What those urinating Marines did was wrong, but hardly shocking in the context of what goes on in war -- especially in Afghanistan. I remember reading in a history of fighting in Waziristan that British officers were warned that if they were captured, Pushtun fighters likely would jam a sprig of camelthorn up the captive's penis and then tie him naked and spreadeagled over and anthill and leave him there to roast in the sun until he died. Given the historical memory of Afghans, I would expect that knowledge of those practices is widespread.
More next week on this issue.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.