On July 27, 2011, when members of a Marine Scout Sniper platoon assigned to 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines made the decision to urinate on the corpses of several Taliban members, they saw it as a small payback for their fallen comrades who had been mutilated by many of those same Taliban fighters not long before in Helmand province, Afghanistan. What they did not see was the storm of controversy that would ensue once video footage of that incident was made public on January 11, 2012. Unsurprisingly, they had not intended it to be seen by the general public.
Much has been made about the incident itself, the legal process that the participants were dragged through, General James F. Amos’ dubious ties to that legal process, and the aftermath that adversely affected the lives of so many who were involved. What has been discussed very little, until now, is how that video actually saw the light of day, as well as how General Amos’ previous cover-ups should have played a bigger part in the Inspector General’s investigation of how Amos handled this case.
Amos has since gone on to hold multiple high-paying Board of Directors seats in various organizations alongside those who he has dubious ties to. Meanwhile, the lives of many Marines and their families affected by their respective cases remain shattered. So who released the video in the first place?
Shortly after the 2011 urination incident took place, the Marine responsible for videoing the act, an EOD technician attached to 3/2, was seriously injured in an IED blast. This Marine would live, but it required him being evacuated from the battlespace and taken back to the United States. Standard protocol for such an incident involves the injured Marine having his gear inventoried and packed up by a teammate. Another part of that process is typically for the wounded Marine’s laptop to be scrubbed for any sensitive material that the family may not appreciate seeing.
In this case, the Marine responsible for looking after the wounded Marines’ personal belongings happened to download and save pictures and videos from that deployment to his own computer, including the urination video. He released it. This particular EOD technician already had a poor reputation within their small, tightknit community, both in terms of his ability to operate and making sound personal decisions.
In his wake, he left countless family members grief stricken without them ever knowing of his involvement in the death or legal mire of their loved ones. The most shameful part is this Marine profited from the video by selling its rights to a media outlet for a fee of $25,000 according to several anonymous sources from the EOD community.
Also contributing to the pain of those specifically tied to the urination case, was General Amos – particularly with the allegation that he wanted the scout snipers “crushed.” The aftermath of the whole ordeal caused by the video left one scout sniper dead from prescription medication complications, eight other Marines punished by non-judicial action or court martial, and countless Marines and their families who were left to deal with a permanent blemish on their records and the shame that it brings to this day. Instead of standing up for his Marines, Amos’ first instinct was to succumb to the political pressure that the incident brought upon his organization, as he did in many other instances during his stay as Commandant of the Marine Corps. And instead of showing loyalty to his teammates, a Marine betrayed his brothers by selling their private business to the highest bidder.
What is more alarming than Marines urinating on the bodies of enemy fighters that had recently attacked their Marine brothers, is the amount of concern Amos had for appeasing the political system. This entire incident should never have seen the light of day, and the then-acting Commandant of the Marine Corps should have supported the members of that platoon instead of trying to crush them.
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