October 18, 2013 9:36:23 AM
QUANTICO, Va. -- A U.S. Marine Corps panel is recommending that an officer be forcibly discharged for failing to supervise a group of snipers who posed for a video while urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.
The panel of three colonels issued its ruling Thursday against Capt. James V. Clement after a three-day hearing at Marine Corps Base Quantico. The panel found Clement's performance of duty was substandard. Two lieutenant generals will now review the recommendation and determine whether Clement should be given an honorable discharge.
The video widely viewed on YouTube shows four Marines from Camp Lejeune, N.C., in full combat gear urinating on the bodies of three Afghans in July 2011. One Marine looks down at the bodies and jokes, "Have a good day, buddy."
It took place during a counterinsurgency operation in the Musa Qala district of Helmand province and caused outrage in the Middle East and received international condemnation.
Defense lawyer John M. Dowd maintains Clement, who was not present during the incident, is a victim of political correctness and improper meddling by top officials at the Pentagon.
"The action by the board is contrary to the overwhelming evidence that Capt. Clement did an outstanding job as the radio operator on a large and very dangerous sniper patrol which was a complete success," Dowd said, adding that 12 enemy combatants were killed with no Marine casualties.
Dowd said Clement will pursue all administrative and judicial remedies to overturn the decision.
Three enlisted Marines shown in the video have already been punished.
Staff Sgt. Edward W. Deptola pleaded guilty to multiple charges in January and was demoted one rank to sergeant.
Staff Sgt. Joseph W. Chamblin, who pleaded guilty in December, was reduced in rank to sergeant and fined $500.
Sgt. Robert W. Richards pleaded guilty in August and was reduced in rank to corporal.
Five other Marines were given non-judicial punishments
The urination video surfaced on YouTube around the same time as other incidents that infuriated many Afghans. American troops were caught up in controversies over burning Muslim holy books, posing for photos with insurgents' bloodied remains and an alleged massacre of 16 Afghan villagers by a soldier.
The United States now has 52,000 troops in Afghanistan. The U.S. and its NATO allies agreed in November 2010 that they would withdraw all their combat troops by the end of 2014, but they haven't decided on the scope of future missions in the country and the size of any force remaining after that.