Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Is cremation desecration?

As you know, having moved off of alleged Koran descrecration, the next big "isn't America evil?" moment is the fact that some soldiers burned bodies that they were forced to camp out with in the heat in a strategic location -- and that the local Muslims refused to deal with:

There simply wasn’t enough room on the rocky hilltop above Gonbaz village in southern Afghanistan for the U.S. platoon and the corpses of the two Taliban fighters. The Taliban men had been killed in a firefight 24 hours earlier, and in the 90 degree heat, their bodies had become an unbearable presence, soldiers who were present have told TIME. Nor was the U.S. Army unit about to leave — the hilltop commanded a strategic view of the village below where other Taliban were suspected to be hiding. Earlier, Lt. Eric Nelson, the leader of B Company, I-508 platoon leader had sent word down to Gonbaz asking the villagers to pick up the bodies and bury them according to Muslim ritual. But the villagers refused — probably because the dead fighters weren’t locals but Pakistanis, surmised one U.S. army officer. It was then that Lt. Nelson took the decision that could jeopardize his service career. “We decided to burn the bodies,” one soldier recounts, “because they were bloated and they stank.” News of this cremation may have remained on these scorching hills of southern Afghanistan, had the gruesome act not been recorded on film by an Australian photojournalist, Stephen Dupont. Instead, when the footage aired on Australian TV on Wednesday, it unleashed world outrage. A Pentagon spokesman described the incident as “repugnant” and said that the army was launching a criminal investigation into the alleged desecration of the corpses, which is in violation of the Geneva Convention on human rights.
(From Time Magazine, via Little Green Footballs). My question: Is cremation desecration, as that term is traditionally understood? Certainly those East Indians who routinely cremate corpses would disagree, as would the millions of Americans who have elected cremation for themselves and their loved ones. Certain religions frown on voluntary cremation (Orthodox Judaism does, for example, because one tries to keep the body whole for the Resurrection), but that doesn't mean it's the same as desecration -- or, at least, I don't think so. My understanding of desecration is that it means treating a corpse with violent disrespect. In other words, continuing the battle or hatred into death. There are always stories of killers purposefully mutilating their victim's bodies to finalize the degredation that goes with the ultimate defeat. I won't go into details, but I'm sure you're familiar with stories of post-death evisceration, or stories about the removal of significant body parts and their placement in disrespectful areas, etc. To an American, burning a rotting body has more the sense of a cleansing, than a desecration, but maybe I'm just wildly off base here. What are your thoughts? UPDATE: Over at A Rose By Any Other Name, Anna has a lot more information about the taunts the Americans allegedly broadcast as they burned the body. Even if that's true, I think that's a battle tactic, and entirely separate from what was done to the bodies. I mean, soldiers have been taunting their enemies since time immemorial. Also, the taunts, from what I can tell, were directly explicitly at the Taliban, not at generic Muslims, which I think must be a significant difference. UPDATE II: For more insight about bodies being cremated in the current Middle East, you should check out this post from a North American Patriot. I'm being a bit self-referential, because the post throws in a link to me, but I actually think Wonder Woman's take on the whole story is better than anything I've said.