This is a treat. I was hoping that my post about the most ethically-challenged of the Right’s uber-patriots cheering corpse desecration would flush out a full-throated cheerleader, and here he is!
In his indignant reply to Bill ( a Marine himself), first time commenter Haddit (who, I gather, has “haddit” with all this ethics talk) gives a bravura performance of exactly what ethics-free thinking will get you in this and other war-related issues. It turns people into clones of the ridiculous general (played by the late, great Rod Steiger) in Tim Burton’s “Mars Attacks,” whose nuanced response to every dilemma is “Kill! Kill! KILL!” ( I know, I know…in the movie it turns out that the general was right after all. It is a satire.)
Here is Rod’s, er, Haddit’s Comment of the Day (to Bill) on my post about the infamous pissing Marines, The Darkness of the Right, Pissing Away American Values. You’re welcome for the editing, Haddit. I’ll have some final comments after the featured rant:
“Are you kidding me? They should be punished?????? We train these guys and gals to be heart-breakers and life-takers, but “oh no don’t piss on the enemy”? I say we put all the bodies of our enemies in a giant blender and dump their remains on the cities where they lived and let’s see how long they screw with us. Desecrating bodies……….What does a bullet or a bomb do, man? War is being insane, doing insane things. Sane folks don’t KILL other folks. So, we teach em to be insane but with rules? THERE ARE NO STINKING RULES. KILL, KILL, KILL come the cries of our military men and women while in training. “WHAT MAKES THE GRASS GROW”???? “We don’t go to war to die for our country, we make the other poor bastard die for his country.”
“The very idea that our fighting men and women shouldn’t take whatever revenge of what our enemies do to us is to ignore that we have asked these people to do everything that is abnormal in life, that being to kill another human being. How stupid is Hillary Clinton for saying we are not going to condone pissing on a person trying to kill us and will lock away anyone that does? I guess it’s okay that they kill us. We are not over there to MAKE NICE!!!! Any person saying anything bad or threatening to throw one of our military in jail for such trivial BS would and probably could suck a golf ball through a garden hose.
“What is our “Duty”? Kill the enemy. “Honor” went out the door for our enemy when we set foot on their soil whether it be foreign or domestic. Our “COUNTRY” sent us over there, now let us fight and strike fear in the hearts of our enemy or bring them the hell home and make em play with dolls. NO MARINE will be found doing that BS, they will be doing whatever necesary to KILL the no good, sorry SOB that wishes to kill us. If just one of those boys ends up in jail over this, we should OCUPY WASHINGTON and call for this administration to be banished from the office of which they swore to uphold. OOORAH!!!!”
The central rationalization in Haddit’s fallacy is my least favorite of them all, “It’s not the worst thing,” which IS the favorite of the Mark Levins and his ilk. Killing soldiers is, in fact within the rules of war, and always has been. Visiting atrocities on civilians also used to be among the rules of war, until human beings became more civilized and recognized the dignity of human life, the cruelty of mistreating women and children, and the rights of non-combatants generally. To argue that any act is justifiable because “you can’t do worse to someone than killing them” (Brit Hume game perilously close to this argument on Fox News this morning) is willfully ignoring what legitimate war is. It is not about hate. It is not about revenge. War is for the purpose of protecting a nation that has been threatened, deterring future attacks and aggression, and making future conflicts less likely. It is the ultimate utilitarian act and challenge, choosing elements of evil to accomplish a greater good.
Desecrating bodies, gratuitous cruelty, torture and other wartime atrocities do not have any useful purpose within this mission, and are motivated by emotions like anger, fear and hate, and unethical objectives like revenge. They are impediments to effective warfare, as they involve real conflicts of interest: the best soldier is the clearest thinking soldier, motivated by love of country and respect for authority, not raw emotion. General Patton, who Haddit quotes with approval, was a brilliant general whose uncontrollable emotions were a fatal flaw, and they limited the degree to which his superiors could trust him. And it was the methodical, even-tempered Ulysses S. Grant, not the emotional “Fighting Joe” Hooker or Ambrose Burnside, who led Mr. Lincoln’s Army to victory.
Of course it is hard for soldiers trained to kill to simultaneously keep their emotions in check. That’s why training is important, discipline is crucial, effective command is essential, and codes of conduct are vital. Soldiers are professionals, and have professional standards. Defense lawyers would sometimes love to turn their guilty scumbag clients in, but they cannot and must not. Police officers would sometimes like to shoot vicious felons who they suspect will go free. A doctor might want to let a drunk driver who wiped out a family die on the operating table. I’m sympathetic, just as I sympathize with the Marines, who lost comrades fighting those dead Taliban soldiers. But they are professionals, and they are Americans. We can sympathize, but we must not accept or condone.
Beyond pragmatic considerations are those of principle. The United States is the only nation in the world founded on ideals, and if it is not true to those ideals—indeed, if it is not perceived as being true to those ideals—it is in peril more deadly than the threat posed by any foe. The cowboys of the Old West held to a code of ethics that declared shooting a man in the back as unforgivable, no matter how dangerous or despicable the man might be. The United States, which in its founding documents proclaims the undeniable human rights of all people, not just American citizens, has pledged itself to being the hero, the good guy, the rescuer, the role model, the white hat, in all its international activities. As I wrote in the post, it has often failed that impossibly high standard, but that is the standard.
It must remain the standard. Haddit not only wants the representatives of the United States abroad to behave like monsters, but to revel in it and be rewarded for it. He is, in essence, endorsing the logic of terrorists, Vlad the Impaler, Hitler and Caligula, not the ideals of Madison, Mason, Jefferson and Adams. “OOORAH!!!!” in such a context is no more than a werewolf’s howl.
The fact that without working ethics alarms ideologues, fanatics, and zealots can embrace cruelty and revenge over core American ideals is what convinces me that the colloquy here is so important. Posts like this also remind me why Americans must constantly strive to have a clear view of right and wrong cutting through the fog of emotion, especially when that emotion is hate.