The United States Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has condemned the video footage leaked online of U.S. Marines urinating on dead Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.
“I have seen the footage, and I find the behavior depicted in it utterly deplorable,” Panetta said in a statement.
The video showing four men urinating on the bloodied bodies of dead Taliban fighters surfaced via YouTube on Wednesday.
"Those found engaged in such conduct will be held accountable to the fullest extent," the defense chief added.
The Pentagon said on Thursday that they had no indication that the video was fake.
“We don’t have any indication that it’s not authentic,” Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby said. In fact, a senior military official announced on Thursday that the U.S. Marines had identified the unit believed to be involved in the footage.
The present whereabouts of the Marines remain unknown to the public but some suspect that the unit purported to be involved in the scandal was based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also condemned the video at a Thursday news conference.
“I want to express my total dismay at the story concerning our Marines,” she said.
“It is absolutely inconsistent with American values, with the standards of behavior that we expect from our military personnel and that the vast, vast majority of our military personnel, particularly our Marines, hold themselves to,” she added.
Some analysts have compared the new video to the shocking 2004 Abu Ghraib prisoner scandal in Iraq and have expressed concern that the video could hamper peace efforts with the Taliban. However, other experts have suggested that the new video, although shocking and likely to stir anti-American sentiment, will not likely cause the same damage to U.S. reputation as the Abu Ghraib.
“[Abu Ghraib] was much more reflective of a policy of allowing abuse, whereas this seems to be on its face way out of line with training,” John Ullyot, a former Republican spokesman for the Senate Armed Services Committee, told Reuters.
The Taliban has also condemned the video, but said that it would not hamper peace talks with the Karzai government and the U.S.