Is “irony” the right word? I watched the news reports last week and listened to the outrage of American leaders, civilian and military. The images of young soldiers urinating on the dead bodies of Taliban fighters were pervasive for a couple of days.
The often repeated response seemed to be that “the actions of these young men was not consistent with American values.” “They are in a distinct minority.” “Their desecration of the Taliban corpses flew in the face of their military training.” As people at various levels of command, both civilian, and military, sought to explain the heinous act, targets for blame were cited. “The young men were out of control.” “They should have been better supervised by non-commissioned or commissioned officers.”
The irony of the situation struck me. Of course urinating on a dead human body is an unspeakable act. It utterly and violently denies the humanity of the enemy. It is also an act that diminishes the humanity of the person who does it. It is an embarrassment to the USA and to the military and to all the people, civilian and military, who have to work in the war zone. But what I found noticeably absent was any outrage or embarrassment about the killing of human beings in the first place. Clearly, the killing must be consistent with American and military values and clearly, it is within that value system to train those young men to kill in the first place. Watching the news and commentary and responses was another one of those “Alice–falling-down–the–rabbit–hole” kind of experiences. Outrage over the act of expending bodily fluid on the body of a dead enemy - - silence about the act of destroying the life force of another human being. My brain cannot reconcile this.
In a week when we observed the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. and celebrated his nonviolent action for social change, it seemed a sad and odd juxtaposition of news stories. King’s preaching was so clear – that violent means will never result in lasting, peaceful and nonviolent ends - - that violence begets violence. The photos that accompanied the news reports surely proved his point beyond a shadow of a doubt. The violence of war dehumanizes us all. From the highest places in the government to the chain of military command to the young members of the military who run amuck without adequate supervision to those of us who continue to pay for it - - the violence of war dehumanizes us all. The great urination is only the latest violent symptom of how disconnected we are from a collective consciousness that recognizes and values human life as sacred.
“Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness…”