A Washington Post article of January 13 titled ‘US acts quickly to tamp down Afghan video scandal’ by Craig Whitlock and Greg. Jaffe states that the Obama administration strongly condemned a video that shows four US Marines in combat gear laughing, joking and urinating on the bodies of three Afghan males lined up on the ground, while Defence Secretary Leon Panetta  denounced the video as ‘utterly deplorable’ and assured Afghan President Hamid Karzai that the matter will be thoroughly investigated. However, past experience tells us that it is unlikely the culprits will get befitting punishment.  It was only recently that ring leader of a group of US soldiers who killed three innocent Afghans for sport on different occasions and kept their body parts as trophies was given a term of imprisonment, with chance of parole in less than ten years, which means the beast could be out in even a year or two. With such a light punishment for unlawful killing and desecration of dead bodies, it is a foregone conclusion as to how the present case will be treated. Their defence counsel may even claim that the postmortem report did not point out any material deterioration in the state of corpses caused by the act of urinating and, in any case, since Muslims give a bath to their dead before burial, so any residual urine would have been washed of.  This view is further reinforced by a statement in the article from a retired American Army Captain Andrew M. Exum, who served in Afghanistan and is now a senior fellow at the Center for A New American Security in Washington, who said “We shouldn’t be shocked that this kind of thing happens in a war .  The difference today is now we have smart phones.”  In simple words, what he means is that such practice is widespread, only that because of easy availability of the gadgets, it gets filmed and reported far more frequently.  Noting how the Americans behaved during wartime in Vietnam in the past, and Iraq and Afghanistan more recently, I am inclined to believe that such horrible behaviour might be more of a routine for the Americans and that what actually gets reported is only the tip of the iceberg. We all remember the Abu Ghraib prison, specially the photograph showing a naked Iraqi prisoner crawling on all four limbs with a dog collar and leash put on his neck, and a proud American holding the leash, and that was just a sample of what went on inside there.
We also note that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed “total dismay” at the apparent behaviour by Marines while Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff committee, General Martin Dempsey, said he was “deeply disturbed” and that the actions “erode the reputation of our joint force.” Just what “reputation” Dempsey is talking about?
Before receiving Panetta’s call, President Hamid Karzai reacted sharply to news of the video, describing it as “completely inhumane and condemnable in the strongest possible terms.” His administration called on the US Military to “apply the most severe punishment to anyone found guilty in this crime.” Karzai must be some optimist to believe in getting what he demands of Americans. Doesn’t he know that the persons killed and desecrated were only Afghans and that severe punishments can’t be given to the wild American beasts as it will not be good for their morale.
The conduct of the US soldiers is very shameful indeed but not all that surprising, coming from the rogues and scoundrels whose supreme commander, the President who, backtracking on his promise to close down the Guantanamo prison, is keeping it open even in his final year, with all the barbarity and injustice that goes with it,  and is not even willing  to part with the Nobel Peace Prize which he has not done anything to prove worthy of.
S.R.H. HASHMI,
Karachi, January 13.