By Barbara Starr
Update: Perry repeated his accusation in Monday night's debate.
The quick response from the U.S. military and the Obama administration to condemn the Marines in that now infamous video has some, including a Republican presidential candidate, questioning if this was unfair to those involved.
The video of the four Marines urinating on bodies that may be Taliban fighters has resulted in a military investigation that could lead to criminal charges against the Marines.
"What is really disturbing to me is just, kind of, the over-the-top rhetoric from this administration and their disdain for the military," said Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry on CNN's State of the Union. "I mean, these kids made a mistake. There's not any doubt about it. They shouldn't have done it. It's bad. But to call it a criminal act, I think, is over the top."
One Marine Corps colonel, a veteran of Iraq, condemned the act, but thought there were just too many statements of outrage from too many high ranking officials including Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the commandant of the Marine Corps and the top commanders in Afghanistan and other high ranking administration officials.
"Young Marines have been doing stupid things forever, and they will keep doing them. Are we overreacting by having all these high level folks put out statements of outrage?" the colonel wondered. The colonel would only speak if no name was used.
Another colonel, a combat veteran of Helmand province in Afghanistan, where the four Marines are believed to have done their deed, was blunt in a different way but also spoke to me only if no named was used because the colonel was not authorized to speak to the media,
"I would have court martialed them right away," snapped the colonel.
One of the most respected pro-military voices in Congress, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said he had no problem with the Marine Corps looking into the possibility of criminal charges.
"I don't object to the commandant of the Marine Corps looking into this. It's a breakdown in discipline, is what it is," McCain told Candy Crowley on CNN's State of the Union. He added that in the U.S. military "we don't lower ourselves to the level of the enemy."
So who's right? Has the response been too much?
Legally there isn't room for debate. The matter has to be investigated. Under the Geneva Conventions and laws governing warfare, the appropriate treatment of war dead, as well as wounded and captured personnel, is an absolute requirement. A major reason for this is every country, including the United States, wants its troops correctly treated, therefore it must do the same for everyone else. If this is not adhered to, how can you object the next time U.S. bodies are desecrated as they were when dead troops were dragged through Mogadishu?
In fact, legal experts say, a violation of the Geneva Conventions could be considered a war crime.
And if the troops didn't know that, then there are their own regulations. For years, U.S. troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan have operated under the so-called "General Order #1," which governs personal behavior in the war zone. No drinking, no pornography and no desecration and taking pictures of dead bodies.
So the question now for the Marine Corps is what to do about all of this? Throw the book at these young troops to make an example of them? Put them in jail? Or just discharge them, ending their careers?
Senior officials have said they are concerned about adverse Islamic reaction around the world, reaction that has yet to actually emerge. If it does in the coming days, will the punishment be more severe? If there is little reaction, will they just quietly go away?