A panel of Marine colonels recommends that an officer be forcibly discharged for his role supervising a sniper team shown in a video urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.
The colonels, who found Capt. James V. Clement’s performance of duty substandard, made their ruling on Thursday after a three-day hearing at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Va., The Associated Press reported.
Clement was the only officer to face criminal charges in the widely circulated video that came at a volatile time in U.S.-Afghan relations.
Two lieutenant generals must still review the recommendation and determine whether Clement will be given an honorable discharge, the AP reported.
The video shows four Marines urinating on the bodies of three Afghans in July 2011. One of the Marines looks down at the bodies and jokes, "Have a good day, buddy."
The surfacing of the video on YouTube in January 2012 caused outrage in the Middle East and widespread condemnation. It was denounced as “deplorable” by then U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and “inhuman” by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Clement’s civilian defense attorney, John M. Dowd, told the AP that Clement was a victim of political correctness and improper meddling by Pentagon officials. Clement, who was not physically present during the urination incident but was a radio operator during the patrol, will try to overturn the decision, Dowd said.
"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 told the AP, pointing out that 12 enemy combatants were killed with no Marine casualties.
Dowd argued that Clement was in no position to monitor the snipers because he was manning the radio intensively for the some four hours of the patrol, the Marine Corps Times reported.
Three Marines, all members of the Third Battalion, Second Marine Regiment or units attached to them, accepted plea agreements in August 2012 and were punished for "violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for their role in the desecration and filming of deceased Taliban," a Marine Corp statement said.
Those three -- Staff Sgt. Edward W. Deptola, Staff Sgt. Joseph W. Chamblin and Sgt. Robert W. Richards – were reduced in rank, among other punishments.
Five other Marines received punishment through non-judicial means, the AP reported.
The video went viral on YouTube at about the same time as other incidents that outraged many Afghans, including a deadly riot over the burning of Muslim holy books at Bagram Air Base, photos with insurgent remains and the massacre of 16 Afghan villagers by Sgt. Robert Bales.
Jim Miklaszewski, Courtney Kube and Daniel Arkin of NBC News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
First published October 17 2013, 6:23 PM