Michael A. Ross, Published January 20 2012
Reflection of larger society puts the lie to ‘few bad apples’ defense‘War is hell, shut your mouth,” excoriated a Republican congressman and decorated 22-year Army veteran. “Just a few bad apples” talk radio’s war apologists, such as Limbaugh, Hannity and O’Reilly, might have added. The spectacle is that of four U.S. Marines urinating on freshly murdered Taliban, Afghan insurgents, terrorists, or whatever. You know, those folks who don’t want us in their country bombing their weddings, funerals and blowing up their kids.
You might admonish that those of us who have never been anywhere near the front lines ought not to judge those that are. Fair enough, but let’s concede that in the heat of battle, otherwise decent young men (and women) are capable of unspeakable atrocities never imagined in more normal circumstances.
There is a slight problem, however, with this “few bad apples” defense. As with the Haditha incident in Iraq in which 24 Iraqi civilians were murdered by Marines in front of their families, in their own homes, there was not one of the participants who attempted to restrain the others. Even at Abu Ghraib prison, of the 200 or so soldiers who participated in or knew of the torture, degradation and humiliation of naked, defenseless Iraqi prisoners, there was basically only one whistleblower, a low-ranking enlisted soldier with the courage and decency to do what he could to put a stop to what he knew was wrong.
War is hell, no question, but what of the home front? Can we find the same pattern stateside? Just Google “police brutality.” How about the Rodney King incident in 1991? Or the bloody beating of a 64-year-old teacher in by four police officers in 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Or the murder of teenager Martin Lee Anderson at a corrections “boot camp” in 2006. And most recently, the pepper spraying of peaceful protesters of the Occupy movement. The same pattern took shape: Not one of the dozens of police/
corrections officers attempted to restrain the others.
In 1968, about a half-dozen of Lt. William Calley’s 80-man platoon had the moral tenacity not to participate in the murder of 500 defenseless civilians (all women, children and elderly) in the Vietnamese hamlet of My Lai. Could we find even that many today, in war or peace?
Those who commit these atrocities are only a reflection of the larger society, a society that cheered, celebrated, waved the flag and sang “God Bless America” during “shock and awe,” when untold thousands of innocents perished.
If these four urinating Marines are just a “few bad apples,” then let’s face it, America, we are a nation of bad apples and a nation of urinating Marines.