U.S. Marines Give Ammo to Taliban

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As Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, US military officers -- incumbents and retired -- and others in DC's firmament condemn the US Marines that apparently urinated on dead Taliban militants, I'm wondering how long it will take for a movement to grow inside the United States that embraces the soldiers and the "pissing act" that Panetta has called "deplorable."

Thus far, the Taliban leadership is shrugging off the incident -- stating that what happened is nothing new.  In an AFP report, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed stated:  "Over the past 10 years, there have been hundreds of similar cases that were not revealed." 

But many Americans are going to pound their chests and celebrate those who would "piss" on their enemies.   Comment sections on some of the YouTube sites that have clips of the group urination scene are already filling up with crude blasts praising the soldiers and degrading the dead Taliban insurgents. Many wish they were part of the group scene.  This is the pugnacious nationalist side of American politics that is growing today -- and many soldiers come from corners of the United States where this behavior is the norm.

I haven't read the latest figures on the number of moral waivers that the US military continues to extend to gain new recruits, but the last time I wrote about this, the New York Times in February 2007 noted that in the preceding three years more than 125,000 moral waivers had been extended (while nonetheless still expelling outed gay military service people) for crimes including serious misdemeanors as well as "felonies such as aggravated assault, burglary, robbery and vehicular homicide."

So, while many in the national media and in polite circles promise to investigate this act, to punish those involved as Panetta said "to the fullest extent", the truth is that the Iraq War and Afghanistan War and the building up of national security commitments that rest on the backs of a new generation of soldiers -- many of whom don't understand and operate with nuance -- has empowered those who think pissing on the enemy is the thing to do.

Whether many want to admit it or not, what those soldiers allegedly did represents "us" today -- and that's yet another part of the malignant manifestation of these current conflicts.

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Steve Clemons is Washington editor at large for The Atlantic and editor of Atlantic Live. He writes frequently about politics and foreign affairs. More

Clemons is a senior fellow and the founder of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation, a centrist think tank in Washington, D.C., where he previously served as executive vice president. He writes and speaks frequently about the D.C. political scene, foreign policy, and national security issues, as well as domestic and global economic-policy challenges.

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