US Marines allegedly urinating on corpses, and other photographs emerging from the war zones of Afghanistan lead to an increasing strident call for "politically correct" war.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, quoted in The Telegraph:
"These days, it takes only seconds - seconds - for a picture, a photo, to suddenly become an international headline," Mr Panetta said. "And those headlines can impact the mission that we're engaged in, they can put your fellow service members at risk, they can hurt morale, they can damage our standing in the world, and they can cost lives."
The message, which military leaders have also been pushing in recent meetings with their commanders, reflects a growing concern about the broader effects of the widely publicized episodes: the mistaken burning of Koran, images of Marines urinating on Afghan insurgents' corpses and photos showing US soldiers posing with Afghan police holding the severed legs of a suicide bomber.
It is unclear, however, how the entreaties will reverberate across the military and what actual impact they may have on a young, battle-hardened force strained by 11 years of war.
Folks, Americans need to understand something: there is no such thing as a "clean" war. It's an oxymoron. So-called "conventional" wars are inherently cleaner than "counter-insurrection," but the difference is really academic.
US Marines on Tarawa, on Iwo Jima, at Chosin, and at Khe Sanh took noses, ears, and other less mentionable items, and engages in bloody personal tactics designed to terrify and intimidate their enemeis. And, yes, these tactics often involved racial/ethnic overtones against the Nips, Chinks, Gooks, or other bad names the Marines (and soldiers, and SF) used.
It's called war. It happened in the Indian Wars, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War 1, World War 2, Korea, Vietnam, ad nauseum ad infinitum.
You cannot send people off to war without dehumanizing them to some extent--at least not if you want them to win, or come back alive.
Which is why, in the early American Republic, war was considered to be the failure of diplomacy and politics--most of the men involved in our leadership actually had some exprienced with it.
Today, when most of our leadership doesn't, we have blithely accepted the twisted European idea of war (foisted on the world by Karl von Clausewitz) that war is simply the continuation of politicts . . . by other means.
In the US today, use of military force is no longer an admission that we have failed at something--it's often a first-choice option.
But it is important to remember what Eleanor Roosevelt said about the US Marines in World War Two, and she was fully aware of the necklaces of ears . . .