The news of the soldiers taking pictures with the body parts of enemy Afghan suicide bombers has swept across the American nation like a storm of alarm in 2012! Many people were exposed to such graphic images for the first time by the LA Times in an attempt to "expose their readers to the truth."
The relative truth in this exposure is hard to see. LA Times sold more copies and had more views on its website we can be sure. Why did the soldiers pose with the mutilated parts of an enemy suicide bomber?
Soldiers lose comrades in war. In a typical war, the soldiers deal with the psychological losses with the idea that they will be able to defeat the enemy and get revenge for the deaths of friends. The possibility that the persons who killed their comrades are still alive help them to focus their rage on war. Shooting enemies firing upon them gives the soldiers the justification to continue to fight until either the enemy surrenders and is punished for war crimes or is deceased.
In the case of the soldiers posing with the corpse in pictures posted by the LA Times, closure took on a different role. The soldiers in those photos may have lost friends to suicide bombers previously. With such, there is no enemy to shoot because the enemy is dead along with the victims of the bombing. There would be no closure because the soldiers could not seek out and destroy the enemy.
In this situation, the bomb exploded prematurely, so the soldiers reveled in the fact that the enemy failed in its attempt. The psychological effect the picture-taking had on the soldiers was a reminder that Afghan suicide bombers did not win. "You tried to kill us, but you only killed yourself." The soldiers gloated that their lives were spared and they modeled with the parts of the body of the bomber to memorialize the event.
It was not the dehumanization of the bomber but the understanding that a human that would do such a deed failed and pictures were taken as evidence of that failure. To the soldiers, this represented a defeat of the enemy in a war that is not conventional. Any victory no matter how it is obtained is celebrated and glorified. From the perspective of soldiers in combat areas with no sure sense of security because of the rules of engagement, this brought some comfort that an enemy will not kill them.
It is understandable that the soldiers took photos of the event with the memory that one who valued his life only to destroy others did not succeed. All that is left is the remains of the deceased who died without reaching his goal of destruction.
Let us celebrate our life and his death! Let us remember this occasion for years to come that we are alive and he is dead that tried to end our lives with his!
Can we identify with the soldiers on that level? I reason that we can. If our life was threatened and spared, would we oppose taking a picture with the scoundrel that attempted our destruction whether he or she was dead or alive?
Pick Up the Dead Pieces
Originally, I was incensed by the photos for a completely different reason than I am now. I read an article written by a fellow writerAverage American and passed immediate moral judgment based on the perspective of decency. I feel that my position was correct in decency, but my treatment was based on information from only one perspective.
I reacted with horror and disgust at those offensive images and the soldiers who would dare pose with them. I did not take into consideration the circumstances of the soldiers, their environment, and their psychological state. Many would say that their perspective is invalid because they did the horrendous act of using human body parts as trophies.
The government condemns it citing it will increase insurgent activity against the US, though I doubt seriously that insurgents need a boost to increase suicide bombs--this group already despises America and would attack whether the body parts were buried or photographed. The LA Times released the photos to get public attention and gain readers, not to inform the public alone. The military and the press understood the consequences of releasing the photos with a glaring headline that did not give the true meaning of the act of the soldiers.
Should soldiers be reprimanded who do things as morbid as pose with human remains? Yes. Should leaders of groups be charged with dereliction of duty to maintain order in the unit who allow this behavior? Maybe. Should the public weigh in on military affairs? No. We should direct our disdain towards the legislature who will send the issue to the Commander in Chief who will handle the morality of the issue.
America responds to sensationalism and then wants to end all operations because it makes them feel uncomfortable. The fact is that things like this happen in war. It will not be stopped by legislation or protests. The soldiers are not out there to keep the peace and are not trained to be peacekeepers. These men and women are trained to kill. If they wear the body parts of the dead, it is reprehensible but understandable.
Let us be quick to defend human decency but slow to judgment. Let us be quick to understand but slow to accept. Let us be leery of accusations, but open to the truth. Let us use all caution in dealing with this situation lest we find ourselves fighting on the wrong side.
No, we should not allow it. We should teach our young men and women at home to honor life even that of our enemies so that when the lack of leadership occurs to control the urge to lapse into a psychological truth to deal with grief and relief our children will think twice or thrice about the act. The seeds start at home and are not the fault alone of the soldiers.
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