The U.S. Marine Corps is sorry that ten of its members posed with a Nazi SS flag in Afghanistan, then posted the pictures on a blog. It was all an innocent misunderstanding, a military spokesperson tells the Associated Press:

Master Gunnery Sgt. Mark Oliva, a spokesman at Camp Pendleton, California, 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.

Oliva said the investigation found that the SS symbol was meant to identify the Marines as scout snipers, not Nazis, but it was nonetheless not acceptable.

Is that possible? I guess the SS symbol looks sort of like a metal band logo, and if you didn't pay attention during history class or the Nazi scenes in Indiana Jones, maybe you wouldn't know? But then how you end up acquiring Schutzstaffel flag? Unless our men in uniform sewed the flag themselves, you'd think the whole "Please make your check out to Nazi Memorabilia 'R' Us" thing would have tipped them off.

And then there is the matter of an SS decal on this Marine's rifle, which Military Religious Freedom—the watchdog that first highlighted the SS flag image—also provides.

The images initially appeared on the blog of weaponry manufacturer Knight's Armament Company. The post has since been edited to remove the SS references, but a cached version shows that same dubious explanation for the photos submitted by members of the unit: "The 'SS' flag has been adopted and used by the Marines in referrence to 'Scout Sniper.'" [AP, MRC, KAC]

Update: KAC flack Jon Oxford comments on the photos: "This blog post was about a Marine Sniper and his experience with our weapon platform. The photographs are the property of the Marine and any information specific to himself or his unit came from the Marine." Noting he is not in touch with these men, Oxford concludes, "We have removed the picture after hearing from many of your fellow journalists this afternoon. I applaud you for being web savvy enough to pull up a cached version of our page. I hope things are well and please take care."