In yet another public-relations coup for the US military, a very damaging photo is making the cyber-rounds, only weeks after the photo documenting some of our fun-loving boys pissing on the corpses of Afghan resistance fighters (AKA "Taliban"). (And, please, no more about the stress of combat as an excuse. A group-piss is hardly a knee-jerk reaction to stress. It took at least minimal planning, as well as group cooperation. It was also incredibly stupid. It invites reprisals against American military personnel - or Afghans who might be perceived as supporting them - by enraged Taliban fighters, whose traditional culture of warfare already included a no-holds-barred approach, including torture and mutilation of corpses - as Soviet soldiers posted to Afghanistan during the USSR's occupation there in the 1980s found out.)
This photo is even less arguably impromptu. It's a nicely planned and posed composition featuring Marine scout snipers in front of a US flag. Directly beneath it is a flag bearing the letters "SS" in a script that matches that used by the Nazi SS during World War II.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I checked out (at the link above), along with the report, the poll asking readers their opinion of whether it was OK for these Marines to do this. I voted "No; it was inappropriate", then clicked to see the results so far, to find that an equal number of voters indicated "Yes, it was OK" because the Marines might have been unaware of the symbol's associations. As someone suggested, perhaps they even thought it was cool that SS here could be interpreted as "scout sniper."
Are they kidding? Then, how did they happen to find this specific symbol - and make this flag - in the first place?! Obviously, some one (or more) of them had seen it before, and knew that it stood for the concept of "killer," at the very least. At worst (or at least worse), they might have known that it was a symbol often adopted to express white Aryan supremacy (as in this tattoo on the back of an Indiana Aryan supremacist)
That they wouldn't have known that this symbol wasn't, in fact, that of the most brutal arm of the Nazi war machine (and of the killing machine at Auschwitz and Dachau) beggars belief.
Yet, I remember all too well my shock at encountering the report of an incident at the Houston airport several years ago, when someone approached the public-address person and asked him/her to please page Herman Goering, Joseph Goebbels, Heinrich Himmler, and Adolph Eichmann - and, cluelessly, s/he did.
And that was followed by my even greater shock when I relayed this account, and mentioned these names - while projecting powerpoint images of their faces - before a classroom of about 40 students, only to see several faces looking on quizzically, and then hurriedly writing down these names.
Does that mean we ought to give these Marines, therefore, a pass? I say, NO.
But it does tell me (or, better, remind me; I cannot be surprised) that something has gone horribly wrong in how and what we teach our young people about history, and about how important it is that we never, ever forget some things - like what the SS, and the Nazis, were all about.