Is peeing on somebody’s dead body a war crime? What about peeing on their grave? What about an important monument? As I’ve spoken about before, one of my life’s goals is to pee in every river that was important to the Confederacy. If I relieve myself in the Chickamauga, can a true son of the Cumberland bring me up in front of a war crimes tribunal?
The video of those American Marines urinating on dead Afghan bodies is so disturbing that it somehow demands a legal response. Mitt Romney might never want to “apologize” for America, but maybe that’s just because he’s used to being able to metaphorically urinate on those hoping some of his wealth trickles down.
And yet — 1Ls, say it with me — “most of international law does not exist.” Aside from whatever punishment the United States Marine Corps wants to impose on these guys, there isn’t a whole lot the international community can do to punish them.
Unless we want to call urinating on somebody a “war crime.” But is punishing some jackasses worth diluting the term?
I don’t want to minimize the inappropriateness of the soldiers’ actions, but arguably being peed on while alive is considerably worse than being peed on after death. And being killed for the express purpose of being peed on would be even worse than getting a golden shower. On the crimes against humanity scale, things that happen to corpses cannot rate against things that happen to live men and women.
As I read our own 1996 War Crimes Act, war crimes are limited to things people do against living humans: torture, rape, murder. The common understanding of “war crimes” are things that happen to living people that cause them to be dead or wishing for death. After the person is dead, I think we’ve committed the last full measure of crime against them.
And not for nothing, but in war, there is a long history of mutilating or otherwise defacing dead bodies in order to psychologically damage the enemy. If Achillies were here, he’d be dragging the body of a noble enemy behind his Humvee.
Maybe I’ve been listening to one too many Ron Paul speeches, but all war is crime. We should reserve the “war crimes” distinction for atrocities like genocide and horrors beyond the scope of human imagination — and unburden our legal system from trying to mete out justice in the case of R. Kelly versus the dead bodies.
As long as we engage in these bloody adventures, everybody is guilty.