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WHAT’S IN A CORPSE?

January 15, 2012

Hama Tuma

American Marine soldiers were captured on video peeing on the corpses of Taliban fighters. They evidently enjoyed their act, these sons of Christian and civilized America which always strives to teach us Christian democratic values. At the risk of annoying some quarters let me ask the pertinent question: what is in a corpse? Corpses have been sold, mutilated and defiled in the past.

To begin with America has refused to respect many Geneva Convention laws and rejected the ban against torture. Its troops in Afghanistan (and Iraq and other places too) are there to kill people they call their enemies. Afghanistan is not that famous for its R&R spots and considering that the Talibans are also not that gentle with corpse, one can understand the frustration of the peeing Marines. Back in History Belgian colonialists were proudly photographed holding decapitated heads, chopped of hands, etc of the Congolese (15 million died in  the hands of the colonials). Colonial wars were not respectful of the bodies of the natives. The German tried to wipe out the Herero people of Namibia (the Nazis got many of their evil concepts from that campaign); the British tried their hand everywhere. Italians killed a million Ethiopians chopped of head and hands of patriots and the Italian colonial Minister Alessandro Lessona even imagined “an Ethiopia without Ethiopians”.  Here is one report on the British penchant to destroy entire communities: “On 29 March 1896, Rhodes’ ally Lord Jarvis wrote to his wife that ‘I hope the natives will be pretty well exterminated . . . our plan of campaign will probably be to . . . wipe them out . . .’, while in July he wrote to his mother, suggesting that,‘. . . the best thing to do is to wipe them out . . . everything black’. In January 1897, Lord Grey wrote describing the mood in the colony: even the missionary Father Biehler felt ‘the only chance for the future of the [Mashona] race is to exterminate the whole people, both male and female, over the age of 14! ” In such situations, it is not possible to expect niceties towards the dead.

Still, the American penchant to be disastrously grotesque does shock. The crimes in the Philippines, later made paler by the Indochina experience, were beyond measure and many corpses were mutilated. The Vietnam experience was of course worse. Dead Vietnamese were defiled in one way or another. In Iraq, Abu Ghraib photos of dead Iraqis being defiled by American troops are now followed by American troops peeing on Taliban corpses. Guantanamo is evidence of mistreatment of the living—why expect respect for the dead? Water boarding and other brutal tortures were sued and are still being used on live prisoners—why bother for the Taliban corpses who are dead and would not feel wet or humiliated by the urines of beasts?  We should also consider the fact that Americans had been defiling the corpses of Native Americans and habits refuse to die. All this said, I am the first to admit that Africans are not saints in this respect.  Anti and pro Gbagbo forces in Ivory Coast torched people to death Kenyans and Ugandans beat and torch alleged thieves in a crude mob justice that also takes place in South Africa where victims are forced to drink petrol for what is called internal combustion.  Samuel Doe was cut to pieces. Even Khadafy’s coprse was defiled courtesy of America, Britain and France.  Decapitation, mutilation of the dead is not a strange thing to Africans. If violence is as American as apple pie the defilement of corpses is as universal as (not as matoke, sorry) but rice.

Anyway, respect for corpses has not been an American tradition at all. Check the following report:

“On September 19, 1995, two men allegedly broke into the mortuary at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills and engaged in sexual intercourse with two female corpses. The next day, police announced the two men were being held on suspicion of burglary.   According to police, the two men were not charged with having intercourse with a corpse because having sex with a corpse is not illegal in California. This left the men liable only on charges that they broke into the mortuary and stole computer chips from a personal computer in the building”. There you go. Necrophilia is also a favorite subject of American movies and TV programs. The genre is not, alas, Horror.

Torturing and decapitating people are, in my opinion, not as bad as anything done to a corpse.  Intercourse with a dead person is vile but as California law clearly puts it no crime is involved (maybe because the corpse would feel nothing). Killing innocent people by air strikes and drones is evil and not comparable to vile attacks on dead people. Lumumba’s corpse was defiled but not many in the West cared. Today militias supported by the West have raped and attacked more than half a million females in Eastern Congo. Cutting the throat of people is disgusting but the Talibans and Al Shabab type of bizarre forces enjoy it.  If people pee on these killers is it poetic justice? If we say yes then we all go into the mad, mad world of criminals playing roulette with decency and hopes of a better world. The Talibans and the Marines are in their own nightmarish world of playing recklessly with our hopes and rights as human beings.  The West made fun of Idi Amin and Bokassa and even alleged they were cannibals. The RUF of Sierra Leone also came to the rescue chopping of people’s hands, arms and heads. But the whole operation there was for diamonds and orchestrated by Britain in the first place.

Abu Ghraib. Guantanamo, Afghanistan….. the image of America is not that nice. Peeing on dead people is not going to improve their image. Obama has not been that much of a dramatic change over Bush in the political field. Frustrations abound.  American soldiers as harbingers of democracy or decent values are total fiction. The soldiers who peed on corpses publicly and graphically announced that America’s promise of decency and democracy is totally false. This is a proper message to all who want to be duped by Washington.  It is also possible that there are many who want for Washington to pee on them but this is not the feeling of the majority. If Americans troops only pee on dead people it is also going to be a problem for those live ones who want the urine treatment. Are Americans that selective with their brutality? If so, is discrimination involved?  Must you be dead to be peed on by the agents of civilization, democracy and Christianity? Very difficult questions awaiting clear answers. Again, what’s in a corpse? Dead people have been defiled for centuries. More relevantly, live people have been defiled and peed upon for centuries. This is much more important an issue. Alas, no one seems to care. Be assured, American troops would perform more grotesque and inhuman actions in the future. Defiling corpses is a crime but more than that crime against live people is even worse. Peeing on the dead is not as bad as doing worse things on the living.

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