Amid growing reports of possible negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban, a video reminiscent of the Abu Grahib prison scandal has emerged. The video, showing Marines urinating on fighters and laughing, is pretty self explanatory. Former Taliban ambassador, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, who has acted as a spokesman for the group, has expressed his outrage over the video. He was also quick to point out that this was not an isolated incident. Der Spiegel recently exposed a group of soldiers operating a veritable death squad in Afghanistan.
The effect this will have right now on negotiations will most likely be a negative one. Images like this are a media coup for a group such as the Taliban. It is easy to see why; it is pretty abhorrent behavior. Many in the armed services will defend, or rather excuse these actions, as a manifestation of the horrors of war. That probably is the case. But during a time when the notion of “American exceptionalism” is bandied about constantly, it is hard to defend when viewing images such as these. For those who will defend it by saying “who cares their Taliban” are perhaps the most despicable. If a similar video of Taliban fighters emerged, members of Congress would be demanding that the ICC issues arrest warrants for war crimes.
Conversely, hearing the Taliban decry the video and the actions of the Marines in laughable. For a group with arguably one of the worst human rights records to cry foul is hypocritical at best.
The biggest loser in this new scandal will be neither the Taliban or NATO forces, but instead the Afghan people. Inevitably they will be the ones caught between the cross fire that will ensue over the video. Even for those who loath the Taliban still view those fighters as Afghan’s whose bodies should be treated with respect. The often simplistic phrase “this is why they hate us” comes to mind.