Nightly News   |  January 12, 2012

U.S. Marine video 'insane', says Afghan president

NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski on the ramifications of the video that allegedly shows marines urinating on corpses.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> good evening. if you have a combat veteran in your household or your family, perhaps they can tell what you happens over there. what happens to young men who volunteer for duty at 18 years of age and find themselves in withering daily combat, fighting an insurgency in an unforgiving place. sometimes over multiple combat tours. while that's some of the context of what the u.s. marine corps is dealing with right now, it doesn't begin to address or explain the pictures that the u.s. secretary of defense today called utterly deplorable. it's a web video showing american marines urinating on the bodies of the enemy and providing commentary along the way. it is a terrible and potentially disastrous image for the u.s. around the world. we begin tonight for this widening problem for the pentagon. our correspondent there jim miklazewski on duty tonight. jim , good evening.

>> reporter: brian, the marine corps has one word for this video, disgusting. the four marines in the video have been identified. two are in custody at camp lejeune in north carolina . the two others were previously assigned to other units. tonight, one of them may even be back in afghanistan . the video first posted on the internet sent shock waves around the world. it shows four u.s. marines in full combat gear urinating on the bodies of three dead militants. at one point the marines can be heard joking about their antics. they were part of a sniper team deployed to afghanistan . two are being questioned by naval investigators. within hours after the video surfaced, game in avalanche of condemnations. the state department today, secretary of state hillary clinton called the video deplorable.

>> it is absolutely inconsistent with american values , with the standards of behavior we expect from our military personnel.

>> reporter: there is deep concern this video could create a serious backlash against the u.s. military in afghanistan . president hamid karzai today called it an insane act and demanded those involved be severely punished. this afghan fears the marines' actions could undermine any u.s. peace efforts, and quote, increase the misery in our country. the taliban has already pounced on the controversy.

>> the enemy gets a vote here, too. we've already seen them react with statements about how offended they are by this and how they might lash out as a result.

>> reporter: but how in a military unit as disciplined as the marines, could this happen?

>> these people are in day-to-day brutal combat. they're young. they turn into animals if you're not careful.

>> reporter: the four marines face serious criminal charges, including desecration of remains. if court-martialed and convicted, they could face jail time.

>> incredibly troubling story out of the pentagon. jim miklazewski reporting for us. thanks.