Video showing Marines urinating on corpse spurs strong feelings in Auburn

Marines condemn behavior and act to determine facts in the case swiftly
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer and AP
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AUBURN CA - While Pentagon officials worry that outrage over a video purporting to depict Marines urinating on Taliban corpses will tarnish the reputation of the entire military, some in Auburn have a more personal reaction. Auburn’s Rob Howard, who served as a federal civilian employee embedded with the Air Force in Iraq and Afghanistan, described the appearance of the video on the internet this week and the subsequent furor as “a double-edged sword.” “I think it’s utterly despicable,” Howard said. “But I understand the experiences and emotions that cause that. At the same time, it’s not a moral thing to do and we can expect discipline.” Howard added that any discipline would likely come with an unofficial layer of understanding that Marines directly involved in the video are combat veterans. “One picture doesn’t tell the story and they may have just gone through a firefight,” Howard said. “War is hell but we’re still the most upstanding and rule-oriented military on the planet.” Auburn’s Terry Crouson, a retired command sergeant-major in the Army reserves who also served in the Marines, said he couldn’t imagine how the incident could have taken place. “Except hate coming out of what had been done to some of our people,” Crouson said. “When you lose someone you have that hate.” Crouson said that he could draw a parallel between the Afghanistan video and Gen. George Patton’s well-documented, symbolic urination into the Elbe River during World War II. “It wasn’t as bad as the Taliban cutting one of ours head off or blowing up people,” Crouson said. “If they’re going to use it (the video controversy) for anything, it should be to not be disrespectful. Troops should be taught that.” Donna Arz, executive director of the Auburn-based Forgotten Soldier Program, said she would want to learn more about the situation surrounding the video being shot. “People in America are easy to judge but they aren’t there,” Arz said. “Let’s not condemn anyone without hearing the whole story.” The Forgotten Soldier Program provides assistance for returning troops as they move back into civilian life. “I’d like to know more about what the Marines in the video are going through,” Arz said. “I’m wondering if they’re going to be helped emotionally as well as disciplined. They’re acting out – on an emotional level – like a child would.” After roundly condemning the Marines’ alleged behavior, the Marine Corps on Friday laid the groundwork for deciding what, if any, disciplinary action will be taken against the Marine snipers shown urinating on the dead bodies in Afghanistan. The Associated Press reported that top Marine officer, Gen. James Amos, appointed three-star Gen. Thomas Waldhauser to oversee the case. Waldhauser named another officer to do an internal Marine Corps investigation, which is in addition to a criminal probe under way by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. No one has been charged in the case, which triggered widespread outrage with the appearance Wednesday on YouTube of a brief video that appears to show four Marines in full combat gear urinating on the bodies of three dead men lying on the ground. Marine Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, condemned the behavior and said in a statement Friday that the facts in the case would be determined swiftly.