The US military is investigating an online video purportedly showing Marines urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.
The video shows what appear to be four servicemen, dressed in US military uniform, relieving themselves onto three bloodied bodies on the ground, apparently aware that they are being filmed.
“Have a great day, buddy,” one of them says.
The Pentagon has not yet verified the video, but spokesman John Kirby slammed the behaviour.
“Regardless of the circumstances or who is in the video, this is… egregious, disgusting behaviour, unacceptable for anyone in uniform,” he said.
“It turned my stomach,” he added of the video, which was posted on the Live Leak website.
A statement issued by the Pentagon added: “Headquarters Marine Corps has recently been made aware of a video that portrays Marines urinating on what appear to be deceased members of the Taliban.
“While we have not yet verified the origin or authenticity of this video, 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.”
Laws of war
Retired US general Spider Marks says the alleged actions go against the laws of war.
“They are trained that once their job is done they get very agnostic, they get very focused and they do what they have to do to respect and honour those that they just killed,” he said.
“They may have slaughtered those guys and that’s fine. You move off to your next mission. You don’t do what we just saw.”
Former US homeland security adviser Frances Townsend says if verified, the video will likely increase tension between some Afghans and foreign troops.
“You run the risk that our enemies will use this sort of a video as justification for mistreating US soldiers who are either captured or killed,” he said.
The video harks back to the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq in 2004, when a number of US soldiers went to jail for taking pictures of prisoners posing in humiliating ways.
Retired Australian Army officer Jim Molan says the video is bad but must be seen in proportion.
“Abu Ghraib was a significant, large-scale failure. This is a single failure but it’s of a different scale,” he said.
“So I don’t agree that this is another Abu Ghraib. It’s not acceptable, it’s wrong but this is nothing like Abu Ghraib.”
Mr Molan says the incident will not have an effect on the 1,000 Australian soldiers deployed in Afghanistan.
“This won’t affect Australian soldiers in Afghanistan in any way, shape or form,” he said.
“The Australians are fighting in a totally different area.
“This I think will prove to be a small incident which will be handled well by the US and it will be handled in a way which is so markedly different from the way that our enemies ignore the atrocities that they live and breathe by.”
Some 20,000 Marines are deployed in Afghanistan, mostly in Kandahar and Helmand provinces in the south of the war-ravaged country.