Sunday, November 27, 2005

U.S. Soldiers Who Burned Taliban Corpses Will Not Be Prosecuted

U.S. soldiers who burned the bodies of two Taliban fighters on October 1 and then bragged about it via loudspeakers to provoke insurgents thought to be nearby may face disciplinary action for the taunting, but will not be prosecuted. The reason? The soldiers burned the bodies "for hygienic reasons."

The footage shows about five soldiers in light-colored military fatigues, which did not have any distinguishing marks, standing near a bonfire in which two bodies were laid side by side.

Kamiya said the temperature at the time was 90 degrees, and the bodies had lain exposed on the ground for 24 hours and were rapidly decomposing.

"This posed an increasing health concern for our soldiers," Kamiya said. "The criminal investigation proved there was no violation of the rules of war."

The Geneva Convention forbids the burning of combatants except for hygienic purposes.

It seems odd that there should have been so much concern for the hygiene problems created by two dead bodies in Afghanistan considering the public health catastrophe U.S. troops created in Fallujah with their November, 2004, assault on that city.

The AP article notes that cremation is forbidden by Islamic law, which made the U.S. burning of these two corpses a religious desecration. I feel it's important to point out that Jewish law also forbids cremation. So this is not something specific to Islam. As a person who happens to be Jewish, I find what these soldiers did to be abhorrent. And what bothers me even more is the sense I have that the violation of religious law is seen as less of a big deal because the violated religion was Islam.

Why didn't the AP article say that Islamic and Jewish law forbid cremation? Would that have made these soldiers' actions more recognizably horrendous to American readers?

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