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Eye For an Eye: Prescription For Blindness (01/23/12)
A video of Marines in Afghanistan mugging while urinating on the corpses of suspected Taliban fighters has gone viral.
Whatever those Marines believed they were accomplishing that day, history informs us that war is hell, and that some combatants are only able to march into hell for the heavenly cause until the enemy has been thoroughly dehumanized.
Wartime atrocities are not unusual. Nor is it unusual that some consider it their sacred patriotic duty to defend the Marines' behavior on the grounds that the Taliban has done far worse to captured Americans.
There've been beheadings, hangings and U.S. soldiers dragged through foreign streets. In that context, urinating on corpses may strike some as a justified stress-reliever, or an eye-for-an-eye, unworthy of diplomatic furor and definitely unworthy of the Marines possibly being brought up on criminal charges.
An eye-for-an-eye may quench an immediate thirst for revenge. But as Mohandas Gandhi, father of modern nonviolence, has been quoted as saying, "An eye-for-an-eye, propagated to its nth degree, will leave the whole world blind."
Some say the only sure way to tame an enemy is to make that enemy your friend. But the purpose is undermined when even a few warriors engage in behavior that can be used - as the video of the Marines already is being used - as propaganda to recruit yet more enemies for Americans, not just on the battlefield, but going about their business back home.