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How video of Marines urinating on Taliban could put US forces in danger

A video that appears to show Marines urinating on Taliban soldiers comes just as the US is trying to reach out to the Taliban. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called the actions 'utterly deplorable.'

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Some have questioned whether the latest video might prompt a renewed examination of the culture of the Marine Corps, which has long been a point of mixed pride among US officials. “The Marines I have seen around the world have the cleanest bodies, the filthiest minds, the highest morale, and the lowest morals of any group of animals I have ever seen,” said Eleanor Roosevelt, in one of the more famous descriptions of the branch. “Thank God for the United States Marine Corps.” 

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It is a quote emblazoned on travel coffee mugs sold by the Marine Corps Association, the professional association for both active duty and retired Marines.

The head of US Central Command, which has responsibility for running the war in Afghanistan, had his own tough-talking run-in, for which he earned a stern warning in 2005. “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil,” Marine Corps General James Mattis said. “You know guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot ‘em.” 

America’s top Marine, Commandant General James Amos, emphasized in his own statement that the behavior apparently depicted on the tapes is an aberration “wholly inconsistent with the high standards of conduct and warrior ethos that we have demonstrated throughout our history.”

He has requested that the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) “pull together a team of their very best agents and immediately assign them” to investigate. He added that he is also luanching an internal inquiry – all a nod to the political sensitivities the video has unleashed. “Rest assured that the institution of the Marine Corps will not rest until the allegations and the events surrounding them have been resolved,” Amos said.

In an effort to smooth over relations, Mr. Panetta placed a call Thursday to President Karzai. “The Secretary expressed his view in the footage is utterly deplorable, and that it does not reflect the standards or values American troops are sworn to uphold,” according to a statement released by Pentagon press secretary George Little.

US defense officials are now waiting to see how Mr. Karzai, who must approve the resumption of any US talks with the Taliban, will respond in the days to come.

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