Marines vs. Taliban: The Piss Process

By | January 19, 2012 | 0 Comments

Shimon Peres served as Israeli foreign minister and prime minister. He performed an invaluable service for international peace − inadvertently. He spoke English fluently but with a thick accent, so when he referred to the Mideast peace process, it came out as “piss process.”
Thus he unintentionally planted an idea in the minds of his listeners: Trying to negotiate with people who openly declare they want to kill you is futile at best, and dangerous at worst. And in fact, decades of futile negotiations in the conference room have proved that the time would have been better spent in the restroom. At least there, pressures could have been relieved successfully.
But this principle has wider application. An example occurred recently, when four U.S. Marines videoed themselves urinating on two Taliban corpses in Afghanistan, but then were unwise enough to put the video up on the Internet. Anti-American Europeans demonstrated profound amnesia, calling us “worse than the Nazis.” Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Dachau? Babi Yar, Oradour, Lidice? Nonsense! The Americans are far worse.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton proclaimed herself in “total dismay,” while Secretary of Defense Panetta chimed in with “utterly deplorable.” Presumably, if only one Marine had relieved himself, Clinton would have been in partial dismay, while Panetta would have found the event relatively deplorable.
Excessive language suggests an excessive desire to placate the Taliban. But they are, quite literally, implacable. How do you placate people who throw acid in young girls’ faces to punish them for going to school? How do you soothe people who bomb mosques and markets indiscriminately? How do you appease people who believe decapitation is a religious ceremony?
More to the point, how do you delude yourself into negotiating with the Taliban in an attempt to reach an agreement, when you have already announced you are leaving Afghanistan? You don’t give your enemy what he wants, then negotiate. What is left to negotiate?
If the negotiations “succeed,” there will be a photo-op, with U.S. and Taliban representatives shaking hands. Then, as soon as we leave, the Taliban will take over Afghanistan. If the negotiations “fail,” the four Marines will be blamed − but the result will be the same minus the photo-op. In reality, there will be nothing significant for which to blame them. Of course, that doesn’t mean they won’t be blamed. Politicians love photo-ops, and they love to fob off their failures on subordinates.
Clearly, our high officials want to soothe the hurt feelings of Muslims the world over. But speaking of feelings, there was no organized condemnation from Muslims when American reporter Daniel Pearl and American contractor Nicholas Berg were beheaded with dull knives, and the videos sent out boastfully on the Internet. Nor was there an organized protest when four American contractors were killed and their bodies mutilated and hung from a bridge in Fallujah.
In reaction to the almost 3000 deaths on 9/11, there was subdued criticism from the Muslim world, but it was counterbalanced by dancing in the streets. The vast majority of the bodies from 9/11 were badly mangled or burned, and about 1121 human beings were pulverized and still remain unaccounted for. So much for respect for the dead.
Some people manifest one-way sensitivity − acute sensitivity to wrongs or perceived wrongs done to them, but total insensitivity to wrongs done by them. In personal life, we call such behavior egotistical and childish. In political life, we try our best to ignore it, but we do so at our peril. Attempting to placate such people is doomed to failure, and the attempt can only damage us.
To put things into perspective, read this post by William Kristol in the Weekly Standard. In particular, note the photo of General George S. Patton Jr. paying his respects as he advanced across the Rhine River into Germany:

And then, when you are done smiling at “Old Blood and Guts,” read this post by Representative Allen West (R, FL), Lt. Col., USA (Ret.). West reminds us of the lack of indignation when the bodies of Medal of Honor recipients Randall Shughart and Gary Gordon were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, an episode described in “Black Hawk Down.” West also reminds us of the two soldiers from the 101st Airborne who were beheaded and gutted in Iraq, an atrocity I had forgotten. They were Kristian Menchaca and Thomas Tucker. One tends to forget atrocities when there are so many.
People who have never been through a particularly stressful situation have difficulty imagining what measures those who went through it may take to relieve the stress and unwind. For example, police who have just experienced a high-speed car chase, or who have arrested an armed suspect, may make rude remarks or tell jokes that fellow officers understand, but which − if the radio mike is left open − will be condemned by outsiders.
I’ve never heard a shot fired in anger, unless you count people at the pistol range who were irritated by their low scores. But I did spend many stressful nights working in an urban county hospital, including an emergency room replete with shootings and stabbings. I recall two young Marines in uniform, both with gunshot wounds − one in the leg, who survived; one in the back, who didn’t. I recall a man with his throat cut ear-to-ear. Sometimes, when I watch a gory movie, I think I smell blood.
The hospital served a fourth meal at midnight, if we had time to eat it. I recall the morbid jokes we told to take the edge off the tragedies we had witnessed. There was one doctor who did a flawless imitation of Count Dracula. The catch was that he was overweight − imagine a fat Dracula. No matter what kind of case we discussed at the table, he was sure to respond in his fake Transylvanian accent, “Let us drain his blaahd.”
Anyone who overheard us joking about life and death would have assumed we were cold and heartless. They would have been wrong. The jokes and the Dracula imitations were attempts to reduce the pain we felt in doing our duty. It’s the same with the four Marines. Cut them some slack. Give them letters of reprimand, then withdraw the letters in one year if the men behave themselves.
To those who never were in life-threatening situations, but who suddenly anoint themselves as experts, I say cool it. War itself is a piss process, so give the young men a break. You can’t send people into an alley fight, then insist that they abide by rules of engagement that resemble the Marquess of Queensbury rules. To do so doesn’t show respect for the rules; it shows disrespect for the lives of our troops. After you have demonstrated respect for the lives of our troops, then you can talk about respect for enemy dead. But until then, shut up.
Dr. Stolinsky writes on political and social issues. Contact: You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.

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