Their fear that the Taliban might pull out of peace talks after film of US troops urinating on Taliban corpses was lately seen on television, shows, I think, just how much more primitive Americans are than the medieval fundamentalists they are fighting.
They think what you do to a dead man matters more than killing him. They thought this a few years back when they flattened Fallujah and massacred a lot of its people because some US troops were shot, burnt, dismembered, hung up on a bridge and beaten with boots.
They didn’t mind them being killed, but they hated the ‘desecration’ of their corpses — much as you or I, for instance, would burst in and gun down surgeons in mid-autopsy; of course we would. Much as you or I would shoot a heart-transplant specialist on a street in Mosman; of course we would. He’s a mutilator of corpses, a despoiler of the dead, a bad, bad man.
What happens to corpses is very, very important, and pissing on them is unforgiveable. Or this is the current American view.
The Taliban however are not as primitive as this, or as childishly superstitious. Faced with the choice of a pissed-on dead soldier and twenty thousand more women and children killed and crippled by helicopter-gunships and rogue shootings by dumb young men invading the wrong farmhouse at midnight, they’ll cop the urine stench every time. They know that crawling out from under a ten-year war with nuclear-armed bozos who don’t know what they’re doing there — bombing the locals into treating their women better was a recently stated war aim — is worth a few indignities.
But the Americans don’t know that. They like their dignity. They are very keen to ‘save face’. They take their dignity and their face so seriously they don’t even admit when they’ve lost o war; or a ‘battle for hearts and minds’, as they call it, with people they kill and widow in millions, like the Vietnamese.
And they think the Afghans want them to stay and burn their opium crops or turn them into Mormons or whatever their next fool project is. They think young Afghans really like getting paid four hundred dollars a year to train as cops and get shot dead by their cousins. The Americans think they are truly beloved, and really welcome, and much esteemed, and pissing on somebody dead really spoils all that.
And they have to say sorry, sorry, sorry about that, buddy, we won’t do that again, and hope to all bejesus the Taliban won’t go away. We’re here to get rid of them, that’s our war aim, but their going away right now is unthinkable. We might have to stay and win this war after all if they go away. And how the hell are we going to do that?
It’s worth pointing out at this juncture I think just what the Taliban’s attitude to desecrated corpses actually is. For the Taliban routinely train, fund, equip and encourage suicide bombers, some of them young women, some of them adolescent boys, who blow themselves to smithereens and in crowded locations, mutilating themselves and many other adjacent innocents, and so demonstrate their masters’ indifference to posthumous desecration, and what some would judge bad manners round a fallen foe.
They do not care too much about all that; a dead man is a dead man. When Osama Bin Laden, their friend, financier and guru, was shot in the face and dumped the sea and eaten by fish without a proper Muslim requiem with his family present, they made no murmur. They mourned him as a holy warrior and a fallen saint and that was that. He was a legend now and a pillar of flame and a new star in the sky and the fish could have him. What did his body matter? Not too much. His name would live forever.
So we can piss on their cadavers all we like, in my view. It matters little to the warlords and the mullahs if we do. They will keep talking to us, negotiating with us, believe you me.
And the apology and the arraignment and the sentencing of the guilty penises and bladders will make no difference, none at all, to the now inevitable outcome of this dread unending war: a coup, a takeover, an armed putsch, a gunpoint referendum ten or twenty days after our side leaves, and an eventual caliphate of
both Afghanistan and Pakistan run by a bunch of medieval crazies armed with nuclear weapons, plus our own considerable political difficulty in explaining to forty or fifty Diggers’ widows what in Christ’s name we were doing there for twice the length of World War 2 and why so many Hazara heads are on pikes now around Kabul.
This will not occur because we pissed on any Taliban, dead or alive, but because we bombed their children, burned their pastures, shredded their goats and cows with friendly fire and generously trained them how to kill their cousins and for one twentieth of the wage of our brave Diggers to dio the same thing they do, murder people. Murder civilians who have murdered none of our civilians. Murder the children who have murdered none of our children. Murder the husband and widow the woman with five kids and a resident mother-in-law, burnt paddocks and no bank loan. Bankrupt the small farmers and burn their crops and tell them how to run their marriages. Tell their wives to divorce them, and become cosmeticians. That sort of thing.
As to the pissing, the sensible compromise would be to choose by raffle an American corpse the Taliban could piss on.
That’s what we old stagers call diplomacy.
Diplomacy, American style.