The video: In a scandal that ignited instant global disgust, a "disturbing" video has emerged online showing what appears to be a group of four uniformed U.S. Marine snipers urinating on the corpses of three Taliban fighters. "Have a great day, buddy," one of the Marines says. Afghan President Hamid Karzai branded the scene "completely inhuman." (See the clip below.) U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta promised a prompt and thorough investigation, calling the still-unauthenticated video "utterly deplorable." The scandal could not have come at a more sensitive time — the U.S. is trying to promote reconciliation between the Afghan government and the Taliban as foreign troops slowly withdraw. Obama administration officials scrambled to contain the diplomatic damage. Taliban leaders said the images were "shameful," but wouldn't derail efforts to start peace talks.
The reaction: This is "an outrage that unfairly taints our entire military effort," say the Baltimore Sun in an editorial. It could "upend years of progress" by bolstering our enemies — just like the infamous photos of abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison did — and thwart "our efforts to end the war in Afghanistan with honor." Leave it to the shallow American outrage machine to get "all inflamed over the least bad thing that soldiers do in war," says Hamilton Nolan at Gawker. You know what's worse than having someone pee on your corpse? Getting killed in the first place, or having your limbs blown off, or watching your children get blown up in their beds. Maybe that's why the initial reaction was more intense here than in Afghanistan, says Spencer Ackerman at Wired. "Afghans — who've lived through 30 years of war with Russians, Americans, and rival Afghan factions — just might not be so surprised by a videotaped outrage anymore." Watch for yourself: