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Top U.S. Officials Condemn Afghan Corpse Abuse Video

January 12, 2012

Top U.S. officials have condemned as "utterly deplorable" a video depicting what appears to be U.S. Marines urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters.

In a statement, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said he has ordered an investigation into the video, which threatens to deepen anti-American sentiment in Afghanistan.

Panetta promised that the soldiers who took part in the incident will be held accountable “to the fullest extent.”

Shortly thereafter, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined Panetta condemning what she described as "deplorable behavior."

"It is absolutely inconsistent with American values," she said, "[and] with the standards of behavior that we expect from our military personnel and that the vast, vast majority of our military personnel -- particularly our marines -- hold themselves to."

A spokesman for NATO's coalition forces in Afghanistan told reporters from Kabul that the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) would support the U.S. investigation.

German Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson also described the video as "very much working against our cause."

"Any sort of [video], any sort of activity of this kind that is grossly against all the moral values that the coalition forces are standing for... and that we are here for," he said.

Earlier, the U.S. Marine Corps said it has not verified the origin or authenticity of the video, which was uploaded to YouTube and other sites. But it said the actions portrayed are not consistent with Marine values.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby called the video deeply troubling.

"Whoever it is, and whatever the circumstances -- which we know is under investigation -- it is egregious behavior and unacceptable for a member of the military," Kirby said.

Meanwhile in Kabul, Afghan President Hamid Karzai called it "completely inhumane," while the Afghan Defense Ministry called it "shocking."

The video, which was uploaded to YouTube and others sites, shows four men with U.S. military uniforms, military rifles, and Kevlar helmets. Speaking with American accents, they laugh as they urinate on the bodies of three bearded men stretched out on the ground near a mud-brick wall.

One of the men laughs and says "in the heart" as he urinates on the chest of one of the corpses. "Have a great day, buddy," another says sarcastically.

The identity of the man who shot the video, which was posted on YouTube and other websites, was not immediately clear. But the cameraman speaks with an American accent and is wearing a military glove like some of the others.

The office of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who is due to meet in Kabul this weekend with U.S. envoy on Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman, said in a statement that the Afghan government "is deeply disturbed" by the video.

Taliban: 'Barbaric' Footage

The video comes at a sensitive moment, with Washington trying to promote Afghan reconciliation just as U.S. troops gradually withdraw from the country. The Taliban earlier this month agreed to set up a political office in Qatar for negotiations with the international community, but also demanded the release of its prisoners from the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay as a form of prisoner exchange.

Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid today denounced the footage as "barbaric." But Reuters quotes Mujahid as saying "the video will not harm our talks and prisoner exchange" because the political process is in the preliminary stages. He said Taliban fighters will, in the meantime, continue their armed struggle.

The footage has outraged many Afghans, regardless of their views on the Taliban. Kandahar resident Amanullah says it damages prospects for peace talks.

"We condemn this action by U.S. soldiers who have urinated on the dead bodies of Taliban fighters. It will harm the peace talks," Amanullah said. "It seems that the United States never wants peace talks to happen in Afghanistan, and this action will increase misery in the country."

In Washington, Clinton today pledged to continue to support Afghan-led efforts to reconcile with the Taliban.

Marc Grossman, the U.S. envoy on Afghanistan and Pakistan, is due to meet Karzai in Kabul this weekend.

One resident of the capital, Feda Mohammad, says anti-American sentiments in Afghanistan have been aggravated.

"The U.S. soldiers who urinated on the dead bodies of Muslims have committed a crime," Mohammad said. "Since they have committed such a crime, we don't want them anymore on our soil. We don't like foreign soldiers to be on our soil. They have to leave."

Kandahar resident Tawab Khan says the perpetrators should be identified and put on trial.

"All of us Muslims condemn this action by foreign soldiers, who have urinated on the bodies of Taliban fighters. It is against Islam and the international community's role," Khan said. "We want the Human Rights Commission to prosecute this brutal action and arrest the criminals of this incident."

Anti-American feelings have boiled over into violence several times in Afghanistan in recent years. Protests over reports of the desecration of the Koran have twice sparked deadly riots.

written by Ron Synovitz and Richard Solash, with agency reports


Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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