Holding the Moral High Ground

On his blog, Tom Ricks has an interesting bit of trivia about war and Afghanistan.

He writes:

What those urinating Marines did was wrong, but hardly shocking in the context of what goes on in war — especially in Afghanistan. I remember reading in a history of fighting in Waziristan that British officers were warned that if they were captured, Pushtun fighters likely would jam a sprig of camelthorn up the captive’s penis and then tie him naked and spreadeagled over and anthill and leave him there to roast in the sun until he died. Given the historical memory of Afghans, I would expect that knowledge of those practices is widespread.

Just reading that makes me uncomfortable… Ah, war in Afghanistan. But as my Dad said, two wrongs don’t make a right. For the most part, except for a few examples that we all know already, the U.S. military has an exceptional record of fighting by the rules.

Here is my one question, is there any benefit to holding the “moral high ground” and if so, what does it get you?


  • Good Question. For me, its not so much about whether or not those Marines should have pissed on the dead guys for reasons of holding the moral high ground. Its about the men they want to remember being ten years from now.

    It is about leadership. War is troubling enough, wealready have to take home all the baggage of what we had to do.

    When fighting, we have to strain to hold on to what humanity we can. Not for the moral high ground but for ourselves, for our families. If the leaders let their dudes piss on corpses or dogs or prisoners, they are failing their men because those dudes will forever have to live with the fact that, at one point in their lives, they thought it was right to piss on a corpse.

    The inner knowledge of knowing that you were once the type of guy who pissed on a corpse is worse than any public chastising our political leaders can invoke.

    Leaders protect us from the enemy as much as they protect us from ourselves.

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