On keeping perspective in wartime and shutting mouths

In the past few days a video has surfaced of some of our Marines in Afghanistan taking a moment to offer their opinion of the several Taliban fighters they’d just killed, expressed rather eloquently in the act of urinating on their corpses. In this current world of hyper-sensitivity to anything that might appear the slightest bit disrespectful of anyone who has sworn to destroy us or die trying, the President, several members of the administration, and some high-ranking military officials rushed to declare this action, “deplorable,” “outrageous,” or something to that effect.

Let’s get this out front: I don’t approve of what the Marines did in that video. (And I have no reason to think that the video is faked or anything like that.) It’s unethical and it’s not honorable behavior for an American warrior to engage in. Period, full stop. It should not be celebrated in any way and the rest of our warriors, in every branch, should be expressly told that it’s not acceptable. But… it’s hardly an action that came unprovoked. It’s hardly an action that’s hard to understand. And it most certainly is not an action that demanded the near-bedwetting, handwringing, stampede to grovel out an abject apology and promise swift retribution over.

Rep. Allen West (R-FL) sent an e-mail to The Weekly Standard on the matter and his words are getting quite a bit of attention. The e-mail is short and every part of it is critical to discussion so, here it is:

“I have sat back and assessed the incident with the video of our Marines urinating on Taliban corpses. I do not recall any self-righteous indignation when our Delta snipers Shugart and Gordon had their bodies dragged through Mogadishu. Neither do I recall media outrage and condemnation of our Blackwater security contractors being killed, their bodies burned, and hung from a bridge in Fallujah.

“All these over-emotional pundits and armchair quarterbacks need to chill. Does anyone remember the two Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division who were beheaded and gutted in Iraq?

“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.”

I’m going to take a moment from the main point to address something that I just can’t let go, embodied in that last line. I get West’s frustration on this, to have to listen to people blow things like this completely out of proportion, people who have sat silent while much, much worse has been done to our people. It’s tempting to even agree with him completely, like Erika Johnson at Townhall.com does, and point a rigid finger at these imbeciles with a hearty, “shut it!” But, as an American who never wore a military uniform and most certainly never been shot at by the Taliban, I have to say the arrogance expressed in that 1 line is amazing coming from someone who claims to support our free nation. This is same rhetoric I get from militant feminists who haughtily claim that unless I’m a woman, I’ll just never understand. Or the race-baiters who turn their noses up and sniff that I just don’t get it because I’m white.

I know wrong when I see it, Congressman, and I don’t have to have bullet holes in me to say so.

Like the Marines’ actions, however, the Congressman’s comments weren’t unprovoked. Where were these people who have developed a sudden case of the vapors when these Islamists sawed Daniel Pearl’s head off? Or displayed those Blackwater employees’ burned corpses on a bridge, as Congressman West asks? Where are they during the stories of the Taliban’s brutality against the people of Afghanistan, people who want nothing more than what we supposedly want: to live our lives free and in peace? They’re nowhere to be found, and the reason for that is simple. They don’t get to feel all superior by denouncing the Taliban or Islamists that have expressly announced they want to kill as many Americans as they can. They don’t get the mighty rush of puffing their chests out and gleefully pointing to fellow Americans, shrieking, “See? See? No one’s any better than anyone else! Except me, because I can see that and I’m sooooo brave that I’ll write about it on Huffington Post!”

I don’t like what the Marines did and they shouldn’t get a pass on it. But in the context of war and what’s been done to people on our side of it, it’s small potatoes. Congressman West’s commentary stems from the realization that many of us have regarding the people who are fluttering about, each trying to sound more apologetic than the other. They lack common sense perspective and they are inherently unfair to our own side. As I said, I know wrong when I see it.


  1. I respectfully disagree, Ric. Allen west earned the right to say that last line, you and I did not. We won’t ever know the hell of war – unless there is a total breakdown in society/full scale armegeddon/domestic war and we are thrust into a role we otherwise would have never realized – in which case I will be looking to Col West and others that have applicable experience.

    If I want perspective from an IT professional, I go to a friend with IT experience. Insert any occupation (other than my own) and I will not ever be able to fully realize what they have done.

    To Col West I say, right on!

  2. Cathy, thank you for your comments, but I would suggest 2 issues: “earned the right?” You are suggesting that you have no right to free speech except that which you have “earned.” Who gets to decide whether you’ve “earned” the right? Are you of the opinion that one must earn the right to carry arms, too? One must earn the right to worship as one sees fit?

    I’m not suggesting that Congressman West shouldn’t be allowed to say what he did. I’m suggesting that his contention that any of us who haven’t been shot at should not be allowed to speak is wrong.

    As to your example, you’re talking apples and oranges. You are seeking the advice of a professional so naturally you go to someone with that experience. But since you’re not an IT professional, does that mean that I, being one, should be able to tell you to keep your mouth shut with any complaints you may have about information systems and policy? I don’t think so, not at all.

    Again, as I said, I completely understand Congressman West’s inclination to tell these yapping mugs to pipe down. But if all of us are to be held to the standard that we can’t speak out at all on any topic that we don’t have direct experience on… it’s just a dismissive attitude I find incompatible the notion of free speech.

  3. I see where you are coming from Ric, but telling people to “shut their mouth” is Col West’s right, and while it might be rude – I don’t think he is suggesting the handwringers have to no right to speak. As Col West indicated, this isn’t some game, this is serious crap. If someone has to use the term “shut up” to get a point across, so be it. People have been trying to shut West up for years, I understand his frustration and am not concerned with his tone or words.

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