This guest blog post was written by Robert Laney.
We might also reflect upon the facts that these four Marines are products of our society and educational system and, according to Marine Corps regulations, had never been convicted of a serious crime prior to their enlistment. Certain additional questions therefore come to mind. (4) To what extent do the more violent and inhumane aspects of American culture condition young minds toward inhumane tendencies after they put on the uniform? (5) To what extent does military combat training (in this case training to kill with long-range sniper rifles) tend to dehumanize the characters of young people in uniform? (6) And to what extent do the terrors of actual combat apply the coup de grace to whatever empathy young soldiers may feel toward the enemy or indeed toward anyone other than their immediate comrades and their loved ones at home?
After Abu Ghraib and other revelations of misconduct, we should not be surprised by this latest instance of barbarism by young Americans in uniform. These latest official pleas about the ethical standards of “the vast majority” of the Armed Forces cause one to sense that our leaders either are out of touch with all-too-common attitudes within the U.S. military and indeed within the larger population, or they wish to suppress what they know or suspect and to know nothing more. Instead of endless praise of all but a few “bad apples” in the military, what we need from our officials are answers to these questions and a frank acknowledgment of mankind’s long experience that war tends to corrupt everyone it touches.