Since the Iraq War began, 17 US soldiers based at Fort Carson, Colorado, have been charged or convicted in 14 murders, manslaughters and attempted murders. Many of these crimes involved men who had served in the same battalion in Iraq, and three of them came from a single platoon.
The Wounded Platoon tells the dark tale of the modern-day 'Band of Brothers', and how the war followed them home. It is a story of heroism, grief, combat, drugs, alcohol and brutal murder, and a shocking portrait of what multiple tours and post-traumatic stress are doing to a generation of American soldiers.
This is fairly interesting, but it focusses on the 'poor little soldiers who aren't given help' rather than on the Iraqi victim. The one scene with the murderer smiling about how he and his troop were 'trigger happy' turned my stomach - what a fucker.
US soldiers 'killed Afghan civilians for sport and collected fingers as trophies' Soldiers face charges over secret 'kill team' which allegedly murdered at random and collected fingers as trophies of war
Andrew Holmes, Michael Wagnon, Jeremy Morlock and Adam Winfield are four of the five Stryker soldiers who face murder charges.
Twelve American soldiers face charges over a secret "kill team" that allegedly blew up and shot Afghan civilians at random and collected their fingers as trophies.
Five of the soldiers are charged with murdering three Afghan men who were allegedly killed for sport in separate attacks this year. Seven others are accused of covering up the killings and assaulting a recruit who exposed the murders when he reported other abuses, including members of the unit smoking hashish stolen from civilians.
In one of the most serious accusations of war crimes to emerge from the Afghan conflict, the killings are alleged to have been carried out by members of a Stryker infantry brigade based in Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan.
According to investigators and legal documents, discussion of killing Afghan civilians began after the arrival of Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs at forward operating base Ramrod last November. Other soldiers told the army's criminal investigation command that Gibbs boasted of the things he got away with while serving in Iraq and said how easy it would be to "toss a grenade at someone and kill them".
One soldier said he believed Gibbs was "feeling out the platoon".
Investigators said Gibbs, 25, hatched a plan with another soldier, Jeremy Morlock, 22, and other members of the unit to form a "kill team". While on patrol over the following months they allegedly killed at least three Afghan civilians. According to the charge sheet, the first target was Gul Mudin, who was killed "by means of throwing a fragmentary grenade at him and shooting him with a rifle", when the patrol entered the village of La Mohammed Kalay in January.
Morlock and another soldier, Andrew Holmes, were on guard at the edge of a poppy field when Mudin emerged and stopped on the other side of a wall from the soldiers. Gibbs allegedly handed Morlock a grenade who armed it and dropped it over the wall next to the Afghan and dived for cover. Holmes, 19, then allegedly fired over the wall.
Later in the day, Morlock is alleged to have told Holmes that the killing was for fun and threatened him if he told anyone.
The second victim, Marach Agha, was shot and killed the following month. Gibbs is alleged to have shot him and placed a Kalashnikov next to the body to justify the killing. In May Mullah Adadhdad was killed after being shot and attacked with a grenade.
The Army Times reported that a least one of the soldiers collected the fingers of the victims as souvenirs and that some of them posed for photographs with the bodies.
Five soldiers – Gibbs, Morlock, Holmes, Michael Wagnon and Adam Winfield – are accused of murder and aggravated assault among other charges. All of the soldiers have denied the charges. They face the death penalty or life in prison if convicted.
The killings came to light in May after the army began investigating a brutal assault on a soldier who told superiors that members of his unit were smoking hashish. The Army Times reported that members of the unit regularly smoked the drug on duty and sometimes stole it from civilians.
The soldier, who was straight out of basic training and has not been named, said he witnessed the smoking of hashish and drinking of smuggled alcohol but initially did not report it out of loyalty to his comrades. But when he returned from an assignment at an army headquarters and discovered soldiers using the shipping container in which he was billeted to smoke hashish he reported it.
Two days later members of his platoon, including Gibbs and Morlock, accused him of "snitching", gave him a beating and told him to keep his mouth shut. The soldier reported the beating and threats to his officers and then told investigators what he knew of the "kill team".
Following the arrest of the original five accused in June, seven other soldiers were charged last month with attempting to cover up the killings and violent assault on the soldier who reported the smoking of hashish. The charges will be considered by a military grand jury later this month which will decide if there is enough evidence for a court martial. Army investigators say Morlock has admitted his involvement in the killings and given details about the role of others including Gibbs. But his lawyer, Michael Waddington, is seeking to have that confession suppressed because he says his client was interviewed while under the influence of prescription drugs taken for battlefield injuries and that he was also suffering from traumatic brain injury.
"Our position is that his statements were incoherent, and taken while he was under a cocktail of drugs that shouldn't have been mixed," Waddington told the Seattle Times.
British servicemen suspected of murdering Iraqi civilians Soldiers and airmen are suspected of killing significant number of civilians, but have not been put on trial
British soldiers and airmen are suspected of being responsible for the murder and manslaughter of a number of Iraqi civilians in addition to the high-profile case of Baha Mousa, defence officials have admitted.
The victims include a man who was allegedly kicked to death on board an RAF helicopter, another who was shot by a soldier of the Black Watch after being involved in a traffic incident, and a 19-year-old who drowned after allegedly being pushed into a river by soldiers serving with the Royal Engineers.
Military police recommended that some of the alleged killers be put on trial for murder and manslaughter, but military prosecutors declined to do so after concluding that there was no realistic prospect of convictions. The Ministry of Defence and the Service Prosecuting Authority (SPA) have repeatedly declined to offer detailed explanations for those decisions. The MoD has also been reluctant to offer anything other than sketchy details of some of the investigations.
In the case of the man said to have been kicked to death aboard an RAF helicopter by troops of the RAF Regiment, the MoD has admitted that the allegation was investigated by RAF police, who decided not to conduct any postmortem examination of the body. After the case was referred to the RAF's most senior prosecutor, a decision was taken not to bring charges, apparently because the cause of death remained unknown. MoD officials are refusing to say whether any of the alleged killers were ever interviewed as part of the investigation. They did admit, however, that the British military has made no attempt to contact the man's family since his death.
The disclosure that British servicemen are suspected of being involved in the unlawful killing of a significant number of Iraqi civilians comes after the high court gave permission for a judicial review of the MoD's failure to establish a public inquiry into the British military's entire detention policy in the wake of the 2003 invasion.
An army investigation into a number of cases – including that of Mousa, who was tortured to death by British troops – conceded in 2008 that they were a cause for "professional humility", but concluded that there was nothing endemic about the mistreatment.
In July, however, after reviewing evidence submitted by lawyers representing 102 survivors of British military detention facilities, the high court ruled: "There is an arguable case that the alleged ill-treatment was systemic, and not just at the whim of individual soldiers." The court also cast doubt on the ability of military police to conduct independent investigations.
The abuse documented by a team of lawyers led by Birmingham solicitor Phil Shiner includes 59 allegations of detainees being hooded, 11 of electric shocks, 122 of sound deprivation through the use of ear muffs, 52 of sleep deprivation, 131 of sight deprivation using blackened goggles, 39 of enforced nakedness and 18 allegations that detainees were kept awake by pornographic DVDs played on laptops.
The incidents which led to British servicemen being suspected of murder or manslaughter came shortly after the invasion, at a time of growing chaos and lawlessness in Iraq.
The RAF case concerns the death of a man called Tanik Mahmud, who was detained at a checkpoint at Ramadi in western Iraq on 11 April 2003 for reasons that the MoD has repeatedly declined to disclose. He and a number of other detainees were put aboard a Chinook helicopter, and guarded by three men from the 2nd Squadron of the RAF Regiment.
The MoD says that Mahmud "sustained a fatal injury" while on board the aircraft, but maintains that it does not know what sort of injury this was. On the Chinook's arrival at a US air base, Mahmud's body was examined by a US military doctor, who declared the cause of death to be unknown.
The MoD says that an RAF police investigation was opened two months later following a complaint that the three men from the RAF Regiment "had kicked, punched or otherwise assaulted" Mahmud. According to the MoD's account, the RAF investigators waited a further 10 months before asking a pathologist whether it was worth conducting a postmortem examination. According to the RAF investigators, this pathologist advised them that Mahmud's body would be too decomposed for an examination to be worthwhile. The MoD would not say whether the pathologist was an RAF officer.
That view is disputed by an experienced forensic pathologist, who has told the Guardian that an examination could still reveal evidence of an assault, particularly if any ribs or facial bones had been damaged. Derrick Pounder, professor of forensic medicine at the University of Dundee, who has experience of exhumations and postmortems in the Middle East, said: "That advice would be contrary to the advice that any UK forensic scientist would offer to any police in the UK who were investigating an allegation of assault leading to death." When the Guardian asked the MoD if it could see a copy of the pathologist's advice that it says the RAF police received, a spokesman said no copy could be found in its files.
Three weeks after Mahmud was killed, a man called Ather Karim Khalaf, a newlywed aged 24, was shot dead, allegedly after the door of his car swung open at a checkpoint and struck a soldier of the Black Watch. An eyewitness has told the Guardian that after being shot at close range Karim Khalaf was dragged from the car and beaten. He died later in hospital. The MoD confirmed that Karim Khalaf had been sitting at the wheel of his car when he was shot, and that witnesses have complained that he was then taken from the vehicle and beaten. A spokesman said the Royal Military Police (RMP) recommended that the soldier be prosecuted for murder, but military prosecutors declined to do so.
Four weeks after Karim Khalaf was shot dead, Said Shabram, 19, drowned after British soldiers allegedly pushed him and another man, Munaam Bali Akaili, from a four-metre-high jetty into the Shatt al-Arab waterway near Basra.
In a statement that Akaili made during a claim for compensation, he described the moments before his friend died. "The soldier with the gun then started pushing us towards the edge of the jetty," he said. "Said and I were very afraid and started begging the soldier to stop. The soldier continued to push us towards the edge. He seemed to get agitated that we would not jump in and, at one point, I thought he was getting so angry he would shoot us. The soldiers were laughing. The soldier with the gun suddenly pushed us into the water."
Akaili was dragged from the water by passersby. Shabram's body was recovered after his family hired a diver to search the water. An MoD spokesman said the three Royal Engineers were reported by the RMP for manslaughter, but military prosecutors declined to bring charges.
The MoD evaded a series of questions about prosecution decisions in these cases for more than three months, before deciding they should be addressed by the Service Prosecuting Authority, which was formed last year from the merger of the armed services' prosecuting bodies.
Brigadier Philip McEvoy, deputy director of the SPA, said the name Ather Karim Khalaf meant nothing to him; when asked how many cases there could be in which military police had recommended a soldier be prosecuted for murder, he replied: "God knows."
McEvoy also said he knew little about the Tanik Mahmud case because the file had been retained by the RAF's directorate of legal services. He then maintained that he had no idea where that directorate was based.
McEvoy issued a statement in which he said there had been too little evidence to justify a prosecution in the Mahmud or Shabram cases. He added that "the presumption of innocence can only be undermined" if the SPA were to release information allowing the public to determine why an individual had fallen under suspicion.
A small number of soldiers alleged to have killed Iraqi civilians have faced prosecution.
A court martial cleared four soldiers who were accused of the manslaughter of a 15-year-old, Ahmed Jabbar Kareem, who drowned after he was allegedly pushed into a canal in Basra two weeks before the death of Shabram. The court heard that British troops had a policy of "wetting" suspected looters by forcing them into canals and rivers.
In a separate case, seven soldiers were cleared of the murder of another Iraqi teenager, Nadhem Abdullah, after a judge ruled that there was insufficient evidence.
Six soldiers were cleared of the abuse of Baha Mousa. A seventh pleaded guilty to inhumane treatment and was jailed for a year.
In a number of other cases in which Iraqi civilians have died in British military custody, the RMP has not recommended criminal charges. These include the case of Abdul Jabbar Musa Ali, a headteacher aged 55, who was detained by soldiers of the Black Watch, along with his son, after a number of firearms were found at their home. Both men are alleged to have been beaten as they were being detained, and the MoD concedes that "there is some corroborative witness evidence to support allegations that they were assaulted" when arrested.
In a statement that Musa Ali's son has given to lawyers, he said his father was subsequently kept hooded and beaten repeatedly for several hours, and that his screaming abruptly stopped. When his family retrieved his body it was said to have been extensively bruised. The MoD said it was not possible to establish whether a crime had been committed because the family refused permission for an exhumation.
Another man died five days earlier after being detained by soldiers of the Black Watch, apparently at the same detention centre. His corpse was taken to a local hospital where his death was recorded as being the result of cardiac arrest. The MoD admits that this recording was made by a man with no medical qualifications. "The RMP subsequently investigated and established that no crime had been committed," the MoD said.
Ex-SAS soldier blasts Poppy Appeal as a 'political tool'
Nov 7 2010,
Wales On Sunday
THE true meaning of the poppy is being forgotten as it becomes a political tool to support current wars, a former elite soldier has claimed. Ben Griffin, the first SAS soldier to refuse to go into combat, also said the use of the word “hero” to describe soldiers glorified war and was an “attempt to stifle criticism” of conflicts the UK is currently fighting. Mr Griffin’s claims echo an increasing body of opinion that the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal’s promotion by key political and cultural figures is undermining the true message of Remembrance Day.
The Royal British Legion began using the poppy as a symbol for fundraising in the 1920s. Money used goes to help wounded servicemen past and serving and their families. It also marks Remembrance Day, held on the second Sunday in November, which is usually the Sunday nearest to November 11, the date in 1918 on which World War I ended. It commemorates the sacrifices of members of the armed forces and of civilians.
But Mr Griffin, who quit the army in 2005 on moral grounds, claims it has been turned into a “month-long drum roll of support for current wars”. Griffin, who went to school in Machynlleth and Swansea, told Wales On Sunday: “This year’s [national] campaign was launched by inviting The Saturdays to frolic half naked in a sea of poppies. The judges on X Factor [at the request of the Royal British Legion] have taken to wearing grotesque poppy fashion items. The RBL would say they are modernising and appealing to a younger generation. I disagree. I think that their stunts trivialise, normalise and sanitise war.”
Griffin, now a London ambulance driver who served for eight years in the Parachute Regiment, went on: “The use of the word ‘hero’ glorifies war and glosses over the ugly reality. War is nothing like a John Wayne movie. There is nothing heroic about being blown up in a vehicle, there is nothing heroic about being shot in an ambush and there is nothing heroic about the deaths of countless civilians.
“Calling our soldiers heroes is an attempt to stifle criticism of the wars we are fighting in. It leads us to that most subtle piece of propaganda: You might not support the war but you must support our heroes, ergo you support the war. It is revealing that those who send our forces to war and those that spread war propaganda are the ones who choose to wear poppies weeks in advance of Armistice Day.”
Peace Pledge Union spokesman Albert Beale said: “Politicians clothe themselves in the red poppy. There’s something about a Remembrance Day ceremony that blinds you to reality. There’s also the sense that if you don’t wear the red poppy, you are not supporting our boys. Some people support them because of their suffering – but not the political aim they are being sent out to Afghanistan to fulfil. It is being used by politicians to support their agenda.”
Adam Johannes, of the Stop the War Coalition in Cardiff, said: “The politicians who lay wreaths at the Cenotaph will use the poppy to drum up support for continued unjust and unwinnable wars. It is no accident that we have seen an increase in the last five years of military parades, the invention of Armed Forces Day, militarism and jingoism.”
Robert Lee, the British Legion’s spokesman, said: “There is nothing in our appeal or campaigning which supports, or does not support, war: We are totally neutral.”
I didn't think I'd ever agree with an ex-SAS member, but he's absolutely spot-on. His current job makes him far more of a hero than being ready to kill for whatever government happens to be in power.
Inquiry finds link between military veterans and sex crimes Veterans twice as likely to be convicted for sex offences than other people and more likely to commit violent offences
22 June 2011
Military veterans are twice as likely to be convicted for sex offences than other people and more likely to commit violent offences, an inquiry has found. The inquiry's chair, Sir John Nutting QC, who described the finding as "disquieting", said he had no idea why former servicemen go on to commit sexual offences and called for more research.
After an 18-month study, the Howard League for Penal Reform found that three-quarters of veterans in jail had served in the army, the largest service. One in seven had served in the navy, and 8% the RAF.
"It's clear that this is an army problem," said Nutting. However, he said that far from creating the problem the army, which recruits a significant number from those with "socially deprived and economically disadvantaged backgrounds" shared by many in the criminal justice system, had a "beneficial effect". Many out of the 3,000 ex-servicemen in prison would have begun offending earlier had they not joined up, he said.
The study found "little or no evidence" that combat trauma is directly linked to offending. However, it stated "clearly some of the symptoms of the condition, such as poor anger management or eroded family relationships, do have established links to offending". The report recommended that service personnel be screened for post-traumatic stress.
Nutting conceded that the fear of a "spike" in criminality 15 years after the conflict in Afghanistan was one reason for a screening programme. "It's by no means impossible and people fear it," he said. "That is why it is so important that we plan and servicemen are screened."
He has no idea why trained thugs would be more likely to commit such crimes?
The Ministry of Defence is investigating claims that a British soldier kept body parts of dead Taliban fighters as "souvenirs".
The allegations, made against a soldier believed to be from The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, 5th Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland, are being looked into by the MoD's Special Investigation Branch.
It was reported that the soldier had collected the fingers of members of the Taliban in Afghanistan to keep as "trophies".
The allegations centre around the regiment's last tour of duty in the country, between September 2010 and April this year.
A spokesman for the MoD said: "This is a very serious allegation and it would be wrong for us to comment. An investigation is ongoing."
WikiLeaks: Iraqi children in U.S. raid shot in head, U.N. says
This cell phone photo was shot by a resident of Ishaqi on March 15, 2006, of bodies Iraqi police said were of children executed by U.S. troops after a night raid there. Here, the bodies of the five children are wrapped in blankets and laid in a pickup bed to be taken for burial. A State Department cable obtained by WikiLeaks quotes the U.N. investigator of extrajudicial killings as saying an autopsy showed the residents of the house had been handcuffed and shot in the head, including children under the age of 5. McClatchy obtained the photo from a resident when the incident occurred.
A U.S. diplomatic cable made public by WikiLeaks provides evidence that U.S. troops executed at least 10 Iraqi civilians, including a woman in her 70s and a 5-month-old infant, then called in an airstrike to destroy the evidence, during a controversial 2006 incident in the central Iraqi town of Ishaqi.
The unclassified cable, which was posted on WikiLeaks' website last week, contained questions from a United Nations investigator about the incident, which had angered local Iraqi officials, who demanded some kind of action from their government. U.S. officials denied at the time that anything inappropriate had occurred.
But Philip Alston, the U.N.'s special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said in a communication to American officials dated 12 days after the March 15, 2006, incident that autopsies performed in the Iraqi city of Tikrit showed that all the dead had been handcuffed and shot in the head. Among the dead were four women and five children. The children were all 5 years old or younger.
Reached by email Wednesday, Alston said that as of 2010 — the most recent data he had — U.S. officials hadn't responded to his request for information and that Iraq's government also hadn't been forthcoming. He said the lack of response from the United States "was the case with most of the letters to the U.S. in the 2006-2007 period," when fighting in Iraq peaked.
Alston said he could provide no further information on the incident. "The tragedy," he said, "is that this elaborate system of communications is in place but the (U.N.) Human Rights Council does nothing to follow up when states ignore issues raised with them."
The Pentagon didn't respond to a request for comment. At the time, American military officials in Iraq said the accounts of townspeople who witnessed the events were highly unlikely to be true, and they later said the incident didn't warrant further investigation. Military officials also refused to reveal which units might have been involved in the incident.
Iraq was fast descending into chaos in early 2006. An explosion that ripped through the Golden Dome Mosque that February had set off an orgy of violence between rival Sunni and Shiite Muslims, and Sunni insurgents, many aligned with al Qaida in Iraq, controlled large tracts of the countryside.
Ishaqi, about 80 miles northwest of Baghdad, not far from Saddam Hussein's hometown, Tikrit, was considered so dangerous at the time that U.S. military officials had classified all roads in the area as "black," meaning they were likely to be booby-trapped with roadside bombs.
The Ishaqi incident was unusual because it was brought to the world's attention by the Joint Coordination Center in Tikrit, a regional security center set up with American military assistance and staffed by U.S.-trained Iraqi police officers.
The original incident report was signed by an Iraqi police colonel and made even more noteworthy because U.S.-trained Iraqi police, including Brig. Gen. Issa al Juboori, who led the coordination center, were willing to speak about the investigation on the record even though it was critical of American forces.
Throughout the early investigation, U.S. military spokesmen said that an al Qaida in Iraq suspect had been seized from a first-floor room after a fierce fight that had left the house he was hiding in a pile of rubble.
But the diplomatic cable provides a different sequence of events and lends credence to townspeople's claims that American forces destroyed the house after its residents had been shot.
Alston initially posed his questions to the U.S. Embassy in Geneva, which passed them to Washington in the cable.
According to Alston's version of events, American troops approached a house in Ishaqi, which Alston refers to as "Al-Iss Haqi," that belonged to Faiz Harrat Al-Majma'ee, whom Alston identified as a farmer. The U.S. troops were met with gunfire, Alston said, that lasted about 25 minutes.
After the firefight ended, Alston wrote, the "troops entered the house, handcuffed all residents and executed all of them. After the initial MNF intervention, a U.S. air raid ensued that destroyed the house." The initials refer to the official name of the military coalition, the Multi-National Force.
Alston said "Iraqi TV stations broadcast from the scene and showed bodies of the victims (i.e. five children and four women) in the morgue of Tikrit. Autopsies carries (sic) out at the Tikrit Hospital's morgue revealed that all corpses were shot in the head and handcuffed."
The cable makes no mention any of the alleged shooting suspects being found or arrested at or near the house.
The cable closely tracks what neighbors told reporters for Knight Ridder at the time. (McClatchy purchased Knight Ridder in spring 2006.) Those neighbors said the U.S. troops had approached the house at 2:30 a.m. and a firefight ensued. In addition to exchanging gunfire with someone in the house, the American troops were supported by helicopter gunships, which fired on the house.
The cable also backs the original report from the Joint Coordination Center, which said U.S. forces entered the house while it was still standing. That first report noted: "The American forces gathered the family members in one room and executed 11 persons, including five children, four women and two men. Then they bombed the house, burned three vehicles and killed their animals."
The report was signed by Col. Fadhil Muhammed Khalaf, who was described in the document as the assistant chief of the Joint Coordination Center.
The cable also backs up the claims of the doctor who performed the autopsies, who told Knight Ridder "that all the victims had bullet shots in the head and all bodies were handcuffed."
The cable notes that "at least 10 persons, namely Mr. Faiz Hratt Khalaf, (aged 28 ), his wife Sumay'ya Abdul Razzaq Khuther (aged 24), their three children Hawra'a (aged 5) Aisha (aged 3) and Husam (5 months old), Faiz's mother Ms. Turkiya Majeed Ali (aged 74), Faiz's sister (name unknown), Faiz's nieces Asma'a Yousif Ma'arouf (aged 5 years old), and Usama Yousif Ma'arouf (aged 3 years), and a visiting relative Ms. Iqtisad Hameed Mehdi (aged 23) were killed during the raid."
Posted: Thu Jan 12, 2012 6:48 pm Post subject: sick indeed...
Washington -- Officials in the United States and Afghanistan expressed shock and outrage Thursday regarding a video showing a U.S. Marine sniper team urinating on dead bodies, possibly in Afghanistan.
"I have seen the footage, and I find the behavior depicted in it utterly deplorable," U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in a statement. "I condemn it in the strongest possible terms."
Panetta said he has ordered the Marine Corps and International Security Assistance Force Commander Gen. John Allen "to immediately and fully investigate the incident."
"This conduct is entirely inappropriate for members of the United States military and does not reflect the standards of values our armed forces are sworn to uphold," Panetta's statement said. "Those found to have engaged in such conduct will be held accountable to the fullest extent."
A senior Pentagon official said Panetta was "deeply troubled" after viewing the video.
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos said in a statement the behavior is "wholly inconsistent with the high standards of conduct and warrior ethos that we have demonstrated throughout our history."
Lt. Gen. Adrian Bradshaw, deputy commander of ISAF, called the actions on the video "disgusting."
"Any acts which treat the dead, enemy or friendly, with disrespect are utterly unacceptable and do not represent the standards we expect of coalition forces," Bradshaw said in a video statement. He said he was speaking on behalf of Allen, who is out of the country.
An earlier statement from NATO-led forces in Afghanistan said, "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."
A senior U.S. military official said the Naval Criminal Investigative Service is the lead investigative agency on the incident. A Marine Corps investigation was also announced Wednesday.
The leadership of the 3rd Battalion 2nd Marine Regiment "is confident those are their Marines" on the video, according to a U.S. Marine official with direct knowledge of the initial investigation. Commanders are "not able to put names to Marines yet, but confident they fall under the 3/2," the official said.
The unit is based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. They deployed in February or March of 2011 and returned in September or October 2011. While in Afghanistan, they were based primarily in Helmand province.
The story broke Wednesday when a number of websites, including TMZ and YouTube, posted a video showing four men dressed in Marine combat gear urinating on what appeared to be the dead bodies of three men on the ground in front of them.
One of the men says, "Have a great day, buddy." A voice asks, "You got it on the video?" to which another voice responds, "Yeah." Another jokes, "Golden, like a shower."
It was not clear who shot or posted the 39-second video, who the people pictured in it were or where it was shot, though a U.S. official said it was a "reasonable conclusion" it was filmed in Afghanistan.
The official, based in Afghanistan, spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Amos said he has pulled together a team "to thoroughly investigate every aspect of the filmed event." Also, he said he will assign a Marine General Officer and senior attorney, both with combat experience, to conduct an internal preliminary inquiry into the matter.
"Once the investigation and preliminary inquiry are complete and the facts have been determined, then the Marine Corps will take the appropriate next steps," Amos said. "We remain fully committed to upholding the Geneva Convention, the laws of war and our own core values."
"We are aware of the video. The hate in it does not represent the U.S. Marine Corps," said Col. Ricco Player, a spokesman for the Marines in Afghanistan's volatile Helmand province. "An investigation has been initiated."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed "total dismay at the story concerning our Marines who I have the highest respect and admiration for." She said she agreed with Panetta's views and called the behavior "deplorable."
"It is absolutely inconsistent with American values, with the standards of behavior that we expect from our military personnel and the vast, vast majority of our military personnel, particularly our Marines, hold themselves to," she said. "Anyone found to have participated or known about it, having engaged in this kind of conduct, must be held fully accountable."
Afghan President Hamid Karzai called on the U.S. government to investigate the video and hand down the harshest punishment possible.
"The government of Afghanistan is deeply disturbed by a video that shows American soldiers desecrating dead bodies of three Afghans," according to a statement released by the presidential palace on behalf of Karzai.
"This act by American soldiers is simply inhuman and condemnable in the strongest possible terms."
A Taliban spokesman called the video "barbaric."
"And no religion that follows a holy text would accept such conduct. This inhuman act reveals their real face to the world," Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi said via text message Thursday.
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul said in a statement Thursday it "strongly condemns" the actions in the video.
"Such actions are reprehensible, dishonor the sacrifices of our military and the American people and violate the core values of both our societies," the embassy said.
"Islam gives values and respect to every human being," regardless of which religion the individual follows, said Islamic scholar Mawlawi Enayatullah Baligh. "The value and respect is the same for an alive person and a dead body. Even the body of your enemy in the battleground is respectable in Islam."
The video surfaces at a critical time for relations between the United States, the Afghan government and the Taliban.
Earlier this year, the United States outlined its plan to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, beginning by pulling out 33,000 "surge" troops who had been deployed to help quell the violence by the end of 2012. The remaining 68,000 troops would be withdrawn by the end of 2014.
Meanwhile, the Taliban tentatively agreed in recent weeks to open an office in Qatar's capital city of Doha, a decision widely seen as an overture aimed at establishing an outside forum for political talks with NATO-led forces and the current Afghan administration, among others.
A senior Marine Corps official who has examined the video said Wednesday that the Marines are carrying 30-caliber sniper rifles and wearing helmets issued to members of Marine sniper teams. The helmets are designed with a shorter front and sides so that snipers can place rifles and scopes near their faces.
The official added that the desecration of a body by U.S. troops could be considered a potential war crime.
"We recently became aware of an inappropriate video on a public website that appears to involve members of our military," International Security Assistance Force spokesman Col. Gary Kolb said from Kabul. "We will not speculate on the details but will take all necessary actions to determine the facts."
He said an investigation was under way but would not comment on the video's authenticity. The faces of the bodies are not identifiable.
"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," said Marine Corps Media Officer Kendra Hardesty.
"This matter will be fully investigated and those responsible will be held accountable for their actions."
Hardesty said the Corps was working to identify the Marines in the video.
"Regardless of the circumstances or who is in the video, this is egregious, disgusting behavior," said Department of Defense spokesman Capt. John Kirby. "It's hideous. It turned my stomach."
In a statement released Wednesday, the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations condemned the video.
"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," wrote CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad in a letter to Panetta.
"Any guilty parties must be punished to the full extent allowed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice and by relevant American laws."
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