Marines name general to handle video probes
WASHINGTON — The Marine Corps on Friday laid the groundwork for deciding what, if any, disciplinary action will be taken in the case of an Internet video purporting to show Marine snipers urinating on dead bodies in Afghanistan.
The top Marine officer, Gen. James Amos, appointed three-star Gen. Thomas Waldhauser to oversee the case. Waldhauser named another officer to do an internal Marine Corps investigation, which is in addition to a criminal probe under way by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
Waldhauser will decide what to do as a result of the investigations.
In Afghanistan, a senior US commander issued a letter to all personnel in the international coalition that is fighting the war, explicitly reminding them of the need to respect the dead. The letter from Army Lt. Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, commander of the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command, reflected the depth of concern about fallout from the video.
“Defiling, desecrating, mocking, photographing or filming for personal use insurgent dead constitutes a grave breach of the LOAC (laws of armed conflict), violate basic standards of human decency and can cause serious damage to relations with the Afghan government,” Scaparrotti wrote. He ordered all commanders to remind their subordinates of their duty to comply.
No one has been charged in the case, which triggered widespread outrage with the appearance Wednesday on YouTube of a brief video that appears to show four Marines in full combat gear urinating on the bodies of three dead men lying on the ground.
Marine Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, condemned the behavior and said in a statement Friday while he was traveling in the U.S. that the facts in the case should be determined swiftly.
“These actions are in direct opposition to everything the military stands for,” Allen said after viewing the video. “Such acts in no way reflect the high moral standards and values we expect of our armed forces on a daily basis.”
Pentagon officials worry that the actions depicted in the video will tarnish the reputation of the entire military. Some officials have expressed fear that it could undermine prospects for exploratory Afghan peace talks.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and military leaders have promised an exhaustive investigation and sought to contain the damage at home and abroad.
It said Waldhauser will “exercise his independent judgment” and decide how to handle “any allegations of wrongdoing.”
Waldhauser appointed a three-star general, Steven Hummer, to lead the internal Marine Corps investigation. The probe will look into the question of what prompted the four Marines’ behavior, said one officer, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to discuss an internal matter. That will include examining whether the Corps’ current training and education on the laws of warfare are adequate, the officer said.
A second officer, also speaking privately to discuss an internal matter, said investigators will consider whether more senior Marines, such as the commander of the four Marines' battalion, failed to ensure a climate of proper discipline. The four who appeared in the video are enlisted Marines. Their exact ranks have not been made public.
The NCIS, the law enforcement arm of the Navy, is heading the main inquiry, which is expected to consider evidence of violations of the U.S. military legal code as well as the international laws of warfare.