Military actions are scrutinized on every scale, especially when the actions of the few affect the future of the many. By now you may know that United States officials have condemned a video displaying U.S. Marines urinating on the bodies of deceased Taliban fighters. The Taliban say the acts will not derail peace talks, but the damage to the U.S. mission may be irreversible.
In case you missed it, the footage in question clearly shows four men in Marine combat uniforms urinating on three dead Taliban fighters. This is evidence of a violation of the U.S. military legal code, as well as the international laws of warfare known as the Geneva Convention.
Here is where the divide in opinion starts to form.
The White House said in a statement that U.S. President Barack Obama agreed with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s comments, where he called the Internet video “deplorable” and “reprehensible.” The Associated Press reports that Afghan President Hamid Karzai called the act “completely inhumane” and demanded the U.S. military punish the Marines responsible.
Army Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti has since ordered mandatory training on handling war casualties for NATO troops in Afghanistan. He stated the actions were a grave breach of laws governing armed conflict and that such actions go against “basic standards of human decency.”
Texas Governor and presidential candidate Rick Perry has said the Obama administration is using extreme rhetoric and that its handling of the Marines shows a disdain for the military. He added that those involved in the incident should be appropriately punished, but charging the Marines with a criminal act doesn’t correspond “kids who made a mistake.”
Political comedian Bill Maher also partially defended what the Marines did and said he thought the outrage was disproportional. Actor and director Rob Reiner agreed with Maher in that he did not condone the actions, but admitted that “these are the kind of things that happen during war.”
In a politically charged atmosphere, the politically correct answer might differ from one’s personal feelings on the subject. For presidential hopefuls like Rick Perry, the line between the two could ultimately determine his long-term success.
While the actions of the few may not affect peace talks, they will certainly damage America’s reputation. As a result, Obama’s plan to increase air power while decreasing ground forces may now be seen in a different light.
Photo thanks to DVIDSHUB under creative commons license on Flickr.
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