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Urination at War: Don't Be Mad at the Peeing; Be Mad at the Killing

The graphic video enraging Afghanistan and America alike should upset you. But not for the reasons you think.


In 1971, six years after the United States sent combat units into Vietnam, the nonprofit group Vietnam Veterans Against the War sponsored the Winter Soldier Investigation. More a three-day press conference than an actual "investigation," Winter Soldier offered a platform to veterans and civilians who had seen the horrors of Vietnam firsthand and wanted to share their stories with the public.

On the first day, former Marine Joe Bangert was called on to talk about "the slaughter of civilians, the skinning of a Vietnamese woman... and the crucifixion of Vietnamese either suspects or civilians in Vietnam." Before dozens of other soldiers, civilians, and members of the press, Bangert testified that it was common practice for soldiers to not only kill scores of Vietnamese people at a time—some of whom were civilians—but to mutilate the dead. Bangert said sometimes they would disembowel corpses, then explode the bodies with C-4 to destroy the evidence of their sadism. "You don't even think of them as human beings; they're 'gooks,'" Bangert told reporters. "And they're objects; they're not human, they're objects."

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