Eighteen, 19-year-old kids make stupid mistakes all too often and that's what occurred here."
This was the nuanced reaction of Rick Perry, governor of the supposedly important state of Texas, who has signed dozens of death warrants (at least one for an innocent man), who thinks he deserves to be president, to a video of Marines in U.S.-occupied Afghanistan peeing on dead Afghan resistance fighters.
"Golden, like a shower," says one.
Amazing to watch how ten years and the catastrophic American military defeats in Iraq and Afghanistan have changed our views about the shock troops of American militarism. After 9/11 our sainted soldiers could do no wrong. They were inherently noble. They were heroes. Even liberals said so.
Uneducated and ignorant, yes, but these brave young men and women deserved our gratitude for defending our freedoms against the Islamofascist hordes lest a land bridge somehow appear between the Old and New Worlds. Who cared 85 percent of U.S. troops in Iraq told a 2006 Zogby poll that their mission was "to retaliate for Saddam's role in the 9/11 attacks"?
They had big hearts. And small brains. The rapists of Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, the murderers of Bagram, the rapist-murderers of Haditha? Just a few bad apples.
No longer. Defeat has followed defeat. Each "successful" drone strike against "enemy militants" in Afghanistan and Pakistan gets followed by a sheepish "well, yeah, they were all innocent women and children" press release. War grates on the nerves; losing wars are worse. Why, broke and jobless Americans, are we still spending $1 million a year per soldier to chase down one Al Qaeda No. 2 after another?
America's glorious crusade is over. We know the U.S. mission in Afghanistan is to subjugate, terrorize and brutalize the local population. Even state-controlled media admits it.
"There is no question that the Taliban are brutal, including against their own people," opines The New York Times editorial board. "The 1,000-man battalion lost seven men during its seven months in Helmand. But the stress of combat cannot excuse desecrating corpses -- not to mention filming it."
Love that last emphasis.
How many zillions of times have similar or worse outrages been carried out by soldiers smart enough to keep their camera cellphones in their pockets?
Not to mention the disproportionality. It sucks to lose seven people. Especially if you're one of them. How many Afghans did that unit kill during those same seven months? They killed four--the ones they peed on--in a single day. As for Taliban brutality -- well, they are Afghans. What are we doing over in their country?
Memo to U.S. forces: OK to invade foreign nation that posed no threat. OK to occupy said country for years. OK to impose a corrupt puppet government. OK to kill the locals. Probably OK to piss on them. Just don't film it.
Of all the many stupid things Rick Perry has said during his political career his defense of the piss-and-vinegar marines rank among one of the smartest. Perry is right: they are dumb kids.
Which prompts a Big Question. We don't trust kids to drink. Hell, you can't even rent a car until you're 25. So why do we outfit a bunch of dumb 18- and 19-year-old kids prone to making "stupid mistakes all too often" with high-powered automatic weapons, then unleash them with a license to kill hapless foreigners?
Thanks to Rick Perry, the answer is clear:
War crimes is just what dumb kids does. No one's fault. Just is.
This blame-the-brats approach has a lot of potential for America's hapless ruling class. Like, get rid of the weird cabals of angry old country-club neo-cons. The next time we want to gin up a quagmire from thin air, let's assign the job of choosing the target and marketing the war to a bunch of dumb 18- and 19-year-olds from West Virginia. Whatever goes wrong won't be anyone's actual fault.
Plausible excusability -- they're just dumb kids! -- works for domestic policy too.
Whenever the government is in the mood to shovel hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars into the coffers of giant banks while ignoring the plight of the un- and underemployed, keep the gray old men of the Fed out of it. Roll a few kegs over to the nearest frat and let the freshman and sophomore econ majors have at it. So the global economy tanks. Who cares? Just a buncha stupid kids doing stupid kid stuff.
Don't blame me if this column is stupid. I took the week off.
--Ted Rall is the author of "The Anti-American Manifesto." His website is tedrall.com.
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