Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Blessed Be the Bellicose? Jesus Would Weep

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Blessed Be the Bellicose? Jesus Would Weep

Article excerpt

Last week, video footage of four U.S. Marines urinating on the bodies of three dead Taliban fighters went viral. With the exception of a handful of morally dead ideologues on the right, the reaction to the video was one of revulsion at home and fury abroad.

As Americans, we were reminded that just because we choose not to pay attention to the war in Afghanistan, we share moral complicity for wars fought in our name. The callousness of the four Marines wasn't unprecedented. Relative to the toll on civilian lives in three countries because of American drone attacks, public urination on enemy corpses pales in comparison as a war crime.

In a widely read essay in The Washington Post, war correspondent Sebastian Junger astutely pointed out that a "19-year-old Marine has a very hard time reconciling the fact that it's OK to waterboard a live Taliban fighter but not OK to urinate on a dead one."

Mr. Junger and others point out that these young Marines grew up hearing the contentious policy debates about "enhanced interrogation" and the rationalizations for torture laid out by the Bush administration after 9/11. The soldiers Mr. Junger has written about in the theater of war "are very clear about the fact that society trains them to kill, orders them to kill and then balks at anything that suggests they have dehumanized the enemy they have killed."

As much as we refuse to condone what they did, the soldiers have a visceral reaction to our hypocrisy, too. So, where does a nation turn for a sense of moral clarity and enlightenment during these troubled times? Should it be left to journalists like Mr. Junger to tease out the moral implications of wetting down enemy corpses with splashes of uric acid? Where are our religious leaders, trained as many of them are supposed to be, in the subtleties of god-craft and moral reasoning?

Instead of leading a national discussion about how war deadens the spirit along with any capacity for simple, human empathy, 150 conservative "Christian" leaders met in Texas over the weekend to throw their support behind GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum, a man who said he'd launch a pre-emptive war with Iran to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons. …

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