Marine Corps officials on Thursday brushed off allegations by a defense lawyer that the Corps was bowing to “political hysteria” in ordering a court-martial for the only officer facing charges over the video showing troops urinating on Taliban corpses in Afghanistan.
Capt. James Clement will face a special court-martial on two charges in connection to the YouTube video that was posted in January 2012 of Marine scout snipers urinating on the corpses of dead Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.
“The allegations against Capt. Clement are the result of a thorough investigation into the facts and circumstances of the case,” said Col. Sean Gibson, a Marine spokesman.
John Dowd, Clement’s lawyer, charged that the referral of Clement’s case to a special court-martial was “the product of an effort by the Marine Corps leadership to force a plea to nonjudicial punishment to satisfy the political hysteria flowing from the ‘urination cases,’ ” the Marine Corps Times reported.
In a statement, the Corps said that Clement will face a special court-martial, essentially a misdemeanor court that can impose penalties including up to one year in confinement, on charges of “dereliction of duty and conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman for failing to stop the misconduct of junior Marines.” A trial date has yet to be announced.
Six enlisted Marines have previously accepted nonjudicial punishment or faced a special court-martial on charges involving the video of scout snipers from 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, urinating on the bodies of dead Taliban in southwestern Afghanistan’s Helmand province in July 2011. Clement was then the executive officer of Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion.
The video, in which one of the scout snipers can be heard saying “Have a great day, buddy,” was played on YouTube in January 2012, causing a political uproar and prompting then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to phone Afghan President Hamid Karzai with an apology.
Panetta called the behavior depicted in the video "entirely inappropriate for members of the United States military" and Karzai called it "completely inhumane."
Shortly after the video surfaced, Gen. James Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps, issued a statement saying "I want to be clear and unambiguous, the behavior depicted in the video is wholly inconsistent with the high standards of conduct and warrior ethos that we have demonstrated throughout our history.”
Clement went on patrol with the scout snipers as a communications officer on the day of the incident, but he has claimed he never saw the desecration of the bodies.
The Corps confirmed that Clement was offered nonjudicial punishment at an Article 32 hearing under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Clement rejected the offer in an effort to clear his name, and Lt. Gen. Richard Mills, commander of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command, then ordered the convening of a special court-martial in Clement’s case.
The investigating officer in charge of the Article 32 hearing “recommended non-judicial punishment,” the Corps said in a statement. Mills then “considered the allegations and determined that given the nature of the allegations and the surrounding facts and circumstances, a special court-martial is the appropriate forum to address this matter.”