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Newly commissioned USMC 2nd lieutenants take the oath of office at the National Museum of the Marine Corps at Quantico, Va. Courtesy.
Longboat Key Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012 5 years ago

Our View: Stand up for the honorable


Their act was deplorable. And stupid.

So was the action of the moron who recorded it on his video camera.

We all wish they hadn’t disgraced us and the U.S. Marines.

They should and will be punished — we hope appropriately, not egregiously.

But as disappointing as the Marines who purportedly urinated on dead Taliban was so was the highly public, quick-to-condemn response from the Obama administration. You’ll never see them wear that now-famous slogan: We’ve got your back.

Americans know little, if any, of the full details and circumstances of what occurred. But before there was even a trial, before the Marines conducted a full investigation, or indicated it had, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta capitulated.

You expect them to denounce the incident. But neither of them took the American jurisprudence position of refraining from conviction until all of the evidence is revealed. In other words, innocent until proven guilty.

“If this video turns out to be what we hope it is not, then those responsible should be punished and we as a nation express our deep regret. But we also owe it to the accused not to rush to judgment until we know all of the facts.”

That’s what they could have and should have said.

Nor did we hear Clinton or Panetta immediately stand up for the overwhelmingly ethical behavior of the American military and point out that this incident, however disgraceful, should be viewed in context. While it’s never right to desecrate the dead, in the 10 years American soldiers have been entrenched in the fog of war, their behavior has been extraordinarily exemplary.

They should have said that, too.

What’s more, after the duplicitous Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, and the Taliban issued their condemnations, with the Taliban calling it the “inhuman act of wild American soldiers,” it would have been nice for Clinton and/or Panetta to remind the world of our soldiers’ exemplary record.

One of them could have and should have said: “Again, I’ll repeat: If true, we are deeply saddened. But at the same time, I also want to stand tall for the overwhelmingly number of American men and women who are and have served their country in the great tradition of our Armed Forces.”

And for the record, a little more context:

Remember first, the Taliban is the same group that used a soccer stadium to bury women up to their necks and then stone them to death. It is the same group that chopped off women’s finger tips if they wore nail polish. The Taliban is also the same group that gave quarter to Al-Qaeda — the group that killed nearly 3,000 innocent Americans on 9-11 and the group that beheaded American journalist Daniel Pearl.

Remember, too, that war is hell. Mutilation, desecration and atrocities have always been a part of it. In Greek mythology, Achilles was said to have dragged the body of Trojan hero, Hector, around the walls of Troy. The Holocaust — say no more.

Dan Murphy, a correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, reminded us last week that when you’re a soldier trapped or caught in extreme fire and watch your soldier brothers and sisters lose their lives, “hatred and anger flow freely.”

Finally, we should keep in mind these four Marines are only four of 200,663 Marines, 0.0019% of the total. Keep in mind the fact nearly 40% of the U.S. Marine Corps is under age 22, and the average age of the Marines is 24.9, the youngest of the Armed Forces (Remember some of the stupid, regrettable things you did at that age?). And remember they are trained to be hardened, invincible warriors. If they are to survive, they must be cold, tough and focused. But, likewise, at age 18, 22, 24 and 35, the fog of war can take its toll on anyone.

We’re not making excuses for unacceptable behavior, just offering context. What’s more, we’re wishing our commander-in-chief and his aides would have condemned the behavior, yes, but also defended and heralded the honor of our Armed Forces.

+ Texting while driving
We all know composing a text message on your “smartphone” while trying to drive is a dumb thing to do.
So is trying to put on mascara while driving. Or reaching for the back-seat floor, on the passenger side, to retrieve the toddler’s dropped binky. Or trying to open that bag of hermetically sealed potato chips. Or balancing a scalding cup of coffee while driving and talking on your “smartphone.” Or trying to select your favorite “playlist” and songs on your car’s touch-screen.

Face it, we all do a lot of dumb, distracting, dangerous things when we drive. And we shouldn’t do them. But we love to “multi-task” and have confidence in our ability to manage risk.

Predictably, the state wants to save us from ourselves. State Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, is the chief sponsor of Senate Bill 416, which bans texting, e-mailing or sending instant messages while driving. It says:

“A person may not operate a motor vehicle while manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols or other characters into a wireless communications device or while sending or reading data in such a device for the purpose of non-voice interpersonal communication.”

But why stop there? Why not include all of those other activities we mentioned — ban the mascara, coffee, et al?

Let’s don’t go down this path. Let the wireless, auto and insurance industries take their course. Before you know it, voice activation will negate the need for texting and e-mailing in a car. Automakers and wireless providers will improve “Bluetooth” so it’s more affordable and accessible. And insurers will create incentives to avoid texting with hand-held devices while driving.

We understand the urge for the state to intervene. Lawmakers cannot resist. But as the digital technology magazine, Ars Technica, reported, the National Transportation Safety Board’s own data link the hazards of “conversation with passengers” to more than twice as many fatal accidents as the hazards of device use.



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