By Daniel Scheschkewitz
A video showing US soldiers urinating on the bodies of Taliban fighters has provoked much anger. Concern about the international consequences is rising in the Pentagon. Rightly so, says DW's Daniel Scheschkewitz.
America's image in the world was forever tarnished by shocking pictures that emerged from the Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq. US soldiers were shown torturing and humiliating Iraqi prisoners, undermining all moral justification for the war against dictator Saddam Hussein. Humiliating pictures from Guantanamo had already raised concerns as to whether the US was treating prisoners of war correctly. And now this.
Desecration a war crime
The ostentatious desecration of dead Taliban fighters in Afghanistan is a bitter setback for US efforts to improve its tarnished image in the world. It is a slap in the face for President Barack Obama, whose first term in office has been marked by serious attempts to build bridges with Islam. It is also fodder for those forces which doubt the West's operations in Afghanistan are about human rights. The desecration of a body not only violates the Geneva Convention but all codes of civil behavior, regardless of culture or religion.
Daniel Scheschkewitz thinks Obama should say sorry
The soldiers' disgraceful behavior is not only embarrassing for the US as a whole but for those Western powers which wanted to help develop a society in Afghanistan where human dignity and the rights of the individual were respected. It is thus all the more surprising that the video has only now reached the public realm, just as negotiations, which Germany is involved in, are currently underway with the Taliban to lay the foundations for Afghanistan's secure and peaceful future.
Those against the negotiations will only be confirmed in their views. The obscene video is a perfect opportunity for the Taliban to fuel hatred against America and recruit more forces for their fight. It will be a welcome gift of propaganda because such excesses show foreign soldiers not as protectors but as enemy occupiers.
Discrete attempts to come to a political agreement with the insurgents might be nipped in the bud despite the surprisingly reserved reactions on part of the Taliban leadership. The moderate forces among the insurgents know all about the power of pictures.
Their explosive capacity extends well beyond Afghanistan and once again undermines the moral motivation behind the worldwide "war on terror." Jihadis all over the world will use this video to legitimize their attacks.
Gesture of regret
This will not be changed by the harsh punishment of the perpetrators, who have already been identified, even if all means of military justice are used against them. The damage is irreparable. Abu Ghraib is repeating itself in Afghanistan.
Not much seems to have been learnt from the cases in Iraq. The lack of discipline among some US soldiers deployed abroad has reached shocking dimensions. President Barack Obama has to acknowledge this. He has to be angry. And it is not enough to carry out appropriate measures within his ranks. He has to apologize for his soldiers’ disgraceful behavior towards the Afghan population - as soon as possible.