The video of US Marines urinating on the corpses of several Taliban members in Afghanistan may have shocked many and earned widespread condemnation—but that shock shows a basic misunderstanding of war, which is inherently dehumanizing, writes Sebastian Junger in the Washington Post. "Of course they have dehumanized the enemy," he writes, "otherwise they would have to face the enormous guilt and anguish of killing other human beings."
To Junger, who lived with US Marines in Afghanistan for a year, the video does not show soldiers cruelly abusing the body of a dead person, but "a desperate attempt by confused young men to convince themselves that they haven’t just committed their first murder." Junger also blames America's acceptance of torture as contributing to the desecration, as those young Marines have grown up in a society where political leaders have said waterboarding and similar acts are acceptable. "A 19-year-old Marine has a very hard time reconciling the fact that it’s OK to waterboard a live Taliban fighter but not OK to urinate on a dead one," he writes. "The video doesn’t surprise me, but it makes me incredibly sad." (Read more Sebastian Junger stories.)