The elite have already issued statements of ritual condemnation and are promising endless investigations. It looks like these guys are about to be transformed into scapegoats for a failed policy in Afghanistan. Here are some statements from the elite:
-- Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta: Ordered the Marine Corps and the commander of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan to investigate the incident. Issued a statement saying, in part, "I have seen the footage, and I find the behavior depicted in it utterly deplorable...Those found to have engaged in such conduct will be held accountable to the fullest extent."
-- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: Expressed her total dismay at the story concerning the Marines, for whom she professed the highest respect and admiration. Characterized their behavior as deplorable, saying it is absolutely inconsistent with American values and with the standards of behavior expected from our military personnel.
-- USMC Headquarters: “The actions portrayed are not consistent with our core values and are not indicative of the character of the Marines in our Corps. This matter will be fully investigated.” Marine spokesman Lt. Col. Stewart Upton added, “Allegations of Marines not doing the right thing in regard to dead Taliban insurgents are very serious and, if proven, represent a failure to adhere to the high standards expected of American military personnel.”
-- Senator John McCain: Opined that the incident makes him so sad, and that the image of the Marine Corps has apparently been tarnished by a handful of obviously undisciplined people. Also said there should be an investigation and these young people should be punished.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the extremist group CAIR also chimed in with criticism.
However, Congressman Allen West (R-FL), a U.S. Army combat veteran himself, has held up a stop sign. In an e-mail sent to the Weekly Standard, West acknowledges that while the Marines need to be held accountable, he says “all these over-emotional pundits and armchair quarterbacks need to chill,” and also advised people that "unless you have been shot at by the Taliban, shut your mouth, war is hell". He condemns the selective outrage directed towards these Marines, noting that there was no similar indignation when our Delta snipers Shugart and Gordon had their bodies dragged through Mogadishu, or when our Blackwater security contractors were killed and their bodies burned and hung from a bridge in Fallujah. His recommendation:
Give them a maximum punishment under field grade level Article 15 (non-judicial punishment), place a General Officer level letter of reprimand in their personnel file, and have them in full dress uniform stand before their Battalion, each personally apologize to God, Country, and Corps videotaped and conclude by singing the full US Marine Corps Hymn without a teleprompter.
The maximum punishment which can be levied under a field-grade Article 15 is a one-grade reduction in rank for E-5 and E-6 (multi-grade reduction for E-4 & below), forfeiture of a half-months pay for 2 months, 45 days extra duty, and 60 days restriction (45 days if extra duty is imposed). In the Marine Corps and Navy, the process is referred to as "captain's mast".
Congressman West knows what it's like to be in the position of the four Marines. In 2003, he fired a gun near the head of an Iraqi detainee to scare him into divulging details of a suspected ambush. West, initially charged with assault, ended up being relieved of his command, paying a $5,000 fine and retiring as a lieutenant colonel with a full pension.
By the way, Allen West just recently said that if Mitt Romney asked him to be his runhning mate, he wouldn't turn it down.
Also chiming in with support for the four Marines is the Canada Free Press. They reserved their harshest criticism for Hamid Karzai, characterizing him as a devious snake who now takes his daily marching orders from Tehran. They write "It’s an open secret that Karzai, while squirreling away billions of dollars of U.S. aid, has been collaborating with Iran’s ayatollahs on ways to blow up the NATO soldiers who have spent fruitless years trying to meld Afghanistan’s collection of 14th century tribes into a functioning democracy". Of course, this illustrates the futility of using our troops for nation-building and peacekeeping; the right move would have been to send our troops in to decapitate the former Afghan government, turn the country over to the Northern Alliance, get the hell out, and let Afghans rebuild Afghanistan.
Most of the critics of the four Marines have never served in the military, never mind in combat. While I never faced hostile fire, I've read extensive accounts by those who have, and it's an experience one cannot grasp without enduring it. Every possible emotion -- fear, uncertainty, elation -- comes to the forefront, fueled by adrenalin. The letdown after a combat operation sometimes results in troops doing what we think are silly things to cope with the tension. The suggested remedy by Congressman West would be adequate accountability; these four Marines don't need to be thrown out of the service.
Considerable support for the Marines is expressed on MilitaryTimes.com and on Free Republic; opinion is more divided on Stormfront.