Isn’t War a Pissing Contest Anyway?

Posted: January 15, 2012 in Uncategorized, Violence
Tags: ,

It’s been said that sports are just simulations of war. It’s interesting to me that the latter should then abide by similar rules as the former. Beginning most notably in the 1800’s and through the Geneva Convention, War has had undergone a civilizing process much in the same way our sports have, but this doesn’t mean we should hold an unrealistically civil ideal of it. We decry coma-inducing hits in football, beaming in baseball, and low blows in combat sports, but shouldn’t we allow for a little more space in contests of life and death? If we do, then what about certain types of celebration? The sportsmanship of war has taken on an ethical approach that we attribute to spectatorship. We begin to worry more about the integrity of the team than the well being of the players.

Over the last week a video has made its rounds in the media of Marines urinating on what are presumably dead members of the Taliban. I don’t doubt that certain red-blooded Americans cheer at this kind of behavior, or that many others think it’s a horrendous act of desecration. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said, “I find the behavior depicted in it utterly deplorable. I condemn it in the strongest possible terms…This conduct is entirely inappropriate for members of the United States military and does not reflect the standards or values our armed forces are sworn to uphold. Those found to have engaged in such conduct will be held accountable to the fullest extent” as reported by Politico.com. This rebuke harkens back to the perpetrators of Abu Grahib, which is by far more abhorrent in that it was committed against live, suffering humans. However, the urination incident does call into question our perceptions of the neatness and business-like endeavors of war.

To say we have come a long way is dubious if not misleading. While war amongst the more affluent nations no longer involve androcide (the act of wiping out all the men) and then raping all the women, and decimating the village to rubble (to say nothing of children), we should not mistake war to remain on the benevolent line of the humane. The cold cleanliness and impersonal usages of drones, and tactical/strategic/smart artillery make for a much less unsavory application of brutality. Without going into the psychological afflictions that one endures while at war, or the banality of evil that all humans possess, we should consider what it is that reaches us from the periphery of our world view. To be cynical for a moment, the media plays on this instinct to condemn the far away misgivings of different worlds. The Taliban’s response to the video was much less severe, perhaps because they have a better understanding of what it means to be at war. Both sides have much to be guilty for in their treatment of the living, and should be concerned less with our sacrosanct fetishes of the dead.

I think it’s a safe assumption that urination is probably one of the least lewd acts marines have committed upon dead (or living) bodies of the opposition. I’m not, by any means, condoning this type of behavior, but perhaps what social media and the spread of information should be used for is to show the seedy underbelly of humanity at its least refined. When we saw videos of Gaddafi’s last moments in Libya, containing a knife penetrating his anus, our first instinct might have been to consider them barbaric. Indeed it was! But by what standard do we hold ourselves to be much different when war is thousands of miles away from our sofas and dinner tables.

As Iran goads several nations into vindicating its views on the imperialism of America, we should cautiously seek out means to squash the animosity. This tit-for-tat tactic of military action is not a good look for the United States any longer. We learned that from impulsive retaliation on an ambiguous “War on Terror.” It’s time we recognize what war entails, and not just on economic terms, or death tolls, but within the scope of ethical behavior and leadership. Marines urinating on corpses shouldn’t elicit a response of shame, but a spurning of prolonged violence, sympathies for the men who endure it, and at the very least acceptance of the allowance for it to go on this long. While I do find war and military action to be, at times, necessary, it should not come from the irrationality from our monkey-traits – desires for vengeance and dominance. There are no more spoils for the victors of war because there are no more victors.

For all the information you could handle on war and violence and their inner workings I HIGHLY recommend this book: The Better Angels of our Nature – Steven Pinker

 

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Comments
  1. I was with you on this until you got to Iran.

    Truth be told, I wasn’t as surprised by taliban leadership reacting in much subdued tones. With all the secret dealings and meetings coming to light in regards to attempts to create peace between them, us and the many factions of Afghanistan, its understandable how they might want to overblow the situation and risk forcing other parties involved to back off.

    I think you are wrong to say that them living the war is whats at the root of that action, id cite my previous sentence as the true cause.

    The taliban was much akin to our federal government in that it operated, and continues to operate a much different scale, as the head of a state that consisted of many parts. When we cut off that head, and make no mistake we cut it off (some heads just refuse to die), we inherited a situation we did not fully understand. Our network of support consisted of many lesser in stature groups that lacked the power outside of the old network to have the same impact. Much like our state system, if you took out the federal government, you would find it much harder to control the states within without becoming something similar to what ran it in the first place (which is what our presence there became). We didnt go there with intent to take over a country, we didnt want to go in their with intent to kick the taliban out. They backed the wrong horse, and i believe it is that realization that has brought us to where we are.

    The USA is much more willing to condemn itself on moral grounds then other nations. We dont condemn ghadaffi for his fascism, we condemn our own leadership for choosing to accept it, or decide he was due for removal as it may be. We hold our leaders to impossible moral plateaus they could never stand up on and vilify them for actually failing our unreachable goals. However, we are much more willing to accept those that differ on the moral grounds so long as they dance a to a certain tune.

    With this in mind we travel back to the point you are making about war in general and our perception of it.

    As perceptions go, wars for us play out differently then most. Our home grown terrorest acts are hardily, if ever, reported as such. And when they are not written off as “unstable man shoots up mall” scenario, its rare if ever the light of day reaches back to any group or groups such people are associated with. We desensitize to violence, but are hand held through organized violence on scales that would be absurd in the rest of the world. As a society we accomplish self censorship and glorification on levels nations like North Korea and China can only dream of. This extends to our perceptions of war. As a whole, America simply cannot make sense of the reasons behind it. Its in part due to luck. We are so isolated that we have simply missed out on the nation v nation fighting in our history that most other nations, excluding maybe Canada, have. SOme might bring up our history with native americans, but that has no bearing on this topic. War on our soil as allotted us the opportunity for glorification.

    Revolutionary war, for obvious reasoning.

    The war of 1812, most completely forget that this was was fought between the US and Canada with very little in the way of actual naval battles with the british. Short of the sacking of washington, this war has all but been written off as USA standing up against the big bully England, again.

    Civil war, again, for many obvious reasons this was has become almost a living movie edited to appeal solely to the society that came out of it.

    Does anyone even remember we fought spain between that and ww1 and won?

    Hey, does anyone know anything about ww1 anymore?

    Why were both of these over shadowed? Because of the single biggest example of “positive” Glorification – World War 2. You know the beat points, i know the beat points, lets skip it.

    Then we fought korea, and by fought korea, i mean we beat korea pretty early and then entered into a race to see if china could run out of men before we ran out of bullets. Eventually we both kinda of got tired, forgot what we were doing, put up a fence and went on with our lives. Seriously, thats pretty much the summary on korea. What glorified this? M*A*S*H

    And then we got vietnam. Viet-Fucking-Nam.

    Here is the largest scaled version of what you cited, but it kinda proves the theory im throwing around here that when it comes to war, we living in a fantasy story.

    Vietnam probably could have been, and quickly, following the tet offensive. While a major blow, it failed, and north vietnam threw everything they had into it and it ended up blowing up in their faces. But their other objective won out : It broke the people at home out of the fantasy world, finally and briefly, and we wanted no part of it. When it comes to war, our stick is bigger and sharper then the rest, and our spirit to fight is equally tough, until you break the fantasy world. Vietnam was the first time we really learned what war looked like, and we hated it and wanted to run away from it as quickly as possible. In comparison to why we were fighting, our disgust overshadowed it.

    Coming full circle we get back to why we are so outraged at things like prison pyramids and corpse pissing. It is because it runs risk at bridging the gap and showing us that war isnt this fantasy world we grew up believing it is. So we gasp and gape at it. We yell and deplore and do everything possible to make it someone else fault because it cant be reality. War cant be dirty. Its white knights braving the evils of the foreign kingdoms to protect the sweet innocent at home.

    More so then anything else, this is why we fail so much at it the longer it goes on.

    We cant risk it breaking the veil.

    Looking out into the fire, we are afraid we might see ourselves.

    Our enemies are forever dragons, and we are forever the white knights.

  2. I forgot what my randy couture metaphor was. Owell. expect all my responses to be long winded.

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