The Guardian and Daily Telegraph today report on the video footage which shows four US marines in Afghanistan urinating on the bodies of dead Afghans. The incident has sparked condemnation from all parties involved in the conflict in Afghanistan, including NATO, with the US Secretary of State for Defense, Leon Panetta, promising that the crimes will be fully investigated.
From the Guardian:
“Afghan president Hamid Karzai and US defence secretary Leon Panetta have led a chorus of condemnation of American soldiers filmed urinating on the bodies of dead Afghans as "inhumane" and "utterly deplorable".
“The Pentagon said it has identified two of the four marines responsible for the latest in a series of abuses by US forces which is likely to further inflame hostility to Nato troops in Afghanistan and reinforce the perception that there is an institutional problem in the American military.
“Panetta said he had viewed the graphic video of four US marines urinating on three bloodied corpses. As they are filmed by a fifth soldier, the marines sigh with relief, laugh and make comments including "have a great day, buddy" and "golden, like a shower".
“"I have seen the footage, and I find the behaviour depicted in it utterly deplorable," said Panetta. "Those found to have engaged in such conduct will be held accountable to the fullest extent."
“The soldiers in the undated video, which was posted anonymously on the web, appear to be members of Scout Sniper Team 4, a US marine unit based in North Carolina that served in Afghanistan until last autumn. The military said it knows the names of two of those in the video and that they are no longer serving with the unit, but it declined to make their identities public.
“It is not clear who the dead Afghans are. They are possibly Taliban fighters but their corpses are not shown with weapons.
“Karzai said in a statement that he was "deeply disturbed" by the desecration of dead bodies which is defined as a war crime by the Geneva conventions.
“"This act by American soldiers is completely inhumane and condemnable in the strongest possible terms. We expressly ask the US government to urgently investigate the video and apply the most severe punishment to anyone found guilty in this crime," he said.
“A leading negotiator in Karzai's peace council, Arsala Rahmani, said that the film will have a "very, very bad impact on peace efforts".
However, crucially for those attempting to end the armed conflict in Afghanistan, although the Taliban criticised the action shown in the video as ‘shameful’, they also said that “the latest revelations of abuse by US forces will not block attempts to get talks started to bring an end to the Afghan conflict.
Regarding the video, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that it, "is not a political process, so the video will not harm our talks and prisoner exchange because they are at the preliminary stage".
Regarding investigations into the abuses, The Telegraph adds that “it would be mounted by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, its internal law enforcement agency…A separate internal inquiry will be headed by a Marine general and a senior military lawyer.”
“If the video's content is verified, the men featured could face prosecution not only under the US military code but also for war crimes, as the Geneva Convention specifically prohibits the desecration of enemy remains.”
Given previous revelations of abuse by US forces engaged in conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq, including the murder of three Afghan civilians by US forces, some of whom collected and took photos with ‘trophy’ body parts; a massacre committed against civilians in Haditha in Iraq, and the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib, the Guardian rightly asks “whether there is a culture of abuse in US forces serving in Afghanistan and Iraq”?
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