Allen B. West

Political expediency corrupts military justice in Marines’ Taliban incident

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More than two years after a group of Marines were filmed urinating on dead Taliban bodies, the incident has caused a firestorm within the Marine Corps.

According to an article written by disabled Vietnam veteran Marine Daniel Cortez in the Stafford County (VA) Sun, the decisions regarding how the Marines should be reprimanded and the extent of their punishment have reverberated through the Corps and threaten to end the career of more than one senior officer.

The story centers around the actions of the commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James F. Amos, who Cortez feels “has violated the sacred trust of his office and Virginia leathernecks know about it”. I personally know the Commandant and have found him to be an upstanding man when he testified before the House Armed Services Committee, and on occasions when I have seen him at social events, he is a personable leader.

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However, what Cortez describes is quite disturbing. After the July 2011 incident, a total of eight Marines were disciplined per regulations of the Uniformed Code for Military Justice. Cortez reports:

Initially that judgment fell to Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, the convening authority at the time whose job was to dispense justice. But Amos wanted more intensive punishment, and demanded those Marines be “crushed.” According to legal documents, Amos suggested Waldhauser provide harsher discipline by having the Marines face court martials.

Waldhauser was subsequently removed by the Commandant. But there are disturbing allegations that Amos made misleading written responses under oath about his actions to have Waldhauser agree to have the Marines discharged punitively. One of Quantico’s legal officers, Maj. James Weirick, saw this as a clear miscarriage of justice and a violation of Marine’s rights and filed a complaint to the DOD inspector general alleging “unlawful command influence. “ However after filing the report, Weirick was also relieved of his duties and forced to take a mental evaluation.

Cortez sums it up this way,

“These Marines who sadly erred deserved punishment. But that punishment was clearly prejudiced by the overreach of their commandant. Eventually Weirick may be forced to retire and others probably denied reenlistment. Nationally, the Marine Corps’ good name has been tarnished and recruiting may suffer. What parent in their right mind would want to send their sons or daughters to a service commanded by an officer whose actions in the name of political expediency destroy the morale and esprit de corps of America’s premier fighting force?”

For the record, here’s what I told Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard in January 2012 regarding the appropriate punishment for these Marines:

“I have sat back and assessed the incident with the video of our Marines urinating on Taliban corpses. I do not recall any self-righteous indignation when our Delta snipers Shugart and Gordon had their bodies dragged through Mogadishu. Neither do I recall media outrage and condemnation of our Blackwater security contractors being killed, their bodies burned, and hung from a bridge in Fallujah. All these over-emotional pundits and armchair quarterbacks need to chill. Does anyone remember the two Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division who were beheaded and gutted in Iraq? The Marines were wrong. Give them a maximum punishment under field grade level Article 15 (non-judicial punishment), place a General Officer level letter of reprimand in their personnel file, and have them in full dress uniform stand before their Battalion, each personally apologize to God, Country, and Corps videotaped and conclude by singing the full US Marine Corps Hymn without a teleprompter. As for everyone else, unless you have been shot at by the Taliban, shut your mouth, war is hell.”

Could it be that the undue command influence from Gen. Amos actually emanated from the politically-guided office of the President, the Commander-in-Chief, Barack Obama?

Yes, I do get frustrated with senior officers who are not willing to stand up and take on this president and his destructive social egalitarian and capability-reducing policies that are placing our men and women in uniform at risk.

However, I believe there is something grander at play here.

The real question is, what parent in their right mind would want to send their sons and daughters to serve under the command of Barack Obama? Perhaps, if we had someone in the White House who had served in or alongside the Marines, someone who had served in Afghanistan and Iraq and knew the sting of an AK-47, then perhaps the aforementioned recommendation for punishment would have ended this case – and Cortez would not have had to write his story.

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