A video depicting four U.S. marines supposedly urinating on the corpses of Afghans has been condemned as “utterly deplorable” and “disrespectful.”
It is “absolutely inconsistent with American values, with the standards of behaviour. . . that the vast majority of marines hold themselves to,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday.
Clinton expressed “total dismay” over the video, which shows men dressed in combat gear standing over three bodies. It is unclear how the three died or whether they were Taliban or civilians.
“Anyone found to have participated or to have known about it. . . must be held fully accountable.”
A caption beneath the video, which was posted on YouTube Wednesday, identifies the men as members of a scout sniper team assigned to 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C.
A U.S. Marine officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press on Thursday that the force has identified at least two of the four Marines behind the incident as the Camp Lejeune marines.
The unit returned to Camp Lejenue in the fall after seven months in Helmand province, Afghanistan, according to the Air Force Times newspaper.
The matter is being investigated by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the international law enforcement arm of the Navy.
U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said such behaviour is “entirely inappropriate for members of the United States military” and those responsible will be held accountable.
“I have seen the footage and I find the behaviour depicted in it utterly deplorable. I condemn it in the strongest possible terms,” Panetta’s statement read. “Those found to have engaged in such conduct will be held accountable to the fullest extent.”
The U.S. Marine Corps is investigating the video to determine its origin and authenticity.
One man in the video says, “Golden like a shower.” Another begins to say, “The whole thing,” before the 40-second video ends.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the video as “completely inhumane,” calling on the U.S. military to punish those involved.
The Taliban issued its own statement accusing U.S. forces of committing numerous “indignities” against the Afghan people.
“First they killed the Afghans with mortars, and they then urinated on their bodies,” Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid said. “We strongly condemn this inhumane action by the wild American soldiers.”
The NATO-led security force in Afghanistan joined in on the condemnation, releasing a statement Thursday saying, “This disrespectful act is inexplicable and not in keeping with the high moral standards we expect of coalition forces.”
The actions “appear to have been conducted by a small group of U.S. individuals, who apparently are no longer serving in Afghanistan,” the International Security Assistance Force said. The statement did not identify the personnel or explain why the ISAF thought they had left the country.
Sen. John McCain, a navy veteran who fought and was held prisoner in Vietnam, said the incident “makes me so sad.”
McCain said the Marine Corps’ image has apparently been tarnished by “a handful of obviously undisciplined people.”
“There should be an investigation and these young people should be punished,” McCain said Thursday on CBS This Morning.
The criminal investigation will most likely look into whether the marines violated laws of war, which include bans on photographing detainees, Pentagon officials said.
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