Marines Don’t Know Who the SS Were?

by Kevin Jon Heller

By now, most readers have probably seen the following photo, in which Marine snipers in Afghanistan pose in front of a flag with the runes of the SS:

I wasn’t planning on blogging about the photo, because the insensitivity of the snipers and the awfulness of the symbolism speak for themselves. But then I saw this ridiculous statement by a Marine spokesman (my emphasis):

“We don’t believe these Marine Corps snipers had a historical appreciation for what this symbol meant,” the official said. “As soon as leadership was made aware of it, they took action at the unit level and then passed that information throughout the sniper community and to those snipers serving in Afghanistan.”

Seriously? Do Marines literally get no training in military history before they are shoved into combat? Were there no officers in the unit who went to Annapolis? World War II was kind of a big one for the U.S., and I seem to recall the SS playing a part in it. Are we really supposed to believe that none of the snipers has ever seen a World War II movie?

As an aside, our old friend David Bernstein has been all aflutter lately about a tiny number of bloggers using the term “Israel-Firsters” to describe American Jews who put Israel’s interests ahead of the United States’, because the term has an anti-Semitic history.  So far, no word whether he has a problem with the Marines invoking the genocidal legacy of the SS…

12 Responses

  1. Classy.

  2. Everyone I know who is in the military has a pretty wide-ranging interest in all aspects of military history — especially the Civil War and WW II — regardless of what training they may have had.  Does that Marine spokesperson think this unit re-created the SS logo by chance?  And that no one in the unit recognized it for what it was?  C’mon!

  3. I can only share David’s opinion: This photo corroborates so many prejudices “we” foreigners have about America and US soldiers particularly; it’s hillarious and scary at the same time…

  4. “Funny” thing is that in Germany the issue is that sensitive nowadays that the Federal Government has advised the state institutions not to issue car plates with the abbreviations S.A. (Sturmabteilung), S.S. (Schutzstaffel), K.Z. (Konzentrationslager = cocentration camp), H.J. (Hitler Jugend = Hitler youth) and N.S. (Nationalsozialist = Nazi).
    Even the numbers 18 and 88 are provocative, yet this is less well known (18, because 1 stands for A and 8 stands for H in the alphabet = the initials of Adolf Hitler; 88 =H.H. = Heil Hitler). Also, it isn’t a good idea here to show up at a job interview with LONDSDALE clothes, since they are often worn by Neo-Nazis (the name loNSDAdale almost spells like “NSDAP” in it).
    Of course I would never ask for a non-German to have such deep knowledge about these issues, but S.S. runes used by a military sniper unit? Please!

  5. Off-topic, but after reading todays press i was expecting to find an answer on the blog dealing with the following issue:

    Did Interpol violate its constitution by issuing a “red notice” for the arrest of the saudi-arabian journalist who faces execution after twittering about the prophet Muhammed?

    Article 3 of Interpol’s constitution:

    It is strictly forbidden for the Organization to undertake any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character.”

    and then Article 1 (a) of the rules of processing information (RPI):

    “Ordinary-law crimes means crimes as referred to in Article 2(b) of the Constitution but not those excluded by Article 3 of the said Constitution.”

  6. I have no objections.
    These guys know their tradition, their ethics, and their military role, and they place themselves correctly in a context. As evidenced by the photo. It depicts exactly what it depicts. The US military.
    Semper fi!

  7. Seems to me you can be a highly capable soldier and even commander without knowing about the meaning of the double-lightning stroke emblem.

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