New York, NY, February 10, 2012 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) praised the U.S. Marine Corps and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta for taking "clear and immediate steps" in response to a photograph on the Internet of a sniper team in Afghanistan posing in front of a flag bearing the symbol of the Nazi SS.
After the League spoke out earlier today, U.S. Marines Commandant Gen. James F. Amos contacted Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, by telephone to apologize to the Jewish community for the hurt that this ignorance and insensitivity may have caused. The Commandant made unequivocally clear that the Marine Corps does not condone and will not tolerate the use of Nazi symbols or imagery.
Mr. Panetta's office also reached out to ADL and issued a statement denouncing the conduct of the unit involved and saying: "Racist and anti-Semitic symbols have absolutely no place alongside the men and women of America's armed forces."
Mr. Foxman issued the following statement:
We are pleased that the Marines swiftly condemned the behavior, set up a structure to investigate and expunge the use of SS and other offensive or racist symbols in the military, and to ensure that it does not happen again.
The Marines and Defense Department have made clear that they are taking clear and immediate steps in response to this incident and to ensure that troops are appropriately sensitized in the future to all of the reasons why Nazi imagery and symbols have no place in the U.S. Armed Services.
The Marines have assured us that they are taking strong steps to ensure that the incident was dealt with appropriately. Now the task is to ensure that the next generation of Marines is exposed to the universal lessons of the Holocaust and for the military to institute policies and training for service personnel to address the problem of extremism in the Armed Services as well as to recognize and stop the use of hate symbols like this. It is vital for our nation's military to implement standard, service-wide training in order to recognize hate symbols and detect extremists in the military.
Gen. Amos assured ADL he has ordered an investigation to make sure that SS or other unauthorized symbols are not being used by any other units, and has asked the commanding general of the training and education command to review the sniper school curriculum to ensure there are prohibitions in place on the use of SS and other inappropriate symbols.
In the past ADL has worked closely with the Department of Defense to ensure that there is an understanding and sensitivity to the universal lessons of the Holocaust. To that purpose, ADL and the DOD jointly developed a comprehensive guide called "Days of Remembrance" issued in 1988 and re-issued 1989. The 144-page guide opened with a letter from then-President George H.W. Bush to the armed forces addressing their observation of the days of remembrance and a statement from the secretary of defense.