A Republican lawmaker who served in combat in Afghanistan is urging Defense Secretary Leon Panetta not to make an example of the four Marines videotaped who were videotaped urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters.
Despite the outrage that the video has caused among U.S. officials and allies, the Marines' case "should not be used to make a statement to our partners in the region," wrote Rep. Duncan D. Hunter of California, a member of the House Armed Services Committee.
Mr. Hunter acknowledged in his letter, sent Wednesday, that the "actions of the Marines [shown in the video] were wrong … [and] unnecessary."
But he urged against a court-martial, saying that criminal charges would be too harsh and a nonjudicial punishment would be appropriate.
Mr. Panetta has called the incident "utterly despicable" and promised that the Marines involved would be "held accountable to the fullest extent."
"In Afghanistan our Marines see recurring acts of brutality by the enemy directed toward them and the Afghan people and they see their friends wounded or killed," Mr. Hunter, a former Marine, said in his letter.
"We owe it to these individuals and others who put their lives on the line every day to take into account the extraordinary conditions and danger they face when judging their actions, and put things in the proper context."
When the video was first aired on the Internet a week ago, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said it depicted "deplorable behavior … inconsistent with American values."
Afghan President Hamid Karzai asked the Obama administration to "apply the most severe punishment to anyone found guilty in this crime," which violate both the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Conventions.
Navy criminal investigators have interviewed the four men and are weighing charges against them, officials said this week.
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