Hearts, minds, and bladders

Recently a video that showed American marines urinating on the bodies of dead fighters appeared online. There is no way to verify the claim that the bodies were those of Taliban fighters. These men could very well have been fighters loosely sided with the Taliban who took up arms against the invading forces of the United States and NATO. Some will say “it’s just a few bad apples” committing these acts, but is it really, or is this just the tip of the iceberg? What is going on in Afghanistan that isn’t being recorded and put online? What other things did these specific marines do?

Other U.S. soldiers were allegedly caught taking trophy body parts from their kills, but who else is doing that or worse? We know Afghans are suffering as a result of this conflict, and we know there is extreme anger in Afghanistan over the fact that an invading, occupying force is there. We also know the Middle East is angry. They see their brothers and sisters being killed by U.S.-made bombs and drones, having their homes raided in the night, being made homeless and having to live in refugee camps or flee the country. This anger has likely pushed many people towards fighting for the Taliban or at least fighting against the U.S. And people do have a right to be upset. Their countries have been invaded.

Meanwhile, in a twist of hypocrisy, the U.S. is allied with Pakistan, which has been accused of fuelling the insurgency and possibly providing support to the Taliban. Let’s also not forget about where Osama Bin Laden was found. Not in Afghanistan, but in Pakistan, the so-called “ally” of the U.S. To cap things off, those who pulled off 9/11 weren’t from Afghanistan, but were mostly from Saudi Arabia, another country that the United States is strongly allied with — despite Saudi Arabia’s horrendous human rights record.

So, why was Afghanistan the target again? Well, according to the United States, it is because the Taliban were harbouring terrorists and allowing them to train in Afghanistan. Yes, but so are many countries in Africa and the Middle East. The U.S. brought a war to the Afghan people that, in my opinion, they didn’t deserve. If you are going to invade a country then it is within your best interest to act in an appropriate and legal way. Otherwise, the credibility of your mission can be destroyed. Freedom and democracy get a pretty bad rap when pictures emerge of brutalities and cruel, demeaning behaviour carried out by free and democratic people.

There are those who argue that the mission is good because of the brutal nature of the Taliban, especially concerning the way women were treated under their rule, and the way that their extreme nature created an unjust society. There is no doubt about it: Afghanistan under the Taliban was a brutal place. However, I don’t think this mission was about women’s rights, or cultural change. This war is about U.S. interests, plain and simple. A look at the list of U.S. allies shows the United States take a pick-and-choose attitude when it comes to human rights abuses. As a new chapter in this saga opens, it appears that the U.S., which vowed never to negotiate with terrorists, has begun to negotiate with the Taliban who they have called terrorists, and who are opening their own political office in Qatar.

Clearly the Taliban are not going away anytime soon, and it looks like the U.S. understands this. No, the Taliban and Al Qaida are most definitely not the good guys, far from it. But the U.S. isn’t exactly the good guy here either. Unfortunately, this affects more than just the reputation of the United States. Whether we like it or not, Canada is judged along with the U.S., under the broad banner of “the West.” When horrible things are done, it reflects on all the NATO countries. As anger grows — as it will when videos like that described above surface — so do the challenges Canadian soldiers end up facing, and the further our name as a nation gets dragged in the mud.

Thank you Marines.


Chris Hearn thinks that hypocrisy makes for poor foreign policy.