Quotes of the day

“Senior military officials in Kabul and at the Pentagon confirmed that the video was authentic and that they had identified the Marines as members of the Third Battalion, Second Marines, which completed a tour of Afghanistan this fall before returning to its base at Camp Lejeune, N.C. The officials did not release the Marines’ names but said one wore a corporal’s uniform.

“Pentagon officials said the video had been made between March and September 2011, when the Marine battalion was stationed in Helmand Province, a strategic Taliban heartland and a center of the opium poppy trade. The officials said that they did not know the precise location shown in the video but that it had probably been made in the northern part of the province, where the battalion had been operating. Seven of the approximately 1,000 Marines in the battalion were killed during the seven-month deployment…

“The Taliban initially indicated that the video would not undermine the push toward talks, saying that they saw it as just more evidence of what they said was American brutality and arrogance.

“But later on Thursday, in an official statement, the Taliban dropped references to the talks and emphasized the brutality message. ‘We strongly condemn the inhuman act of wild American soldiers, as ever, and consider this act in contradiction with all human and ethical norms,’ the statement said.'”


“Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said he had viewed the video and considered it ‘utterly deplorable.’ He telephoned Afghan President Hamid Karzai and pledged a full investigation…

“Gen. James F. Amos, the commandant of the Marine Corps, said he had asked the Naval Criminal Investigative Service to ‘pull together a team of their very best agents and immediately assign them responsibility to thoroughly investigate every aspect of the filmed event.’ He also said he would assign a Marine general and a senior attorney to conduct a parallel inquiry.

“‘The institution of the Marine Corps will not rest until the allegations and the events surrounding them have been resolved,’ Amos said. ‘We remain fully committed to upholding the Geneva Convention, the Laws of War, and our own core values.'”


“Western officials in Kabul, meanwhile, described the statement Mr. Karzai issued before the conversation as levelheaded and not inflammatory. In the past, Mr. Karzai has used similar incidents to stoke anti-Western sentiment in Afghanistan…

“In Afghanistan, far fewer people have televisions, or even electricity, meaning the latest images aren’t likely to spread widely. Accounts are likely to spread by word of mouth, though, and could fuel more violence against the coalition by Afghans who feel that the disrespect shown to the dead violates Islam. In Islam, the dead must be washed and their bodies buried within 24 hours.

“The Taliban themselves have a tainted record on that score. When they took over Kabul in 1996, they brutally killed Mohammad Najibullah, the deposed communist president who was seeking refuge at a U.N. compound in the city. They hung his castrated corpse and that of his brother from a traffic light on a busy street in Kabul for all to see, in violation of Islamic tradition. The Taliban in recent years frequently hung suspected government spies’ corpses from trees in areas they control…

“Desecrating the bodies of enemy combatants is a violation of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice. The Marines involved could face a court-martial.”


“[C]ombat stress is no excuse for the behavior, retired Col. Jack Jacobs, an NBC News analyst and a Medal of Honor recipient for his actions in the Vietnam War, told msnbc.com.

“‘I’ve been through combat and been stressed out, and I’ve been out of combat and been stressed out, and I don’t think it’s a reason or an excuse for this kind of behavior. They’ve received instruction on how to act and what to do before and after their deployment.’ Jacobs said. ‘These are just idiots who are poorly supervised and led … they proved they are idiots because they took pictures of it.’

“But for another veteran the video is not shocking at all.

“‘Many people in this country that worry far more about public relations and how we are perceived by the rest of the world are shocked at Marines urinating on Taliban,’ retired Army Sgt. Maj. Herb Freidman, an author and authority on psychological operations, told msnbc.com. ‘Why? They are murderers and terrorists that think nothing of blowing up soldiers, civilians, women and children. What have they done to deserve our respect? There are Marines being killed and maimed on a daily basis by these people. They are flying in from Muslim countries all over the world to get their crack at martyrdom. If some Marine that fought them in battle fair and square feels that he has the right to urinate on a defeated enemy, what is the problem? Hell, it could be worse…. It is a fight to the death, not some sort of gentlemanly duel with seconds and everyone very politely drinking a fine wine afterwards.'”


“Alex Lemons, a former Marine sergeant who deployed to Iraq three times – including once as scout sniper – reflects on the video of four Marines urinating on the corpses of three dead Taliban in Afghanistan:…

“War is not a moral agent. ‘War is hell, shit happens and trophies get taken,’ is a copout from an irresponsible person. War doesn’t make anyone do anything because it is not a living thing…

“The Marine Corps doesn’t teach anyone to do this.

“Choices were made and they were not good ones. This is what maintains our moral high ground. It doesn’t matter if the Taliban cut heads off and videotape them.

“The whole point, as I was told since 2001, was not to become like them, or to be comparable to them.”


“But the missing ingredient, so far, is Afghan outrage. There have yet to be protests, let alone violence — although it’s possible that will take time to build. Yet just this past spring, Afghans rioted in response to a preacher who burned Korans in Florida, which occurred shortly after photos surfaced of a rogue U.S. ‘kill team’ posing with their gruesome trophies. Twenty people died in those riots after protesters in Mazar-e-Sharif stormed a United Nations compound…

“Perhaps the outrage is taking longer to build than usual. Even so, that would amount to a tragic popular judgment on the war: Afghans — who’ve lived through 30 years of war with Russians, Americans, and rival Afghan factions — just might not be so surprised by a videotaped outrage anymore.”