Paul Vallely writes at the Independent:
There has been something artificially over-heated about the international reaction to the video of four American soldiers urinating on the bodies of their dead Taliban enemies in Afghanistan. It was, of course, a fairly disgusting thing to do.
But all the breastbeating about how the men’s “egregious inhumanity” had brought “disgrace to their armed forces” and “dishonour to their nation” had something of bluster about it. How could anybody do such a thing, asked people who had never been to war, heard their wounded friends scream or seen them die, blown to pieces, before their very eyes.
There may yet be demonstrations and deadly riots around the world in protest. But I suspect not. This is no Abu Ghraib, for the scenes of degraded torture in that Iraqi prison were inflicted upon the living rather than the dead. But what the two have in common is that both have exposed a systematic pattern of abuse in a culture which had been nurtured or authorised at higher levels.
The Taliban, for all their perfunctory condemnation, have announced that the video will not affect the process of political negotiating that has begun in Afghanistan. As part of a deal to bring a modicum of stability in that country ahead of the withdrawal of US combat troops in 2014, Washington has offered to allow them to open a political office in Qatar. The Taliban are far more concerned about that than the desecration of three dead bodies. They and their al-Qa’ida allies are, after all, happy enough to desecrate living bodies, stoning to death young women who have had the ill fortune to be raped, or cutting the throats of hostages and filming it for the internet.
Bad things happen in war. When men have been under extreme fire, or seen their best friend die, anger and hatred flow freely. Enemies are dehumanised. Contempt for the other is a battlefield weapon. Young soldiers – and nearly 40 per cent of the US Marine Corps are below the age of 22 – are prone to callow as well as gallows humour. Some of them do stupid things. With a total of 90,000 American troops on the ground in Afghanistan, the real wonder is that there haven’t been more videos like this. British soldiers did worse things in the Second World War. They just weren’t able to video it and stick it on YouTube…
Read more here.