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The Marine urination video may be evidence of a crime, according to a senior military official. The 39-second video depicts four men in Marine combat gear. They are shown apparently urinating on three dead bodies on the ground.
The uniformed Marines joked with each other in the video. "You got it on the video?" one asked another. The response: "Yeah." Another man chimed in with "Golden, like a shower."
It's unclear where the video was shot or who posted the clip. But officials say that it was likely filmed in Afghanistan.
White House officials have called it "deplorable, reprehensible and unacceptable."
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta indicated officials would pursue a full investigation of the matter. He also phoned Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai.
A Vanderbilt University professor told CNN he believes the Marines' actions could amount to a war crime.
There are certain treaties that govern warfare. The Geneva Conventions provide protections to civilians, soldiers, and prisoners of war. They have been ratified by 194 countries, including the United States. The conventions deal with disposal of dead.
The deceased generally must be dealt with respectfully. Article 17 of the First Geneva Convention of 1949 says that adverse parties that die must be intered honorably. And, if possible, they should be buried according to their religion.
If the actions depicted in the Marine urination video are verified as authentic, the marines may well be punished. It may also be possible that they committed war crimes. Though, any charges will depend on the outcome of the investigation.