Fury as US Marines fly SS flag on Afghan tour
TEN US Marines were photographed in Afghanistan with a flag bearing a symbol associated with the Nazi SS in a case the Marine Corps called "a naive mistake".
Reports of the incident followed the internet release of a video showing Marines urinating on dead Taliban fighters, a case that brought condemnation from US officials and a military investigation.
The photo with the SS flag was taken in September 2010 in Helmand Province, when members of a sniper unit based at Camp Pendleton, California, posed for a photo with a flag showing the letters 'SS' in the shape of jagged lightning bolts.
While the photo has been circulating on the internet for months, a protest yesterday from an advocacy group brought attention to it.
The Marines weren't charged with any crime or disciplined because they didn't understand the Nazi connotation and thought 'SS' was short for 'scout sniper' -- the elite Marine unit in which they serve, said Marines spokesman Mark Oliva.
"They didn't know what the 'SS' stood for," Oliva said. "They had no idea it actually connected them to a Nazi-related organisation."
The Nazi SS was responsible for murdering millions of Jews and others in the Holocaust.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which describes itself as a civil rights group, sent a letter to Marine Corps Commandant General James Amos seeking an investigation.
The inspector general for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force investigated the flag incident last year and determined there was no malicious intent.