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Panetta warns U.S. troops to avoid scandals

(Xinhua)

14:25, May 05, 2012

WASHINGTON, May 4 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta warned troops Friday that military scandals could suddenly make international headlines and hurt the Afghan mission.

Panetta spoke to the servicemen at Fort Benning, Georgia, where he began his military career about 50 years ago. He urged the troops to "abide by the highest standards" and avoid military scandals which could take "only seconds to suddenly become an international headline."

"And those headlines can impact the mission that we're engaged in," he said, "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."

Panetta stressed that these incidents represent only a very small percentage of service men "who lack judgment, lack professionalism, lack leadership" but could hurt the all. He warned that the enemies will seek to use these incidents to stir hatred and incite violence against U.S. troops.

This is the first time Panetta addressed soldiers personally on this issue during a troop visit.

A series of U.S. military scandals this year were widely criticized, including the massacre of 17 Afghan civilians, the burning of Korans, a video of Marines urinating on dead insurgents and photos of soldiers posing with corpses and body parts of failed Afghan suicide bombers.

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