Rick Perry has come out “in support” of the Marines who urinated on Taliban bodies. He thinks that kids will be kids. Well, lots of things that fall into the “kids will be kids” category are criminal, whether it be knocking down mailboxes or harassing shop-keepers.
“Obviously 18, 19-year-old kids make stupid mistakes all too often and that’s what’s occurred here,” Perry said on CNN’s “State of the Union” show. “What is really disturbing to me is the over-the-top rhetoric from this administration and their disdain for the military.”
“These kids made a mistake, there’s not any doubt about it,” he said. “[They] shouldn’t have done it, it’s bad — but to call it a criminal act, I think is over the top.”
Except that the actions described are criminal acts, and these men will be criminals if convicted. By definition, whether you like it or not. This is the long-standing policy of the United States, and has nothing to do with President Obama.
The Geneva Convention, which the United States has signed, prohibits the desecration of the dead.
The United States Army’s own Law of Land Warfare also prohibits the desecration of the dead.
Marauders of the dead and wounded, whether civilians or of the armed force, are to be promptly apprehended and punished by military tribunal for their offenses.
Belligerents are under a duty to make honorable disposition of the enemy dead within their lines. Such disposition should normally be by burial, and the graves should be marked so that they may be located again and should be respected.
The second paragraph could raise questions about the legal standing of the Taliban. But that shouldn’t matter. War is often dehumanizing, and efforts to combat that are an important part of civilized warfare. And I don’t mean “civilized” as in pinky-in-the-air. I mean “civilized” as in not savage, not heathen. Further, and this is cogent especially because of Perry’s religious claims about himself, decent treatment of human dead is a requirement for any Christian, and therefore required of any Christian combatant or any Christian nation’s laws.
So much for Mr. Perry’s rhetoric about being a Christian politician.
If these men actually did what they are accused of, are tried, and are convicted, they will be criminals. And they ought to be, because the defacement of human bodies by American personnel is immoral, and should be illegal.
CNN contributor Dana Loesch went a step further, noting she would have done the same thing in the Marines’ position.
“Can someone explain to me if there is supposed to be a scandal that someone pees on the corpse of a Taliban fighter — someone who as part of an organization murdered over 3,000 Americans,” Loesch said on her show last week. “I’d drop trou and do it too. That’s me, though… Come on people this is a war.”
We don’t piss on thieves. We don’t piss on drunk drivers. We don’t piss on rapists. We don’t piss on murderers. We don’t piss on child molesters or Taliban fighters. You might want to argue about what “rights” members of the Taliban have given up; I’d be happy to argue with you. Meanwhile, if they are criminals, they have been punished. They are dead. As murderers and rapists ought to be.
But their humanity must be acknowledged at all times, not least for our own moral health. Men are capable of great wickedness, and you are a man. Watch lest you fall. Man is made in God’s image and walks this world degrading himself and his brothers; mourn this and preserve as much of God’s image as you can.
Rick Perry’s quote reflects a common vice of many American Christians, that is, thinking that God’s grace is given to those who deserve it. That people deserve what they get. But this is not a Christian ethic. A Christian warrior is fully a warrior, and fully a Christian. The phrase that made sense a hundred years ago, but sounds funny to us today, comes in handy. Is what these men are doing something we could call “Christian behavior”?
Christians bury the dead; they don’t piss on them. And Christians condemn the desecration of the dead, even of enemy dead. There’s no way around that for Rick Perry.