The manufactured outrage of the week came with the LA Times’ publication of photographs of US soldiers in Afghanistan smiling and holding the blown-off legs of a Muslim suicide bomber (wait, is there any other?). This alleged “desecration” of the remains of a human being that took place over two years ago is supposed to indicate the depths to which American soldiers have fallen in the Middle Eastern wars of the past decade, and elicited a stream of condemnations of the soldiers from the White House, Pentagon, State Department, etc.
News flash: I couldn’t care less. Clearly, the LA Times’ hiding behind newsworthiness is typical hypocrisy; the LA Times has been holding on to a video speech of Barack Obama from 2003 praising his friend, Arab anti-Israel activist Prof. Rashid Khalidi, and containing – allegedly –Obama’s inflammatory statements about Israel, but such is not deemed newsworthy by the LA Times. But that is an ancillary issue.
While respect for human remains should be universal, I would not lose any sleep over the scorn heaped on the charred body parts of suicide bombers. You can only “desecrate” something that has sanctity. Suicide bombers have forfeited the right to be treated like human beings. They are not human beings as we currently understand the term. They have no respect for their own bodies, and therefore should not expect others to show respect to their bodies. In fact, as they happily use their bodies as weapons, their body parts are essentially no different than other weapons of war – guns, rifles, knives, tomahawks, etc. – that victorious soldiers have removed from the remains of the vanquished from time immemorial.
If it would help deter the scourge of the suicide bombers, as such rumors persist, I would wrap their remains in pig skin, pork rinds or any other Muslim taboo. They deserve no respect at all.
What troubles even more is the reflexive criticism of the military that accompanies such laments, especially by those who have never experienced the horrors of war or been placed in the unnatural position of being permitted (even ordered) to kill or be killed. That license itself portends a different set of values that are not necessarily comprehensible to civilians or readily translatable into civilian values. Hence the preoccupation since World War II with the “rights” of the enemy – even an evil enemy – and its use as a double standard club against Israel, among other nations. It is bizarre, and stems from a reluctance and failure to define today’s enemy – radical Islam – as evil incarnate but rather perceive it as just another group with a grievance that has to be assuaged, in a conflict in which guilt is found on all sides, and which morality is relative if its exists at all.
One longs not only for the moral clarity of World War II but also the ease with which the enemy was defined as evil and treated as evil. On Yom HaShoah past, we screened Steven Spielberg’s 1998 Oscar-winning documentary “The Last Days” about five survivors of the Holocaust. One interviewee was a Dr. Paul Parks, a black US Army physician who was among the liberators of Dachau. He described how he sat down to interrogate a Nazi Colonel, who rather than answer his questions decided to spit in his face. Terrible decision.
Dr. Parks calmly pulled out his pistol and shot the Nazi Colonel in the head. Dead.
He didn’t seem to have any regrets about it, either.
The Wall Street Journal last year featured an article by the military historian Warren Kozak, who related how his own father’s unit in World War II captured a group of Nazis during the Battle of the Bulge, and unable to hold them or certainly release them, just killed them all. No one thought of war crimes, prosecutions, trials or arcane Conventions; there was simply no other option.
That is wartime. And at least the Nazis were soldiers under traditional definitions, fighting for a (depraved) country in an army on the battlefield – unlike the modern Muslim suicide bomber who does not wear a uniform and attacks mainly civilians, and who is himself a civilian up to the very moment he kills himself and others.
The squeamishness that now attaches to the morals of war has succeeded in doing nothing but inhibiting the successful conduct of such wars, and given the enemy inestimable power over the morale of the fighting forces of the good and the virtuous. Israel especially suffers from this phenomenon, and the recent treatment of Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner, caught on camera smashing his rifle into the face of a Jew-hating foreign “activist” who had – off camera, of course, because the enemy controls the camera –just broken two of Eisner’s fingers – is a sorry case in point. The enemy realizes the power of its images, and its capacity to undermine the effectiveness of its adversary by abusing Western doctrines. But they themselves have no such inhibitions. They will chop off the heads of innocent civilians – Daniel Pearl, for one – and triumphantly wave the bloody head aloft, and then moan about the treatment the body parts of their suicide bombers receive?
Give me a break.
Granted that military discipline is important and can even encompass such notions as the treatment of enemy remains. But violations of such should be handled internally, and a gentle reprimand would seem to suffice in the recent Afghani kerfuffle – rather than the artificial concoction of a cause célèbre. We should care more for the innocent victims of the murderers than for the murderers themselves, for whom we should care not at all. That is moral.
Of course, the impression lingers that “we are not like our enemies,” implying that our morality is superior (it is, even if in any other context such a declaration would be repudiated), or that we hold ourselves to a greater moral standard, or that these indecencies give the enemy a pretext to kill. All true, but not at all relevant, especially the latter. The enemy consists of people who have perpetual and unassuageable grievances. Everything and nothing are “pretexts” to murder. If it’s not this, it’s something else. If it’s not something else, then it is nothing at all.
The greatest evil is not identifying true evil and calling it by its name. No one gave a second thought to how Nazis were treated during World War II, and for good reason. They had forfeited the right to be treated as human beings by abandoning human form and character. The mistake the West continues to make – and at its peril – is failing to classify the radical Islamic evil as we did the Nazi evil. They are somewhat different but almost identical in what is most important: their contemptuous attitudes towards life, civilization, justice and human rights.
We should treat them accordingly, and leave our soldiers – American and Israeli – alone to fight this devil to victory.