The Obama administration is in damage control after a video posted online showed four U.S. marines urinating on the corpses of three Taliban fighters.
The quick and immediate response from the Pentagon was to condemn the abuse and Defence Secretary Leon Panetta issued an apology to the Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also expressed her dismay and articulated that such behaviour was inconsistent with the standards of U.S. personnel.
President Karzai condemned the attacks by stating 'I find the behaviour depicted in it utterly deplorable. This conduct is entirely inappropriate for members of the United States military.'
This incident may well become Obama's own Abu Ghraib, Abu Ghraib being a major embarrassment for the previous U.S. administration after it was exposed how Iraqi prisoners were suffering humiliation and abuse at the hands of U.S. soldiers.
Retired Australian Army officer Jim Molan rejected this notion and stated 'Abu Ghraib was a significant, large-scale failure. This is a single failure but it's of a different scale.'
Such a statement needs re-evaluation, prior to the videos release the Taliban wanted to set up a political office in Qatar with the aim of facilitating talks with the Afghan government and NATO.
After the incident Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi told the BBC 'this was not the first time Americans had carried out such a wild action and that Taliban attacks on the Americans would continue.'
It should be a deep concern to Obama that just when the Taliban were interested in coming to the negotiating table, the actions of the U.S. Military have re-stoked the fires and potentially jeopardised future peace talks and prisoner exchanges.
This latest revelation from the Afghanistan war will further fuel detractors calling for immediate withdrawal, added to this is the fact that the incident is already being called a war crime as despoiling the dead is considered illegal under Geneva conventions as well as under U.S. military law.
It should be noted that the Obama administration is not new to embarrassment in Afghanistan and this most recent war crime comes on the back of charges being laid against eleven U.S. soldiers for murdering Afghan civilians. These soldiers attempted to cover up the murders but also collected body parts as trophies and posed in photographs over the corpses of their victims.
Previous Defence Secretary Robert Gates highlighted his awareness of problems in the military when he addressed the Association of American Universities in April 2008.
Gates discussed military shortcomings and cultural incompetence when he stated 'Too many mistakes have been made over the years because our government and military did not understand or even seek to understand the countries or cultures we were dealing with.'
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