By Arab News
By Abdulateef Al-Mulhim
During Desert Shield, on a hot mid-September day in 1990, a young American Marine inserted one Saudi riyal in a Pepsi dispenser, which was located on a street in Jubail, Saudi Arabia.
The soldier obviously needed the cold drink. But, the Pepsi dispenser took his money and didn’t give him any needed cold drink. In a spontaneous reaction, he kicked the dispenser a gentle kick. It was a reaction that we all do when a dispenser take our money and give us nothing in return. I was there and so was an American officer. I knew exactly what harsh word and physical punishment his superiors would do to this young Marine. And later he was sent back to North Carolina to face questioning and discharge by angry military judges. He simply wasn’t needed to be part of the few and proud United States Marine Corp.
One year later in mid-September in 1991 an incident happened to US Marine and Naval aviators about 8,000 miles from where the young American Marine kicked the Pepsi dispenser. It was named the mother of all American military scandals. Or simply know as the Tail Hook scandal. On that day, experienced admirals and Marine commanders lost their posts and their pride. Sexual harassment laws were introduced as well as other new laws. It was a way to protect the reputation of the American military.
American soldiers are trained to fight and kill the enemy, but they are also taught how to save lives and assist the needy regardless of their faith. In World War II, the Germans wanted to surrender to American forces, not Russian. And in many modern day wars, the appearance of American soldiers was a good sign. It means food for the hungry, liberation of the prisoners and good treatment of the others. In any conflict, people always ask, where is the American flag and the American wheat.
So, what has changed in the past few years with regard to the conduct of the American military? And what do the American military commanders teach their soldiers? We saw Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. And we saw American soldiers shoot people for fun. And the straw that broke the camel’s back happened recently when a most utterly despicable act was shown on television newsreels. It was the few and proud doing the most disrespectful act to dead Afghanis. I saw the first few seconds in the clips, and I just couldn’t finish it. Any human can’t imagine seeing soldiers from the most advanced country urinating on dead bodies. It is simply the worst thing a human being could do to another human. And it is good that the US secretary of defense addressed it. It is good that no one pointed fingers to blame others. The US Marines took full responsibility. And the saddest part of it was that they were in a relaxed mood and amusing themselves. We all hope that those Marines who urinated on the dead bodies are really only a very few in the military, and not the majority.
In times of war, soldiers are soldiers. Regardless of where they come from, they will act either out of revenge or want to go home or even do horrible things just for fun. But, what makes seeing American soldiers doing this terrible act upsetting in our minds is because we always see the American secretary of state and other politicians flying around the world in private jets and telling us how to treat human beings the American way. Hillary Clinton tells us, Americans liberate countries to show them the right path to democracy and respect to others. I want the answers about this incident from Clinton, not from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta — because Clinton was the one who gave lectures about human rights and how to respect the others.
Soldiers read the doctrines not from books. They see the doctrines in the faces of their civilian and military commanders. They know when their bosses want them to go to the battlefield with the intention to kill, kill and humiliate. This is called Donald Rumsfeld’s Doctrine. Then Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld wanted to humiliate the Iraqis and Afghanis as well as kill them. But those few proud Marines didn’t only upset observers around the world, did not only humiliate the dead Afghanis, they humiliated the American flag, the American people, the American armed forces and humiliated the few and proud United Sates Marine Corp.
— Write to Abdulateef Al-Mulhim at: [email protected]