From the American Forces Press Service:
Marines Disciplined for Taliban Desecration
WASHINGTON, Aug. 27, 2012 – Three Marines received nonjudicial punishment today for their roles in the desecration of enemy corpses in Afghanistan, the Marine Corps Combat Development Command announced.
A video posted online in January showed Marines urinating on deceased Taliban on or about July 27, 2011, during a counterinsurgency operation in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. The video went viral.
The three Marines pleaded guilty in nonjudicial punishment for their parts in the incident as part of an agreement, officials said. Lt. Gen. Richard Mills, commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, determined the punishments.
Because nonjudicial punishment is an administrative matter, the Marines’ names are not being released, officials said. All three noncommissioned officers were members of the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines or attached units.
One NCO pleaded guilty to violating a lawful general order “by wrongfully posing for an unofficial photograph with human casualties,” according to a Marine Corps Combat Development Command statement. The Marine also pleaded guilty to urinating on a deceased Taliban soldier.
Another NCO also pleaded guilty to wrongfully posing for an unofficial photograph with human casualties, and “wrongfully video recording” the incident in an action that “was prejudicial to good order and discipline.”
A staff NCO pleaded guilty to violating a lawful general order by failing to report the mistreatment of human casualties by other Marines, and making a false statement to investigators.
Officials said more disciplinary actions against other Marines will be announced later.
The fundamental emotions of people do not change; but the politics of war do. Worse desecrations by U.S. troops have happened in the past–but we generally tend to be an accountable people (witness My Lai). The fact that our enemies do not share the same values may seem like a justification for deplorable acts; but for an honorable people, they never can be. Nor can they be allowed to be.
That said, I doubt that anyone will be satisfied with this outcome. It will be too severe to some, and not severe enough for others. That also is the outcome of politics in war.
UPDATE: American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 27, 2012 – While U.S. service members in Afghanistan made mistakes in handling Qurans in February, there was no intent “to disrespect the Quran or defame Islam,” the general investigating the incident wrote in his report.
U.S. Central Command released the results of the investigation into the incident, in which Qurans removed from a library for detainees were mishandled at Bagram Airfield. Six soldiers will receive nonjudicial punishment for their parts in the incident, which sparked protests throughout Afghanistan.
The report, written by Army Brig. Gen. Bryan G. Watson, found plenty of blame to go around. Still, he stressed time and again in his report that none of the personnel involved acted maliciously.
Afghan soldiers at the facility tried to make the American soldiers understand the gravity of the situation, but they were rebuffed. “That U.S. service members did not heed the warnings of their [Afghan army] partners is, perhaps, my biggest concern,” the general wrote.
I can understand confiscating the materials. But I have to ask–why burn them? Why ignore the pleas and warnings of the Afghans? Do we really believe that those involved, those making the decisions, believed that burning was the only way to handle these materials?
Or did emotion, vengeance, retaliation enter the situation? It seems to me that our defense against lowering ourselves to a level of our enemies’ must be to remember our honor, that we are not a people, a nation, founded on lower principles, but on a higher ideal.