Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) on Sunday defended the four Marines who were depicted in a viral video last week urinating on the corpses of three Taliban insurgents, arguing “what’s really disturbing to me is just, kind of, the over-the-top rhetoric from this administration and their disdain for the military.”

“Obviously, 18, 19-year-old kids make stupid mistakes all too often, and that’s what’s occurred here,” the Republican presidential candidate told Candy Crowley on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “But, you know, when you’re in war, and history kind of backs up — there’s a picture of General Patton doing basically the same thing in the Rhine River. And although there’s not a picture, Churchill did the same thing on the Siegfried line.”

This image made on Thursday from undated video posted on the Internet on Wednesday shows men in U.S. Marine combat gear, standing in a semi-circle over three bodies. (AP)

U.S. law and the Geneva Conventions forbid the desecration of dead bodies. But Perry argued Sunday that the three Marines’ alleged actions did not amount to a crime.

“I mean, these kids made a mistake, there’s not any doubt about it,” he said. “They shouldn’t have done it. It’s bad. But to call it a criminal act, I think, is over the top.”

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has called the incident “utterly deplorable” and has pledged to investigate it, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said that the Marines’ alleged actions “erode the reputation of our joint force.”

“The idea that this administration would go after these young people for a criminal act — again, I think it is over the top,” Perry said when asked how the incident should be handled. “Did they make a mistake? Absolutely. Should they be reprimanded and appropriately punished? Yes. But going after them as a criminal act, I think -- really bad message.”

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