Brutality is a fact of war. America’s enemies have long practiced it, and so in some instances have our troops. None of that makes it any easier to stomach, so U.S. officials’ outrage about an incident in Afghanistan that allegedly involved Camp Lejeune-based Marines is genuine.

Urinating on Taliban corpses — if what a video purports to show is in fact the case — violates military rules and legal codes.

If the allegations prove out, punishments are in order — something that sets the U.S. military above many of its foes.

Bad conduct by our troops also complicates the U.S. mission in the entire region.

Yes, that mission involves killing the enemy; but it also means gaining trust and respect among the Muslim population. That is why our defense secretary and the secretary of state spoke out so quickly and strongly, and why our troops must keep the big picture — not gloating videos — always in mind.

— The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C., Jan. 13