Since the launch of Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) and the launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq), America has lost more than 4,500 troops. Unfortunately, these sacrifices are often over-shadowed by difficult-to-comprehend actions from those on the front line.
On Jan. 11, 2012, the world was reminded of one of the more disturbing bi-products of war when a video released on YouTube showed four U.S. Marines triumphantly urinating on the corpses of enemy combatants.
Urinating on individuals – dead or alive – is disrespectful, degrading, and above all, disgusting. Actions like these, which for some call to mind the abuses at Abu Ghraib, erode America’s moral high ground. To do something like this and think that it’s OK signals a serious mental disconnect.
However, while these actions are easy to condemn from the safety of our homes, there is a larger issue at play here – the expectation of sane behavior from men and women who constantly thrust into insane circumstances.
Imagine being pinned down, bullets flying by your head and the only thing you can do is aim for a target, return fire and pray to God that you and your team make it to see another day. And if you don’t die in combat, imagine becoming a prisoner of war, held hostage by groups like the Taliban. In case it has been forgotten, they take joy in filming the decapitation of Americans.
The average American citizen doesn’t know what it is like to be in war. So what gives them the right to judge the actions of someone that is still in the theater of violence? Having experienced it firsthand, I can say there is nothing in civilian lives that accurately mimics the emotions soldiers experience in a firefight.
Moments before these American soldiers urinated on the bodies of their enemies, they were fighting with them, and the stakes could not have been higher. Literally, both sides were looking at life and death.
Do I think that the winners of the battle chose an appropriate release for this stressful situation? No, I don’t.
But if urinating on the body of the enemy takes the place of these Marines holding in all of the anger, frustration, confusion, and mixed feelings that come with being in war, so they don’t return home and kill themselves or their loved ones, then I will chose the lesser of two evils.
These soldiers need to answer for their misguided actions, but that’s what their superiors are for. At this point, I’m just glad we didn’t lose four more American lives, and four more American families didn’t have to mourn the loss of their loved ones.
So when these incidents happens, instead of shaking our heads in disgust, why not ask what we can do to help people who are struggling with the emotional scars of war.
Before you judge our soldiers, take a moment and think if it was you, or even your child, in that position. People make mistakes. That’s what makes us human. But compassion for those who make mistakes is another important part of maintaining our humanity.