Sebastian Junger on Marine Afghan corpse urination incident

From the combat filmmaker's Washington Post op-ed: "There is a final context for this act in which we are all responsible, all guilty. A 19-year-old Marine has a very hard time reconciling the fact that it’s okay to waterboard a live Taliban fighter but not okay to urinate on a dead one." (via @pourmecoffee)


  1. No, I’m not responsible, not guilty. I was never okay with your wars or your stupid 9/11 response that handed the terrorists exactly what they were trying to accomplish.  I’m not part of your two party system where both parties are completely okay with bombing the fQW#4 out of brown people  (even though the Democrats at least pretend to be ashamed) or detaining people indefinitely without reason or warrant (sorry, Dems, your guy is leading the charge on this).

    On the other hand, most of what he has to say is correct. Your attitude is completely schizophrenic. Given what you’re okay with, there’s nothing wrong with peeing on dead Taliban, and I certainly can’t blame the grunts you’re using for doing so.

  2. Strange. I’d think that it would be much harder for him to reconcile that he gets a medal for blasting away the head of  a live Taliban fighter but may not  urinate on a dead one.

  3. I think the filmmaker’s comments are right on. We, as a country, have manipulated the human impulse to exclude others from what we conceive of as “human” in these young men. Their actions are an indictment of ours. 

  4. To be honest, this is a storm in a teacup, and distracts from the real issues. 

    We’re in this war, for moderately good reasons.   Now we need to find a way to end it and bring the country the stability it so desperately needs.

    Yes, it’s disgusting, but if it’s good to kill enemy fighters, and (according to some) okay to torture them, pissing on them when they’re dead hardly deserves the amount of media attention it’s getting. This isn’t Abu Graib.

    1. This isn’t Abu Graib, but it clearly violates Geneva Conventions in ways that US media & politicians complain about when the other side does it. (Think of the footage of four bodies of US mercenary contractors dragged thru Fallujah, or Mogadishu 1993.)

      1. Really? Which article?
        The conventions and their agreements:

        The Geneva Conventions comprise rules that apply in times of armed conflict and seek to protect people who are not or are no longer taking part in hostilities, for example:

        wounded or sick fightersprisoners of warciviliansmedical and religious personnel

        There is a really long disqus thread over at The Atlantic on this topic.

        1. Convention (I) for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field. Geneva, 12 August 1949. 

          “Art. 15. At all times, and particularly after an engagement, Parties to the conflict shall, without delay, take all possible measures to search for and collect the wounded and sick, to protect them against pillage and ill-treatment, to ensure their adequate care, and to search for the dead and prevent their being despoiled.”

          1.  I stand corrected. I don’t apologize, nor care if those dead jihadists were despoiled, though. Find my very long comment under this article for an explanation.

    2. No, this is another Abu Graib in a sense. Cultures in the Middle East are generally masculine, based on their sense of honor and justice. Urinating on the dead is likely perceived as the ultimate insult. I suggest that the soldiers involved understood that on some level, partially motivating their actions. Now in a country where backwards totalitarians conflict with reformers to define the future of the country, an argument ending incident has been handed to the other side. “We need to take the advice of the US and do X, Y and Z!”. “Oh yea? But they urinate on the dead.” End of discussion.

  5. “in which we are all responsible, all guilty.”
    If we lived in a democracy, then those who voted for torturers would be responsible and guilty. Are we responsible for policies we never supported or actively fight against, or for electing leaders like Obama who lied about closing Gitmo? I understand his point, but it’s exaggerated.

    1. I’m 33 years old and a citizen of the Federal Republic of Germany.

      (I think there is no need to elaborate any further…)

        1. 1. I’d like to ask you a question to answer yours: Who was responsible for the Nazis and WW2?

          2.: I’m 33, my father is 59  and born after WW2 and my grandfather was a boy of 12 years when Hitler got to power 1933. Not one of us was responsible for that. But as someone of german nationality I’m at times  still made responsible for the wrongdoings of the Nazis although the country I live in is a democracy  for nearly 70 years now.

          1. The Nazis and people who supported them were responsible for what the Nazis did, including people who were able to stop them and did not. You don’t deserve to be held responsible just because people make broad generalizations about all Germans being responsible for the actions of the Nazis.

            I understand that there is a group of people who claim to represent me, because they claim to have a fair, democratic process for electing some of them. Even though I don’t think we have a fair democratic process and they definitely don’t represent me, I still feel somewhat responsible because they claim to be torturing and committing crimes on behalf. Citizens of the US are in a better position to influence the US than others, so it makes sense that we should try to change things. But I don’t think we should be held responsible or feel guilty for every hideous act performed by people claiming to represent us. I don’t think you are responsible or should feel responsible for the wrongdoings of the Nazis either.

          2. @Deidzoeb: I would amend that a share of responsibility also lies with the countries that dictated the terms of  the Treaty of Versailles. A smaller share to be sure, but a share nonetheless.

  6. Aren’t/weren’t those Abu Gharib abusers in prison for a long time? So why does Juger think that young soldiers would think its OK…does he think they have ADD and changed the channel right after the human pyramid photo, but before the prosections nentioned?

  7. “A 19-year-old Marine has a very hard time reconciling the fact that it’s okay to waterboard a live Taliban fighter but not okay to urinate on a dead one.”

    Those who thinks it is okay to waterboard, needs to be waterboarded, until they come around and say it is not okay.

      1. I don’t know the answer to this issue, but do consider it common sense that those who can’t take it shouldn’t dish it out.

  8. This is what you get when you wage religious wars. America is on the way to burning books before 2020. This year Americans will elect a crazier Christian than Bush, to preside over a global financial crisis. Fascism, here we go!

    1. Aah, because those poor Taliban chaps weren’t doing anything on the basis of religious doctrine at all. They were just trying to, you know, completely brutalise Afghans for totally secular reasons.

      1. Uh, they were doing that in their own backwards dump, and I remember Your Born In Christ Bush talking about “Clash of Civilizations” to justify the war. All while Crazy Osama was hiding in Friendly Pakistan. We’ll see a nuclear war before 2020 thanks to one of the three cukoo religions (Christian, Muslim or Jewish). I just hope is something limited.

        1. We’ll see a nuclear war before 2020 thanks to one of the three cukoo religions (Christian, Muslim or Jewish).

          You might want to keep up with the news a bit better. India is nuclear and if the Hindu BJP ever really takes power, they’re quite likely to nuke Pakistan.

        2. Whose ‘Born in Christ Bush’? Not mine. Either way, Don’t validate your ridiculously simple, partisan statement by virtue of my election choice. And here we are discussing the moral implications of urinating on enemy dead, and you describe Afghanistan as “their own backwards dump”. I’ll have you know though, your lack of a cuckoo religious belief doesn’t make you any less capable of desecrating the dead. You just haven’t been properly motivated by environmental factors yet. Stop imagining you are so righteously high above the actions of any one else in this world. 

          1. The emphasys is on “their own” and not in “backwards dump”, although that’s what Afghanistan is, like any other place where religion leads society. The mindset that ends in American soldiers pissing on the enemy starts with “They Are Not Christian”. The opposite is true, of course. If Muslins had the bigger bombs we would see the same wars with opposite signs. The only thing that is always present: religions are the reason for all wars, as always.

          2. I’m pretty sure you don’t know a hell of a lot about the history of Afghanistan or how war works. To blame religion for war is disingenuous. There are myriad reasons for taking violent action against other parties. It’s as philosophical as it is political. You’re just trying to squeeze a very complicated concept into your partisan box labelled ‘how I understand the world’.

          3. Not that I want to defend organized religion, but religion is usually just an excuse for contemptible behavior that the perpetrator was going to do anyway. Mutilation of women in Afghanistan is an ethnic Pashtun custom, not a Muslim one. Likewise female circumcision in Africa is a local custom rather than mandated by Islam.

  9. One more reason why getting rid of the draft, and going to an all-career military, was maybe not such a great idea.

  10. What is shocking and appalling to ME is that this administration is rushing to condemn these marine scout-snipers for this incident. Clinton, Panetta, and co.’s feigned surprise at this is disgusting. They and their departments trained these scout-snipers to kill the enemy and suffer the stress of combat, and they know very well that this kind of thing, and much, much worse, happens in combat. (Which has been going on for about a decade) They should be protecting these guys rather than prosecuting them. And, by the way, the administration is knowingly sending millions to the Pakistani government, which they KNOW in turn uses the money to fight a covert war against these same troops. We should be prosecuting the administration officials, not the front-line soldiers, who, by the way, have been told they are there to protect US.

  11. Yeah – there is always a level of dehumanizing the enemy. When you are surrounded by death, it becomes less taboo and dark humor starts to creep in.

    A few years ago a ‘nam vet finally sat down and scanned all his pics from photos and slides from his time over seas. He was in the army and was in one of those small APC type vehicles mounted with a flame thrower. A couple pics of them ‘sharing’ a cigarette with a dead VC. He debated posting this and a few other grisly photos, but he decided this IS what happened. He felt it important to give an accurate glimpse into what it was like over there. This is one of many other examples in history.

    Of course these things are still  “wrong”. I find it understandable. Pissing on a corpse is uncool and there should be some punishment – but it shouldn’t be their heads on a pike.

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