By Syeda Khan
The ever so popular (more infamous) video of US Marines urinating on dead Taliban bodies has been receiving strong disapproval by everyone- from the top US military officials to President Barack Obama.
According to the Christian Science Monitor, the US Marines have promised two separate investigations for this incident. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has also mentioned that “Those found to have engaged in such conducts will be held accountable to the fullest extent.”
However, according to military law experts, there is strong language as well as a full investigation being launched from the Pentagon.
According to Christopher Swift of the University of Virginia Center for National Law, one of the reasons why crimes committed in Iraq and Afghanistan have been lacking in investigation is because of a disconnect that has been going on between military, laws and the policies that the Pentagon is following as it wages war in Afghanistan and Iraq. The top U.S. military officials are aware that there will be a devastating impact on the public reception, as charges like these are difficult to prosecute. Looking at the military law, there is a high point to prove that these soldiers and Marines were just doing what they were doing with purposely bad intentions.
An example of a previous light sentence is 2005 in Hadhita, Iraq, where two dozen Iraqis were killed including innocent women and children. Eight US troops went on trial for this manslaughter, and of those eight, one squad member was found not guilty while six others had their cases dropped. On top of that, three officers were rebuked for failing to report these killings.
Another well known case with a light sentence involves the Iraq War. This deals with Abu Ghraib, where eleven troops were charged with urinating on detainees. The charges they faced were three months of hard labor to 10 years in prison. Although one of the specialists, Charles Grane, received a 10 year sentence, he was paroled in August after only serving six years. In most cases, lower level troops are more likely to be prosecuted then higher level troops. According to Swift cases such as these are a result of failure to command responsibility.
Because many troops are under an incredible amount of stress after several deployments, the command climate to uphold laws of war becomes important. Such laws exist to protect the innocent, but also to protect the troops from the dehumanizing effects that war can have on soldiers that are authorized to use violence to carry out policy for the US government. Basically, according to Swift, it is fine to kill an enemy, but it is not okay to defile the body. It is okay to kill the enemy on the battle field, but not to mistreat them when they are in custody. The laws exist not only to regulate conduct, but to preserve integrity of the troops that are fighting in the wars.
In my opinion, such actions are not justifiable, regardless of emotional stresses. Those soldiers were clearly conscious of what they were doing and should be held more accountable for their actions. They are representing the American people and are regarded as highly honorable members of society. There is nothing remotely honorable about what these soldiers have done to those they have killed. Nothing at all.