Perry: What's wrong with a little corpse-defiling?
Rick Perry is not the first to defend the four Marines who were catapulted to infamy last week when an Internet video emerged capturing them urinating on what appeared to be the corpses of three dead Taliban fighters. Conservative luminary Britt Hume said on Fox News that he didn't see anything despicable about it, and author Sebastian Junger penned a thoughtful essay in the Washington Post that defends if not excuses the Marines based on his own experiences studying the emotional state of combat soldiers. But that's not the way Perry put it. And that's why he doesn't just infuriate liberals, he inspires little confidence among educated conservatives.
In an appearance Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union," Perry blasted the Obama administration for what he considered its overreaction to the video. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the actions of the Marines might be considered a war crime, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta called the incident "utterly deplorable" and numerous generals condemned the individuals involved while promising a full investigation. To Perry, this reaction shows nothing but "disdain for the military."
"These kids made a mistake, there's no doubt about it," Perry said. "But to call it a criminal act, I think, is over the top."
What would you call it, Gov. Perry? Desecration of enemy corpses is clearly forbidden by the Geneva Convention. If Perry's looking for legal advice, he might want to consult a memo sent to the troops Friday by Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, who wrote, "Defiling, desecrating, mocking, photographing or filming for personal use insurgent dead constitutes a grave breach of the (law of armed conflict)." The four Marines are very likely to be court-martialed, and while it's not clear what charges they'll face, there is nothing remotely "over the top" about suggesting they may be guilty of a war crime; that's merely stating the facts.
What's more to the point, Perry --who is trying to drum up pro-military votes -- seems to think it would be a good idea for the president and his administration to shrug off breaches of the rules of military conduct, international law or common decency when they're committed by active-duty soldiers. Perry's approach, popular as it may be among his dwindling base, would invite international condemnation, promote retaliation on the battlefield, gift Islamic insurgents with a sterling recruitment tool and undermine relations with key allies such as the Afghan and Pakistani governments. Which makes me wonder, and not for the first time: How long are we going to have to listen to this hillbilly nonsense before Perry bows to the inevitable and drops out of the GOP presidential race?
-- Dan Turner