About 18 months ago and in response to a piece, “Why It’s Wrong to Equate Military Service With Heroism,” which discussed the technical, logical and semantic reasons why our fighting men and women should not be collectively called “heroes,” I wrote a piece claiming “Our Military: Yes, They Are All Heroes.”
I started the article as follows:
I am one of those misguided, clueless people who, when writing about our military men and women slugging it out in Iraq and Afghanistan, engaged in combat, just trying not to get killed or maimed by an IED, or just driving a truck with supplies across the desert, instinctively and invariably refers to them as “heroes.”
Then I went on to explain why I felt that way.
Little did I know the overwhelmingly negative reaction and feedback I would get in response to my assertion, in effect — and in no uncertain terms — affirming how misguided and clueless I am.
While a few of the writers argued — perhaps validly so — that by calling all soldiers “heroes” we diminish the value of that accolade when used to honor the “real heroes,” and while I was not too surprised by the anti-war sentiments, I was truly shocked by the vastly negative — at times shamefully offensive — commentary about our troops.
Of course, “massacres” and “atrocities” committed by our troops in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan were brought up in order to discredit my claim. Some went even further and used such misdeeds to paint all our troops with the same broad brush.
This week, we see, hear and read about the disgusting, inexcusable act committed by a handful of Marines in Afghanistan.
And, again, one can see the reactions going off in some predictable directions.
Some condemn the act, but then attempt to use the broad-brush tactic to indict the entire Marine Corps, our entire military.
Those “some” may well include the same people who criticized me for calling all our troops “heroes.”
You know what, I would rather inaccurately call all our troops heroes because of a few real heroes than call all our troops criminals because of a few real bad apples.
Some disapprove of the act but then attempt to list possible “extenuating circumstances,” even justifications for such a heinous act.
You know what, having watched the video where the Marines are in absolutely no stress or combat situation, where they are joking and laughing about it, I cannot find any extenuating circumstance nor rhyme or reason for such a despicable act.
Some object to the act, but then mention some of the perhaps even more reprehensible and inhumane acts perpetrated by the enemy — or even here at home.
You know what, two wrongs do not make a right, and even more important, when we sink to the level of our enemies, we risk becoming that what we are fighting against.
Finally, I will not dignify those who “celebrate” this act by commenting on such.
I honestly believe that we Americans can and must start calling what is wrong by its name, without euphemisms, without excuses — no ifs and buts about it.
In this case, by unequivocally condemning such an act, we not only do the right thing but we also show real honor and respect for the more than 200,000 proud Marines whose motto and way of life will always be Semper Fidelis.
The pundits — including this one — have expressed their views and opinions on what four Marines were videotaped doing in Afghanistan.
Without any further comment or judgment by this writer, here are the views of one of our troops based at a Forward Operating Base in Afghanistan, as published tonight by the Stars and Stripes:
Let me first say those responsible (“Corpse desecration video sparks outrage,” article, Jan. 13) deserve to be punished to the fullest possible extent if they are found to be guilty of wrongdoing. However, they deserve to be punished because of what they did and the standards and expectations to which they failed to adhere. Let’s stop the pointless wailing and gnashing of teeth about their conduct resulting in American deaths or sullying our image in the Muslim world. Quite frankly, those complaints are hypocritical. The Muslim world hates us because of what we represent.
The outrage of the Muslim world over this video should be greeted with an enormous yawn. We are talking about a Muslim world that gleefully decapitates those who displease it, a Muslim world that calls for the murder of those who leave Islam, a Muslim world that imprisons women who have been subjected to rape for the crime of having sex outside a marriage. Let’s not concern ourselves overly much with what outrages this world.
When confronted with their outrage, we quite rightly ought to throw it back into their teeth and stand our ground. If the four Marines in the video are found to have done what it appears they have done, they will be punished. They will be punished for failing to adhere to our standards, not for causing outrage in the Muslim world. Let’s not lose sight of that distinction and let’s make darn sure the Muslim world does not lose sight of that distinction.
The author is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a writer.