Of all the really hard to believe excuses the military has made for the actions of military personnel, this one has to take the cake. Those Marines posing with a Nazi SS flag in Afghanistan just didn’t know it was an SS flag!
Yesterday, this photo went viral:
If you somehow managed to miss all of the countless stories about this photo, here’s the AP version.
There are also a whole bunch of articles with titles like “Marines: Nazi flag was mistaken for their own,” since the Marine Corps’ official excuse is that the use of the flag was just a naive mistake on the part of Marines who didn’t know what the flag was and just thought the SS stood for Sniper Scout.
Really? And just how does someone go about buying a Nazi SS flag without realizing that it’s a Nazi SS flag? Well, I spent hours yesterday afternoon and last night trying to do just that, scouring the web for an SS flag that could be bought by mistake. And, big surprise, I couldn’t find a single place where an SS flag wasn’t very clearly being sold as what it is — a Nazi flag.
In the course of searching, I found what I’m certain is the exact flag in the Marines’ photo. It’s the only one anywhere on the web with a blue background, and laying the image from the website on top of the Marines’ photo shows that every dimension of the flags are identical, from the size and proportions of every part of the logo to the slightly off-center position of the logo on the flag. You can even see in the Marines’ photo that their flag had the same creases from being folded as the flag for sale on the website.
The description of the flag on the website, Traders of the Lost Surplus, is an “ss double runic flag, a favorite and well know ss flag,” and the entire website is full of Nazi stuff. No Marine, even if they previously didn’t know that this was a Nazi symbol, could possibly be so dumb that they wouldn’t realize at this point that this is a Nazi flag! Even if someone was unfamiliar with the SS logo, all the swastika items would certainly tip them off.
Here’s a screen grab from the website, with the blue SS flag at the lower left:
As Gawker put it, “But then how you end up acquiring Schutzstaffel flag? Unless our men in uniform sewed the flag themselves, you’d think the whole ‘Please make your check out of Nazi Memorabilia ‘R’ Us’ thing would have tipped them off.”
The Atlantic Wire isn’t buying the naive mistake excuse either, posting an article titled “Marine Corps Insists Marines Are Too Dumb to Know This Is a Nazi Flag.”
Are people in our military seriously ignorant about history? Probably. That “Jesus Loves Nukes” missile officer training that the Military Religious Freedom Foundation got the Air Force to nix did include a slide of former Nazi and SS officer Wernher von Braun being quoted as a moral authority. And there is a constant stream of Christian nationalist pseudo-history in base newspapers throughout the military, as well as in military training presentations (but that’s a story for another day).
But historical ignorance can not excuse these Marines using the SS flag. No matter how little they know about history, it’s just impossible to believe that they could have bought that flag without finding out what it was in the process of buying it.
The Marine Corps must think we’re all pretty naive to believe their excuse that these Marines were that naive.