Many Americans sit on one side of this story or the other. The one side feels that the actions of the soldiers involved were horrendous and they should have been strongly punished for it. The other side feels as though the jihadists really had it coming. To urinate on a dead body, however, is a crime in the military regardless of who agrees and who doesn’t. Three men pleaded guilty to the crime back in 2012 and were punished with 30 days in jail, docked pay, and demotions.
However, reports have surfaced that the conviction of at least one former Marine, Joseph Chamblin, has been overturned due to interference in the case by a higher-up who wanted to see the Marines “crushed.” That one word is the bullet that shot down the conviction. There is no news yet however on whether the other two Marines’ convictions will be overturned.
According to RT :
A former US Marine sentenced for urinating on the corpses of Afghans believed to be Taliban fighters in 2011 has had his conviction overturned. An appeals court ruled the Marine Commandant, who was seeking harsh punishment for those involved, had interfered in the trial.
The Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals overturned the previous ruling and all charges against Joseph Chamblin were dropped. Wednesday’s ruling comes five years after his initial trial, Military.com reported.
The infamous incident took place in July 2011 in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. Footage of it leaked to YouTube in January 2012. The video shows a group of Marines joking and laughing while urinating on three corpses, believed to be that of Taliban fighters.
“Have a nice day, buddy,” one of the men can be heard ‘telling’ a corpse.
The incident attracted prominent media coverage and was condemned by top US and Afghan officials. Then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called the Marines’ behavior “utterly deplorable” and promised an investigation, while then-Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned their actions as “inhuman.”
In December 2012, Staff Sergeant Chamblin pleaded guilty to charges of wrongful desecration, failure to properly supervise junior Marines, and posing for photographs with battlefield casualties. He was sentenced to 30 days confinement, had his pay docked, and was demoted to sergeant for participating in the incident. Staff Sergeant Edward Deptola and Sergeant Rob Richard were also convicted.
Chamblin did not express regret over the incident following his conviction stating that he would do it again given the opportunity. The urinating incident, he argued, would show aspiring jihadists their inevitable fate.
“[If] anything, it was more of a psychological effect on the enemy because if an infidel touches the body, they’re not going to Mecca or paradise,” Chamblin said. “So, now these insurgents see what happens when you mess with us.”
General Jim Amos, commandant of the US Marine Corps at the time, considered the incident very serious and urged the officers supervising the case to “crush” the offending Marines, advocating harsh punishments for them. His involvement prompted allegations of him illegally manipulating the case, triggering an investigation against Amos as well. While the Pentagon cleared the general of the charges in 2014, his perceived interference in the case was cited by the appeals court as a reason to overturn Chamblin’s conviction.
“The highest-ranking officer in the Marine Corps told [the officer, supervising the case] that the appellant and his co-accused should be ‘crushed,’” the court said, as quoted by Military.com. “This is an unusually flagrant example of UCI [unlawful command influence]. We find that UCI this direct, and occurring at this level, is highly corrosive to public trust in this proceeding.”
Citing the time that has passed since the initial trial, the court ruled to drop all charges against Chamblin instead of sending his case for a retrial.
Per Miitary.com Chamblin, who left the Marine Corps shortly after his conviction, went on to publish a book in 2015 called “Into Infamy: A Sniper’s War.”
When contacted for comment Chamblin declined to comment prior the government deciding whether to appeal the ruling, which it can do within 30 days from the date of the decision.
A total of eight Marines were punished in the fallout from the sniper scandal. Most received administrative punishments while Staff Sgt. Edward Deptola and Sgt. Rob Richards, along with Chamblin, pleaded guilty and received demotions at special court-martial proceedings.
It’s not clear if Richards’ and Deptola’s cases are also under appeal.
Richards was severely wounded in 2010 and was nominated for a Bronze Star for valor for his 2011 Afghanistan deployment. He died in 2014 at the age of 28. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
War is an ugly thing from all sides. Necessary, but ugly. Soldiers sometimes do things they wouldn’t normally do, and in some cases they feel no remorse due to feelings of the enemy deserving whatever action was taken.
Regardless, those involved were punished and did their time so to speak. The convictions being overturned now won’t change that.