- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 19, 2012

A congressman who served in Afghanistan is seeking leniency for four Marines videotaped urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters, while some backers of the Marines are voicing support online.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, himself a former Marine, urged Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta to “put things in the proper context” when judging the Marines on their conduct because they face brutality every day in Afghanistan.

“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,” the California Republican said in a letter to Mr. Panetta this week.

“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.”

Mr. Hunter,a member of the House Armed Services Committee, acknowledged in his letter, sent Wednesday, that the “actions of the Marines [shown in the video] were wrong … [and] unnecessary.”

He said the Marines should be disciplined but not court-martialed, arguing that criminal charges that could carry prison terms would be too harsh.

Mr. Hunter also urged Mr. Panetta not to make an example of the men to mollify anger about their actions from Afghan or other allies.

Mr. Panetta has called the incident “utterly despicable” and promised that the Marines involved would be “held accountable to the fullest extent.”

Afghan President Hamid Karzai asked the Obama administration to “apply the most severe punishment to anyone found guilty in this crime.”

Navy criminal investigators have interviewed the four men and are weighing charges against them. Their actions could violate both the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Conventions, military legal scholars said this week.

The Marines in the video have been identified as members of the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force when it deployed last summer to Afghanistan’s Helmand province, a notorious insurgent hotbed.

While the Marines face official condemnation, they are building support on the Internet.

Since the video emerged last week, a Facebook group page titled “Stand United With Our Marine Heroes Against ‘Urinegate’ ” has been created, registering more than 1,250 “likes,” or favorable visits

Douglas Bowyer, who identifies himself as a Marine veteran, wrote on another Facebook page: “Job well done. The beer is on me!”

A Facebook page called “Support the Betio 5” has also sprung up. ‘Betio’ is the battalion’s nickname, and the number “5” may refer to the four Marines shown in the video and whoever filmed it.

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