GOP candidate Rick Perry is accusing the Obama administration of showing "disdain for the military" by condemning the actions of the Marines in a controversial YouTube video that went public this week.
The video, posted earlier this week but possibly in circulation among Marines for far longer, allegedly depicts the four Marines urinating on three dead bodies.
Referring to the action as a "stupid mistake," Perry said the Marines should be scolded, not charged.
"Eighteen, 19-year-old kids make stupid mistakes all too often and that's what occurred here," Perry said. The ages and names of the Marines involved have not been released.
U.S. military rules forbid photographing or filming human casualties, and the Geneva Convention forbid desecration of the dead; the Marines' actions could be considered a war crime if the video is determined to be legitimate. Sentiments echoed by Army Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, who called the actions depicted in the video a "grave breach" of laws governing armed conflict.
Scaparrotti said in a message to Afghanistan troops that he was ordering mandatory training on handling war casualties.
The Obama administration has not been alone in calling the Marines' actions "deplorable;" Republicans such as Sen. John McCain have also decried the incident--McCain going so far as to say the video tarnished the Marine Corps' image--while fellow servicemen and women have been vocal in their outrage.
"I don't see them as Marines," Tim Kudo, a former Marine captain, told "CBS This Morning" Saturday. "I see them as people who have set back the war effort, put their fellow Marines in danger, and who stand in contradiction to pretty much everything the Marine Corps...and America stands for."
Kudo blew off the notion that perhaps combat got to them, saying that while combat is "inherently stressful," it doesn't excuse what the men appear to have done.
It's not clear from the video if the bodies are members of the Taliban, or civilians. The Naval Criminal Investigative service says it's initiating computer forensic techniques on the video, as well as working to track down information on the person who created and posted the video.
The video, 39 seconds long, shows the Marines dressed in combat gear urinating on the bodies. A voice then asks if the scene was captured on video, to which another voice says yes. A third voice jokes, "Golden, like a shower."
One of the men then looks down on the bodies and gleefully wishes the bodies a "good day."
At this time, none of the men in the video have been detained. Charges could wind up extending far beyond just the four in the video, according to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: the Marine behind the camera, as well as any Marines who knew of the video's existence and watched it, could potentially be found party to a war crime.
A Marine official said the four men, members of the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, allegedly began showing off the video as a war trophy upon returning from Afghanistan last fall.
At least two of the four Marines at the center of the investigation are being uncooperative, NCIS said Saturday.
Afghan citizens, many resentful of the continuing U.S. presence in their country after a decade of bloodshed, have already expressed outrage, calling for foreign soldiers to "leave our soil. Both Afghan President Hamid Karzai and a Taliban spokesman called the video "inhumane."
"First they killed the Afghans with mortars, and they then urinated on their bodies," Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said. "We strongly condemn this inhumane action by the wild American soldiers."
The video was released on the heels of allegations last week that U.S. military personnel had abused Afghan prisoners. Demands that security and law enforcement be turned over to Afghan forces is now at a fever pitch.
The Pentagon worried that the video could undermine attempts by the U.S. government to advance peace talks between the Afghan government and Pakistan-based Taliban, but have been assured by Afghan officials that the one incident wouldn't derail months of work towards the peace process.
*Editor's Note: Warning, the video that accompanies this story contains graphic images. The video is available at YouTube.