SAN DIEGO (The Blaze/AP) -- The Marine Corps confirmed Thursday that one of its scout sniper teams in Afghanistan posed for a photograph in front of a flag with a logo resembling that of the notorious Nazi SS.
Use of the SS symbol is not acceptable, and the Marine Corps has addressed the issue, Lt. Col. Stewart Upton said in a statement. However, he did not specify what action was taken.
Upton said the Marines in the photograph on an Internet blog are no longer with the unit they were assigned to at the time. The picture was taken in September 2010 in Sangin province, Afghanistan.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation in Washington said it was outraged by the photograph and wants a full investigation.
Here's the picture in question:
A description under the picture, which was originally published on the Knight's Armament Blog back in May 2011, reads, in part:
Group picture is of the 1st Recon BN Charlie Co. in Sangin, Afghanistan in support of 3rd BN 5th Marines in September of 2010. The “SS” flag has been adopted and used by the Marines in referrence to “Scout Sniper.”
Mikey Weinstein of the foundation said he has been flooded with calls from former Marines offended by the photo and from one member of his organization who is an Auschwitz survivor.
"Heads need to roll and this needs to be fully investigated. This is a complete and total outrage," he said.
Weinstein said his organization was sending a letter to the head of the Marine Corps and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
Master Gunnery Sgt. Mark Oliva, a spokesman at Camp Pendleton, Calif., said the photo was brought to the attention of the 1 Marine Expeditionary Force inspector general in November, and he found there was no intent on the part of the Marines to identify themselves with a racist organization.
The Anti-Defamation League describes the symbol as follows:
Nazi symbol signifying the Schutzstaffel (SS), Heinrich Himmler’s police forces, whose members ranged from agents of the Gestapo to soldiers of the Waffen SS to the guards at concentration and death camps. [...]
The symbol is frequently seen in neo-Nazi tattoos and graffiti and characterizes the beliefs of neo-Nazis and racist skinheads – violence, anti-Semitism, white supremacy and fascism.
Oliva said the investigation found that the SS symbol was meant to identify the Marines as scout snipers, not Nazis, but was nonetheless not acceptable.
This is the second time this year the Marine Corps has had to do damage control for actions of its troops.
The Marine Corps is currently investigating a group of Marines recorded on video urinating on the dead bodies of Taliban fighters. Those Marines were based at Camp Lejune, N.C.