Military Deviancy, War “Trophies”

Body Parts, Forearms and Souvenir Stars and Stripes from Predator Drones

When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.
— Sinclair Lewis,  It Can’t Happen Here, 1935  (1885-1951)

It is impossible not to ponder that the military and military planning disciplines attract some with tendencies to extremes in deviance, psychosis and general psychological aberrancies.

When yet another example comes to light – “trophy” photographs of soldiers with dead and mutilated bodies, soldiers urinating on the dead, soldiers removing body parts as “souvenirs”, unspeakable torture on orders from on high, rapes, body burnings to hide the crimes – it is assumed it can get no worse. Inevitably it does.

In World War 11 Japanese body parts, including ears, teeth and especially skulls, were routinely gathered as keepsakes by US soldiers.

“The desecration of the bodies of Japanese soldiers was so common that in 1944, Life magazine published a light-hearted photo of a young woman posing with a Japanese soldier’s skull, sent to her from New Guinea by her Navy boyfriend.

“That same year, columnist Drew Pearson reported that Representative Francis E. Walter (D-Penn.) had presented President Franklin D. Roosevelt with a letter opener made from the forearm of a Japanese soldier. ‘This is the sort of gift I like to get’, Pearson quotes FDR saying.”

Further: “ … as is often the case with souvenirs and holiday mementos purchased by tourists – as gifts for relatives and others back home. Some collected such objects (ie body parts) at the specific request of family members.”

In Viet Nam, incidentally, a favoured trophy body part was a penis.

US Armed forces personnel have for decades written messages on missiles they are about to drop on schools, residential neighborhoods, hospitals, churches, mosques, synagogues, markets, malls, reducing living souls to scraps of charred flesh – or simply vaporizing them, no body or even flesh shard, to wash and kiss for the last time, no grave at which to mourn, sit and “talk” to the lost love.

A favored missile message in the Ramadan bombing of Iraq in 1998, as children lost their minds in terror and parents near lost theirs in their efforts to protect them, was: “Have a happy Ramadan, Saddam.”

I have written before of General Colin Powell and the then Secretary of Defence Dick Cheney , three days before the 1991 bombing of Baghdad’s Ameriyah Shelter on the anniversary of the bombing of Dresden, visiting the US Air base at Khamis Mushat, Saudia Arabia (slogan: “Bombs are us” and “We live so others may die.”)

They both amused themselves by each signing a thousand pound bomb: “To Saddam with fond regards”, wrote Cheney (A General’s War, General Bernard Traynor and Michael Gordon, p.324.) When the Shelter was bombed, frantic calls followed in case the bombs might have been involved in the massacre. Cheney’s bomb apparently fell on northern Iraq, dropped by a Major Wes Wyrich. What lives Powell’s terminated, is either unknown or a well kept secret.

In the 2006 Israel-Lebanon “Summer War”, Israeli school children were encouraged and allowed to go a military base and sign missiles to be dropped on other school children in Lebanon: “From Israel with love.”

The reality behind this sick exercise, as Stephen Lendman has written, was that:

Besides vast destruction and mass population displacement, three hundred and thirteen children were killed among the 1,414 who died over a twenty three day period. Of the 5,300 injured (many seriously), 1,606 were children. In all cases, the vast majority were noncombatants.


Almost fifteen percent were under five, and another one-fourth between five and ten; the remainder were between eleven and seventeen, with the ‘overwhelming majority’ killed in densely populated residential areas.

Weapons Israel sent “with love” from its children included conventional and illegal weapons. The former included missiles, artillery and tank shells, mortars, and automatic weapons.

Others included white phosphorous which burns flesh to the bone and can be fatal; its use is prohibited in civilian areas and ‘flechettes’ – four centimeter long darts used as anti-personnel weapons; penetrating to the bone, they can cause multiple horrific injuries.

“Up to eight thousand of them can be packed into one artillery shell; on explosion, they travel at high speed in multiple directions …” to tear life apart, “with love.” (My emphasis.)

Then, of course, there are the “Jesus rifles” with coded New Testament Bible passages “inscribed on high powered rifle sights provided to the US military in Afghanistan” and formerly in Iraq. They were also used by the Iraqi and Afghan soldiers they were training. As with the countless thousands of bibles the troops brought with them to distribute in both countries and their routine defacing of the Qu’ran in homes, schools and mosques, “Crusaders” are certainly US.

Whilst the military have denied they had knowledge of the biblical verses on their weapons of human destruction, Michael Weinstein, of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, who campaigns for the separation of church and state, claims that military Commanders have referred to these weapons as “spiritually transformed firearms of Jesus Christ.”

Weinstein says it also plays into the hands of those “who are calling (US invasions) a Crusade.” You bet. “This is probably the best example of  violation of the separation of church and state in this country”, he says, adding, “It’s literally pushing fundamentalist Christianity at the point of  a gun against the people we are fighting. We’re emboldening an enemy.”

And insulting, humiliating and enraging further, as if illegal invasions of the countries, and indeed their values and cultures were not enough.

Then, of course, there is humiliation by flag. The raising of the Stars and Stripes above other countries’ national buildings, monuments, palaces. The placing of it over the face of Saddam Hussein’s Statue in Firdos Square, an act that arguably, sent revulsion, rage and resentment round the entire region – whether in the “for” or “against” Saddam camp.

However, arguably even the above pales against a little noticed inspiration by the US 414th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron operating out of  Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base.

In May last year, they launched a commemorative flag programme. Takers can have a souvenir Stars and Stripes flown in one of their MQ-1B Predator Drones, on a twenty two hour round trip mission  – a “unique gift” which could “intrigue”, or have ”patriotic value.” It comes with a “personalized certificate outlining the operations and details about the  (Drone) on which the flag was flown.”

“Once we’re done, we draw up a certificate with the history of that particular flight and the requester can present the flag as a gift to a person of their choosing. We also put the person’s name, the name of the operation and some background on there as well.”

Whilst these mission flags from potential killing forays have “been around for a long time … In most aircraft it flies for a few hours … Our particular mission flies for twenty two hours.” Seemingly, “a lot of people don’t know about it until we present it to someone they know then they’re like ‘ Oh, I want one, what do I need to do?’ “They will also fly and certify flags for “guests and distinguished visitors” and  “for people back home, churches, state organizations” and other “lucky recipients.” (My emphasis.)

Are those who request the symbol of these cowardly, lethal, remotely operated, rightly named “Predators” aware that they hang in their homes a symbol of child killings, shepherd and farmer killings, village eradicating obscenity?

Through the ages, the religious have recorded blood running from statues, tombs, monuments of Martyrs and Saints. I am a skeptic. But if a pool of blood was found under one of those flags, I would not bat an eyelid.

“We believe that America is great when its people are good”, stated the website of the manufacturers of the biblically inscribed high powered rifle sights, Trijicon, of  Wixom, Michigan. “This goodness has been based on Biblical standards throughout our history …”

Sinclair Lewis (top quote) was undisputedly a clairvoyant.

Felicity Arbuthnot is a journalist with special knowledge of Iraq. Author, with Nikki van der Gaag, of Baghdad in the Great City series for World Almanac books, she has also been Senior Researcher for two Award winning documentaries on Iraq, John Pilger's Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq and Denis Halliday Returns for RTE (Ireland.) Read other articles by Felicity.