Wednesday, January 18, 2012

War Corrupts

This guest blog post was written by Robert Laney.

Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta may protest until they are blue in the face that the videotape showing four Marines desecrating Afghani corpses does not reflect the values of the American people or their Armed Forces.  Unfortunately this videotape is merely the latest addition to a body of evidence which shows that inhumane and barbaric attitudes persist in the U.S. Armed Forces.  In my opinion the important questions presented by this videotape are (1) how widespread and virulent are these tendencies today, (2) how many similar instances of inhumane conduct by the Armed Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan have never been videotaped and publicized, and (3) how may the life experiences of these four Marines, both prior to and during their military service, help explain their conduct in this instance.

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.


  1. It is upsetting that we in the USA do not see much in the way of actual war coverage. You would think that we are not at war...and so our media keeps the truth hidden. When you go to British and foreign sites you begin to see the photos and the savageness of our military on the civilians of Afghanistan. That Obama has not stopped it, is inexcusable.We only have one candidate that advocates that the needless wars be stopped now! I do not see or hear the country getting behind to support him, as if Peace was not important. What could be more important than that?


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