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The Silence of the Republican Candidates

Could one of them say a good word about our troops?

11:00 AM, Jan 13, 2012 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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Obama administration bigwigs are falling all over themselves to denounce, condemn, lament, and apologize for the unfortunate behavior of a few Marines in Afghanistan last year. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta condemned the action as not just deplorable but “utterly deplorable.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed not just dismay but “total dismay.”

The Silence of the Republican Candidates

Marine Sgt. Matt Garst speaks with a local man near the canal from which he and his Marines previously rescued nine Afghans.

Give me a break. More importantly, give our troops a break. Yes, the Marines who appear to have done what they did should be reprimanded or punished, as they would have been in the normal course of things once their deed came to light. I will even grant that some higher-ups might have felt it prudent to deplore what happened, based on realpolitik considerations of depriving our enemies of excuses to whip up sentiment against us in the region (though I’m doubtful the effort to do this isn’t more counterproductive than not). But the administration’s reaction is over the top. And it smells of cheap self-righteousness and moral posturing from an administration that, to be honest, hasn’t devoted a whole lot of time to thanking our troops for what they've been doing in very difficult and dangerous circumstances.

Maybe it was too much to expect senior officials to make the common sense points that 1) this incident is not something to get hysterical about, and 2) it needs to be put in the context of the admirable behavior of 99 percent of our troops 99 percent of the time. But aren't there Republicans around who might want to make this point? I gather, for example, that there are several people running for the Republican presidential nomination. Maybe one of them could say a good word about our troops?

If they need some reassurance as to where public opinion might be, they can take a look at the results of a poll on the website of, yes, the Washington Post. The question is, “What was your reaction to the video that appeared to show Marines urinating on three Afghan corpses?”

So far, with over 20,000 votes cast, here's how the responses break down:

It's an unacceptable desecration - 11 percent
It's an embarrassment - 7 percent
It's not surprising -- things like this happen in war - 82 percent

If only our political leaders were as sensible—and our Republican leaders as willing to express their opinion—as Washington Post readers!

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