International outrage over a video of U.S. Marines urinating on dead Taliban fighters consumed media coverage Friday. Some conservatives cheered the Marines for showing such profound disrespect to the dead insurgents, while many on the political left demanded more forceful condemnation.
HBO “Real Time” host Bill Maher broke with many of his ideological compatriots and declared on his Friday program that the incident was of relatively minor importance. Maher said it was “distasteful,” but not one of the worst things the federal government has been a part of.
“Urination to me is something that should happen in the privacy of R. Kelly’s home,” Maher joked. “And I’m sure no one condones it on this panel, what the Marines did. But maybe I can start an argument by talking about degree.”
Maher said it was important to remember “some of the things the United States has done, like torturing, Abu Ghraib… You know we found out in the 1940s we were purposely giving Guatemalan mental patients syphilis so we could study them,” he added.
One of the panelists on Maher’s program, Rob Reiner, attributed the incident to the stresses of war. “War does make people a little crazy. I mean, you know, you put young people in a situation like that. They’re seeing their friends killed next to them and they act out,” Reiner said.
Maher’s other guest, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, also chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, said emphatically that the behavior wasn’t indicative of the young men she represents.
And then Maher, a loud-and-proud atheist, said he frankly couldn’t understand why corpses were so important to most people anyhow.
“Religious people, and that’s most of America, care a lot more about dead bodies,” he said. “When you’re not a religious person like me, a dead body is just a fucking body that’s dead and it just doesn’t bother me that much what we do to them.”
Finally reaching his politically incorrect point, Maher said, “If they were real Taliban, if they were people who burn down girls’ schools you know, and do honor rapes, threw acid in people’s faces, I’m not that upset about pissing on them, dead or alive.”