you should have been writing these things years ago .. why did'nt you?
RP Jan 18, 2012 06:44pm
If I have to choose between someone who plants bombs in a busy street and tries to kill me, or someone who urinates on my dead body, I'll choose the urinater any day.
Regal Jan 18, 2012 11:00pm
It is not the question of urinating... or defacing the dead. If the dead person were criminals or part of the organisation of any criminal group, what is the problem in mistreating the dead body. I opine that such criminal bodies should not be given any respect. If such criminals are treated like this at least it will deter the others who do such criminal activities.
Raoul Jan 19, 2012 01:31pm
Yes, what u say makes sense and the other side cannot go scot free either. They are as much , maybe more barbaric and animalistic.
sundeep Jan 20, 2012 06:27am
two wrongs don't make one right. An eye for an eye runs the risk of leaving the world blind
Syed N.Hussain, MBA, Jan 24, 2012 05:32am
It is down right wrong and sickening act. It reflects the moral and ethical and professional degradation of the American society. Admittedkly one cannot condemn entire American society for the isolated acts by a few rougue American soldiers, buit they must be given an examplary punishment to deter the other professionals acquiring a bad name, and bring ill-repute to the majority of good Americans.
Muhammad Jan 24, 2012 10:36pm
Awful act of course, but let's not forget how the Taliban treat their enemies! "All is fair in love and war" as they say..