The Defense Department has identified the four Marines who urinated on dead Taliban soldiers in an infamous video that turned up this week. The military may charge the Marines with war crimes, though a final decision has not been made.

As investigators begin the job of determining who is guilty of what crime, the Marines are asking themselves a more basic question: “what made these guys think they could get away with this?”

The four Marines pictured in the video were members of a 1,000-man battalion which recently completed a combat tour in Afghanistan and returned to Camp LeJuene, North Carolina, where they apparently started showing the video around as a war trophy [...]

According to Secretary of State Clinton, they all could be party to a war crime.

“Anyone, anyone found to have participated or know about it, having engaged in such conduct, must be held fully accountable,” Clinton said Thursday.

It’s comforting, in a macabre way, to find something that can generate outrage, even faux outrage, among our leadership. Apparently there still is a line that cannot be crossed. It’s not the indiscriminate murder of alleged enemies, not the murder by air through unmanned aerial assaults, it’s the urination after that crosses that line. Good to know. But will these Marines face war crimes charges, or just a court martial? That remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, this attempt to cast this off as stress-related reads to me as pathetic.

The answer to why Marines decided to urinate on dead bodies in Afghanistan could lie in the adrenaline-charged nature of combat and coping with the stresses of war, which can make behavior incredibly unpredictable, experts say.

Then again, the Marines shown in a YouTube video just might be “idiots.”

“These could be pranksters with extremely bad taste, or they could have other, deeper issues, like PTSD. We don’t know,” Eugenia Weiss, a military psychologist at the University of Southern California, told msnbc.com.

If you want to stretch and say that this is a by-product of PTSD – I don’t know, watching the video, the word “stress” is pretty far from my mind – I still think that problem comes from putting soldiers in an unwinnable situation for years, with continued deployments, no sense of who the enemy is, defending a corrupt and weak central government, with no end in sight. That’s a problem that accompanies our imperialist foreign policy. As long as there have been empires, there have been atrocities of this nature.