GOP lawmaker cautions Panetta against harsh punishment for urinating Marines

A Republican House member and Marine veteran sent a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta Wednesday urging caution against an over-the-top punishment of the Marines who were videotaped allegedly urinating on Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) said the actions of the Marines were wrong and that they should be disciplined, but he said they should not face a punishment “for the purpose of making a statement to our partners in the region.”

“What is particularly concerning to me, as a Marine who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, is the reported potential legal focus of the investigation and your promise that the Marines in question will be ‘held accountable to the fullest extent,’ which would include prison time under military law,” Hunter wrote.

Hunter’s comments echoed remarks last week from Texas Gov. Rick Perry — who on Thursday dropped his bid for the GOP presidential nomination — that the Marines in the video were “kids,” and criminal punishment would be too harsh.

Panetta and other U.S. officials, as well as Afghan President Hamid Karzai, denounced the video after it surfaced and went viral last week. The Pentagon has launched an investigation and identified the four Marines who were shown in the video.

Hunter, a retired Marine who served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, said the realities of military combat can be difficult — if not impossible — to explain. He wrote that “most people will never know what our Marines endure unless they see it or experience it for themselves.”

“In the case of the video, we do not know the full extent of the situation or the shared experiences of these Marines,” Hunter wrote. “We owe it to these individuals and others, who put their lives on the line every day, to take into account the extraordinary conditions and danger they face when judging their actions, and put things into proper context.”