WASHINGTON — Marine Corps officials are investigating a video that allegedly shows four servicemembers urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters, an offensive act which could again inflame anti-American sentiment worldwide.
The video, posted Tuesday on YouTube, shows four men in U.S. military uniforms standing above the corpses, joking and making references to relieving themselves on the dead men.
Capt. Kendra Hardesty, a spokeswoman for the Corps, said officials have not verified any details of the incident but added, “The actions portrayed are not consistent with our core values and are not indicative of the character of the Marines in our Corps. This matter will be fully investigated and those responsible will be held accountable for their actions.”
It was unclear who shot the video, when it was filmed, or who put it online. It appeared under several different accounts on the popular online video site, and at least one posting identified the U.S. troops as a scout sniper team assigned to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
NBC News reported that U.S. military officials have confirmed that Marines from the base were involved in the incident.
In a statement Thursday morning, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called the video “utterly deplorable” and promised a full investigation.
“This conduct is entirely inappropriate for members of the United States military and does not reflect the standards or values our armed forces are sworn to uphold,” he said. “Those found to have engaged in such conduct will be held accountable to the fullest extent.”
Officials from the International Security Assistance Force offered a similar condemnation, calling the act offensive and inexplicable.
“ISAF strongly condemns the actions depicted in the video, which appear to have been conducted by a small group of U.S. individuals, who apparently are no longer serving in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, this behavior dishonors the sacrifices and core values of every servicemember representing the fifty nations of the coalition.”
In a statement released Thursday, the Afghan government demanded punishment for the troops involved “as soon as possible.” The Council on American-Islamic Relations also condemned the actions in a letter sent to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
“If verified as authentic, the video shows behavior that is totally unbecoming of American military personnel and that could ultimately endanger other soldiers and civilians,” said Nihad Awad, CAIR’s national executive director. “Any guilty parties must be punished to the full extent allowed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice and by relevant American laws.”
The incident harkens back to the infamous Abu Ghraib prison scandal, where Iraqi detainees were photographed while being abused and tormented by U.S. military guards at the facility. When photographs of the abuse were made public, they caused an uproar throughout the Middle East, inciting violence among Muslims both supporting and fighting against the U.S. presence there.