Marines pose with Nazi SS flag
Marines Nazi-Flag Whistleblower Comes Forward
When Marine investigators learned last November that a scout sniper platoon in Afghanistan was using a Nazi "SS" flag as its standard, it wasn't a member of the unit who told them. It was Iraq war veteran Waitman Beorn, a visiting history professor at Loyola University New Orleans, also a Fulbright and Guggenheim fellowship recipient who teaches at the National Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. Dr. Beorn's research on Nazis and genocide is informed by his military background: He is a West Point graduate and former officer who served as a scout platoon leader in Iraq from 2003-2004. Through his work he seeks to teach "ethical decision-making in a military context using the Holocaust as a vehicle."
Shortly after I first wrote about the flag controversy last week, Beorn got in touch to explain how and why he chose to report the incident to the Marine Corps' inspector general. (Though Beorn contacted military authorities, he didn't play a part in the incident's recent unearthing by the media.) For one, he had learned through military contacts that the use of the 'SS' flag was not an isolated incident.
Waitman Beorn: The only part of the Marine Corps response that is a little troubling is the automatic assumption that these Marines had no idea what symbol they were appropriating. For example, from CNN: "They determined that the Marines in the photo were ignorant of the connection of this symbol to the Holocaust and monumental atrocities associated with Nazi Germany." I have a hard time believing that. One or two Marines, okay. But all of them, including their leadership? Also, the comment by the spokeswoman that they couldn’t have known because that's not what Marines are about seems hard to believe, as does the revelation that this is NOT an isolated incident.
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