Thursday, January 12, 2012
US Marines filmed urinating on dead Taliban fighters in Afghanistan is posted online, US launches investigation, this is a wicked act of callousness
Warfare isn’t glamorous and in combat it is a soldier’s job to kill or capture the enemy.
There are strict rules that govern the behaviour of soldiers and how they treat others by way of military regulations and the Geneva Convention.
US Marines fighting in Afghanistan are engaged in a bitter fight with the Taliban, it is an unwinnable war because there can be no final battle in this unconventional war.
A video has come to light that US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta appears to show US Marines urinating on the corpses of Afghans.
Panetta says that the act is "utterly deplorable" and that a full investigation will be held to hold those accountable "to the fullest extent".
If it wasn’t for the rise of social media on a worldwide scale, such events would be unknown to us and of course we would see the denial immediately issued as standard practice.
Four US Marines in the video are seen standing over the bodies of several Taliban fighters, all dead, with at least one of whom is covered in blood.
Who shot the video remains not known.
Commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, General John Allen has been ordered to investigate the incident.
Panetta said after he had seen the footage:
"I find the behaviour depicted in it utterly deplorable. This conduct is entirely inappropriate for members of the United States military."
There wasn’t much else he could say, apart from the physical act, the mentality behind it does suggest that a degree of callous for human life and disrespect has set in. If US Marines are prepared to act in such a fashion, what else are they prepared to do?
The Pentagon has also responded by saying that it is checking the authenticity of the video, but there is nothing to indicate that the film is not genuine.
Panetta isn’t disputing the authenticity.
The military is now in full damage-limitation mode because such acts give rise to anti American feeling beyond the borders of Afghanistan. And with the Americans trying to draw down their military operations due to cuts, this incident may prove regretful in more ways than one.
The Americans have never recovered from Abu Ghraib and other incidents were serious abuse was inflicted on detainees.
The US has about 20,000 Marines deployed in Afghanistan, based mostly in Kandahar and Helmand provinces. In total, about 90,000 US troops are on the ground in Afghanistan.
Such acts do give motivation to the Taliban to commit further acts and doesn’t win over the population to support the NATO mission.
A statement from the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) in Kabul said the behaviour "dishonours the sacrifices and core values of every service member representing the fifty nations of the coalition."
In an earlier statement, President Karzai's office said:
"The government of Afghanistan is deeply disturbed by a video that shows American soldiers desecrating dead bodies of three Afghans. This act by American soldiers is simply inhuman 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."
Whoever, these Marines are, they have broken military discipline and should be punished, but more than that, they should be removed from operations in Afghanistan and tried by a military court.
This is an incident that will not be forgotten and will not sit well with the population, desecrating bodies in war time is an unforgivable act.
There is no way that any damage limitation can make this better.
This makes peace talks all the more difficult for the Americans, however Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said the video "is not a political process, so the video will not harm our talks and prisoner exchange because they are at the preliminary stage".
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University