Which is worse: Leaking secret cables for a good cause or urinating on Taliban for a bad one?

Actual crime blew whistle on torture, attacks on civilians; non-criminal urination inflamed conflict.

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At one point Sledge writes about a friend idly tossing pebbles into the open skull of a Japanese soldier who died when a bullet took off the top of his head during the brutal fighting for Peleliu Island. Though it sickened him a bit, the incident wasn't unusual or outrageous enough to raise an eyebrow.

The incident was a key scene in the HBO mini-series The Pacific that was produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks , depending heavily for source material on characters and incidents Sledge described in his 1981 book With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa.

When does provocation become a crime?

It's hard to defend the act of urinating on a corpse, out of respect for the person it was and the family or society from which the dead man came.

It's provocative toward survivors, shows disdain for the dead and erodes within the perceptions of the Marines themselves any respect they might have had for their enemy.

Public disrespect toward the dead could outrage civilians and make it easier for the Taliban to recruit new fighters.

Of course, it could also reinforce the perception of American troops as fierce, effective, professional and very, very dangerous to anyone choosing to shoot at them.

Afghans themselves do not have a strong history of respect toward a dead or captured enemy.

During the Soviet Occupation during the 1980s, both rebel and Soviet-allied Afghans regularly tortured (often sexually) captured enemy fighters.

After the Soviets left, the Mujahideen who took power used beheadings and mutilation of the dead as ritual desecration of an unholy enemy, according to anthropologist and activist Dawn Perlmutter, who studied Afghanistan in the wake of the Soviet war.

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