WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned troops Friday that it takes just seconds for misconduct to make headlines and said that enemy insurgents can use recent military scandals to fuel their fight.
Speaking to soldiers at Fort Benning, Ga., where Panetta began his military career as an Army lieutenant nearly 50 years ago, the defense chief delivered a personal plea, urging troops to honor their military values.
“These days, it takes only seconds – seconds – for a picture, a photo, to suddenly become an international headline,” Panetta said. “And those headlines can impact the mission that we’re engaged in, they can put your fellow service members at risk, they can hurt morale, they can damage our standing in the world, and they can cost lives.”
The message, which many military leaders have also been pushing, reflects a growing concern about the broader effects of the widely publicized episodes: the mistaken burning of Qurans, images of Marines urinating on Afghan insurgents’ corpses, and photos showing U.S. soldiers posing with Afghan police holding the severed legs of a suicide bomber.
This is the first time Panetta has personally pressed the issue during a troop visit.