Why Four Marines Shook the World
Video Contains Content Which May be Disturbing to Some Readers
For the past week the media and the military have each been obsessed with the video which surfaced of four marines apparently urinating on the body of a Taliban soldier killed in action. Millions of American, and hundreds and hundreds of millions of people around the world are enraged by this shocking development. Still, many Americans, and some from other parts of the world as well, dismiss this as nothing of significance and a dramatic overreaction by those demanding reprimands as consequential as court martial. There are logical and understandable reasons for both fields of thought; though it is difficult to say that one side is completely right or wrong in their view. Key elements have been left out of each views understanding, leading to their diametrically polar views.
Defiling the dead in such a way is no laughing matter, and it should be punished accordingly; however, accordingly may not be nearly as severe as many might argue it is. Imagine for a moment that an Islamic Imam from the Holy Land, dressed in full ceremonial robes were to come to the United States and urinate on the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial, demonstrating his disdain for the civil rights movement and the equality this great nation stands for. Or if that same man went to Arlington National Cemetery and defecated the graves of those who sacrificed all for not only our freedom, but the freedom of the Europeans, Pacific Islands, Chinese, Koreans, and yes, Middle Easterners. Understandably, and justifiably nearly everyone in America, and many throughout the world would be enraged. How could a religion which claims to hold such things as sacred possibly see any justification for this act? Many would want retribution of some sort; ranging from an apology to revenge. This is the relative equivalent to what these four marines have done. You may remember that after Osama Bin Laden died, our Commander in Chief specifically stated in his address that “we must also reaffirm that the United States is not –- and never will be -– at war with Islam. I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam.” Our war has always been against terrorist organizations, and the sovereignties which aid them. This is why the counterterrorism adviser to President Obama, John Brennan, went out of his way to explicitly state that bin Laden’s remains were buried “in strict conformance with Islamic precepts and practices.” What many Americans do not understand, particularly those who see nothing wrong with the urination, is that this act makes it seem that the United States is at war with all of Islam, when in fact that is completely wrong. In the Islamic religion, the burial “precepts and practices” which John Brennan spoke of are very strict and specific; these rituals are seen as helping a Muslim to be ready to enter the afterlife. The law, called Janazah in Arabic, specifically states that a deceased Muslim should, if at all possible, be buried in 24 hours. One of the preparations for that burial is the washing of the body; the body is to be washed a minimum of 3 times as one of the first steps in burial. What these four marines did, most likely without any knowledge of the fact, was make the man whom they defiled unclean. Because of their act this man, in the view of the Islamic world, has entered the afterlife unclean, and will therefore be unprepared for his blessings and rewards which were believed to have been waiting for him. The Muslims, this is nothing trivial; it is why the guide book to Janazah is so specific and detailed. Burial is very important for Islam, and these marines have nullified that privilege for this man. This is why it seems so appalling to much of the world, and why the Military is taking it so seriously. Imagine the recruiting tool it is for terrorism when a member of al Qaeda can produce video evidence to his claim that the “Great Satan” is in fact at war with Islam, and al Qaeda is the army holy warriors. Certainly it seems hard to resist recruitment for a troubled and impoverished young boy when he is told that al Qaeda truly cares for his freedom, and his only other option is to support a crooked democracy for his nation that will defile its citizens. We are already fighting a war against soldiers who use women and children as shields, we do not need to set ourselves back any further by laying recruiting material at their feet, and having some of our nation condoning the act; even going as far as saying the “would drop trou and do it too“.
This is also a significant event because the United States does not stand for this kind of treatment. We are a nation which claims the moral high ground, and we cannot hold that claim with acts such as this. We view ourselves, as many do, as doing what we feel is right, this is exactly opposite of that. We are not a nation which revels in the humiliation of our enemies; we do not want pain and suffering to be inflicted, only justice to be served. Where other nations may wish our enemies condemnation and hellfire, we wish them peace and democracy, justice and liberty. Urinating on them send the opposite message. We are a benevolent nation. We are a nation which will respond to unjustified threats from the Iranian government by rescuing Iranian sailors from pirates, then again from a distressed ship. The United States is a nation that gives more money in foreign aid than any other, a nation willing to fight for the freedom of strangers, and a nation that, at the end of the day, tries to do what is right. People in this nation are so upset by the video because humiliation and torment are not what America does; yet sadly, we did. That is why it is wrong.
The reality of sensitive issues such as this is that what actually happened is rarely significant; what matters is what each party perceives to have happened. Scientifically, urinating on a dead body will affect nothing. It is unquestionably disrespectful, but in the end a body of the departed will only be buried in the ground to decay with the rest of the world; that is the biological fact. What makes this such a touchy issue is that Muslims perceived this to be an attack on Islam itself; it is this religious perception, not the scientific reality which shook the world. These marines are 18-25 year old battle hardened boys. How many of us, at such a young age, can say that in the heat of battle we would always make the most rational decisions? These are four soldiers who undoubtedly saw some of their brothers and best friends killed in action at the hands of the Taliban, possibly even by this very man the urinated on. These are four soldiers who wake up each morning knowing each day might end with them being a dead body on the ground, never speaking to their family again. These are four soldiers who live a life where bullets coming within inches of their bodies, and roadside bombs buried and hidden from their view are an everyday routine. These are four soldiers who have seen children trapped in cars, only to have that car explode when Americans attempt to save the child. Try as we may, the reality of the fact is that war is never humane or civilized, and what these boys did, by their own perspective, was disrespectful and nothing more. After seeing all these things in the heat of battle is it really reasonable to expect these soldiers to maintain a dignified level of respect for their enemy? For this reason, what these men did is not an offense worth court martial. Reprimand and punishment? Yes. However, nothing severe is needed. United States soldiers should act with more dignity than this, and that should be their only punishment. Governor Perry was correct when he said these soldiers are not criminals. To these four soldiers it was an act of disrespect; to Islam it was an attack on an entire faith. If these soldiers understood that and did this anyway, court martialing would certainly be warranted, but we need to remember it is the perception that is important. The United States has publically apologized, and these four men need to get in front of a camera and do the same, and explain the meant no disrespect to Islam. To be clear, this act should not be taken lightly, it is a very serious matter, and an insult directly to Islam which only hurts American efforts in the region, but unless these boys completely understood that religious aspect of their acts, they were only four soldiers who have lived through hell on earth unwisely venting their frustrations. As a nation, we must understand both perspectives.
20 Jan, 2012
Posted on January 22, 2012, in Patriotslog Articles, Religion and tagged Afghanistan, Baraq Obama, janazah, marines urinate, muslim burial, navy rescues iranian soldiers, Osama Bin Laden, taliban. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.