War crimes in a criminal war: Vets & GIs speak out on Marines urinating video

Barely scratching the surface of war crimes in Afghanistan.
The people of Afghanistan have endured over ten years of death and destruction at the hands of the U.S. military.

The graphic video going viral of U.S. Marines urinating on corpses in Afghanistan—a war crime under international law—is forcing people in the United States to face the reality of the war.

The video is emblematic of what the U.S. military has been doing to the people of Afghanistan for over ten years.

As combat veterans and active-duty members of the U.S. military, we feel we should weigh in…

1.Urinating is wrong, but bullets are okay? Yes, the video is “shocking” to most. But the politicians, talking heads and media outlets who call it “shocking” and “deplorable” will not use those same words to describe the war itself. 

It would be laughable, if not so tragic, that the Pentagon strongly denounced the video, and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta says he “condemns it in the strongest possible terms.” Panetta and the Pentagon officials then left the press conference to continue overseeing the destruction of Afghanistan. Any lip service from Washington or its apologists, from where the mass murder in Afghanistan is being orchestrated, is a complete joke.        

There is so much apparent concern over the sanctity of life after these Afghan men were killed. But they should never have been killed in first place. They were only lying dead on the ground because the U.S. government used the 9/11 attacks—in which the people of Afghanistan played no role—as a pretext to launch a full scale invasion to conquer a resource-rich, independent country that they had been trying to dominate for years. This is a war that all polls show is opposed by the U.S. public, U.S. troops and the people of Afghanistan.

2. There is no such thing as “good conduct” in an immoral war. The dehumanization in the video isn’t shocking to those of us who have seen the reality of the wars wages by the U.S. government. But the reactions to the video from most beg the question: what did people think was going on over there? Passing out candy and building schools?

The video is a dose of reality. Its content reveals less than a minute of the war—just one minute in what has been going on for over ten years. Imagine how many such incidents will never be known. And not just acts of desecration, but the acts that are accepted as necessary by the generals and politicians: dropping missiles on houses from robots in the sky, artillery barrages on villages, torture at Bagram Airbase, shooting “suspected insurgents” for carrying a shovel or pushing a wheelbarrow.

This is a colonial-type war, a war for empire, a war for resources and profits. The war itself is a crime. With that foundation, it is only inevitable that even more war crimes will grow out of a criminal war.

3. The inhumanity goes back decades. U.S. involvement in Afghanistan—the second poorest country on the planet— goes back far beyond the bombing and invasion in 2001. And it has never been for humanitarian reasons. Throughout the 70’s, during Afghanistan’s brief progressive period, the CIA pumped billions of dollars to sponsor right-wing militias. These elements attacked women’s schools, slaughtered hundreds of teachers initiating major literacy programs, and carried out a reign of terror on those in Afghanistan deemed “enemies” of the so-called “national interests” of the U.S. government. As Afghanistan was trying to lift itself from feudalism, the will of the people was crushed by the CIA and its Mujahadeen partners.

Those reactionary political groups funded and armed by the CIA continued to receive that support as they committed further atrocities, and as they became the Taliban, who we are now told we must fight and die endlessly to defeat. The Taliban leadership received funding from the CIA up until September 11, 2001. During this phase, the political character of Afghanistan’s government meant nothing to the U.S. government—what mattered to them was the possibility of a business deal that would allow massive oil pipelines through the country. But negotiations were not going as planned for Wall Street, so the 9/11 attacks provided a pretext for the classic tactic used to straighten out nations who will not open up their markets for plunder: all-out military force.

For over ten years, the people of Afghanistan have lived under a brutal occupation. In just the first month of the war, more civilians were killed by U.S. bombs than died in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. But the blood had just started flowing. Tens of thousands of innocent civilians are dead at the hands of the U.S. military. Tens of thousands are orphaned, widowed, maimed and homeless. Civilian deaths in Afghanistan are now the highest they have been compared to every other year of the war.

The people of Afghanistan have endured more than a decade of bombings, night raids, torture, a corrupt puppet government and a foreign occupation of more than 100,000 troops and mercenaries from the world’s biggest and most destructive military machine. The U.S. occupation has been a complete catastrophe for the people of Afghanistan, which is why they overwhelmingly want us out. Even Afghans who strongly oppose the Taliban site the U.S. occupation as the main cause of the country’s problems and violence.    

4. Afghanistan has the right to resist occupation. The people of Afghanistan who are now suffering under the weight of the U.S. military machine played no role whatsoever in the 9/11 attacks. In fact, when young Afghan men were polled in Kandahar and Helmand province—the location where the video of the Marines was film—it was found that over 90 percent of them had never even heard of the World Trade Center or the 9/11 attacks. The majority of those polled believe the U.S. military is in Afghanistan simply for “violence and destruction.”

The media unquestioningly report that the Marines urinated on dead “Taliban insurgents.” Yet, there are no weapons laid-out next to the bodies, which have been searched, as is standard practice—only a wheelbarrow, in a country almost entirely dependent on an agricultural economy. The claim that these men died after attacking U.S. forces is accepted as fact. This is a bizarre assertion, considering all the other ongoing scandals in Afghanistan involving U.S. forces killing innocent civilians—from the “Kill Team,” to the notorious night raids that every Afghan fears, to Apache helicopters cutting down children one-by-one. Such racist atrocities flow from the Pentagon’s racist, Islamophobic propaganda that dehumanizes the people targeted by the U.S. war machine—the lie that if Afghans are killed, they must have deserved it—which has become the dominant narrative.

But, if these men were in fact killed during a firefight with the Marines, does that justify their deaths? Whose home is Afghanistan, that of the dead men or the Marines? Whose country has been bombed, invaded, and occupied for over ten years? Do the victims of illegal foreign aggression not have the right to resist?

As troops who have been to war and seen the reality, we understand why people living under occupation take up arms to kick us out. We know that we would be doing the same thing if we were in their position. In fact, our experiences have shown us that that we actually have more in common with them than with the millionaire politicians and Pentagon generals telling us to fight. Whoever the dead men are, they are not the “bad guys.” They are the victims of a criminal war of aggression.

5. End the war now! There is no kinder, gentler war in Afghanistan. This video is just a small glimpse of its ugly face. The video has revealed to millions of people in the United States what their tax dollars are paying for. At a time when 40 million people in the United States are out of work, when millions are being cut from heating assistance, social programs, food assistance—when tuition is skyrocketing, layoffs increasing, budgets being gutted—the U.S. government is pouring our tax dollars into a war that 2/3 of the population is against.

This is an endless war, a war the politicians and generals acknowledge they cannot win.  They agree that the U.S. presence there will last “the rest of our lives, and the rest of our children’s lives.” This is a war for profits, for a tiny clique of Wall Street CEOs, defense contractors and shareholders. The type of conduct in this video will be repeated over and over; our friends and loved ones will die and be maimed endlessly; our brothers and sisters in Afghanistan will suffer endlessly.

The Pentagon brass have vowed to find the culprits shown in the video and punish them severely. And they should be. But they do not condemn the culture of racist propaganda that promotes and fosters such war crimes, nor will they end the war which allows the killing to continue, with or without the desecration of corpses. The leaders at the top, from whom this behavior consciously flows, should be punished as well.

The video should be a clarion call to all people to demand an immediate, complete withdrawal of all US/NATO forces from Afghanistan. And this little glimpse into the inhumanity unleashed on the people of Afghanistan shows that we not only need to end the war immediately, but pay heavy reparations to the victims of this criminal war.

6. Troops have the right to refuse their orders. The war in Afghanistan is a war for the 1%. In Wall Street's relentless pursuit of new raw materials and new sources of profits, they have literally thrown away the lives of us and our friends, and unleashed untold suffering on an entire population. The people of Afghanistan are not our enemies; but those millionaires and billionaires, who keep the war raging endlessly, are.

We have a right to not be used as cannon fodder in Wall Street's attempt to conquer new markets. We have a right to not be party to an occupation that constitutes a great crime against humanity.

Everyday, more and more active-duty troops are excercising their right to refuse to take part in the unpopular, immoral war in Afghanistan. If you're interested in doing the same, click here for information and support.


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