Now a general will now conduct an inquiry of this sordid affair. War is hell, we all know, but an army with low moral, questionable superiority in fighting skills, and a military which allows, if not encourages, dehumanisation of the enemy so that he is no longer human but a feral animal ripe for killing, spell disaster and criminal activity.
US troops in war in Afghanistan or Iraq vent their spleen not only on the enemy but even on fellow Americans. The death of private Danny Chen is instructive. A Chinese American who enlisted right out of high school, he was sent to Afghanistan. There, he suffered the slings of blatant racism and humiliating behaviour which drove him to take his own life.
Seven soldiers and one junior officer are under investigation for manslaughter and willfully engaging in conduct worthy of barbarians.
My Lai, Abu Gharib, Guantanamo...names and places which dredge up heinous conduct of US misconduct and, yes, crimes, in wars undeclared.
Punishment in the case of the Marines and Chen's tormentors will be quick, but the problem is one which hang like an albatross around the US high command.
The US has an all volunteer army. Saying this, it should have in place a rigorous programme of training and instruction in the dos and don'ts of war. Superficially, it probably does; fundamentally, it does little to foster a fighting force with high morale and excellent fighting skills. The Marines are a proud lot and boast of such virtues, but the four Marines who 'pissed' on dead Afghans are symptomatic that the 'esprit de corps' or 'semper fidelis' has broken down.
Two cases are indicative of behaviour exhibited by mercenaries.