Urinating on corpses, burning Qurans gets year off to bad start for US forces
By HEATH DRUZIN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 27, 2012
When it was discovered in February that U.S. soldiers were burning Qurans at Bagram Air Field, it not only triggered deadly riots but exposed a profound lack of cultural understanding and training 11 years into a war in which public perception is key to the mission.
It was a terrible start to the year for the international military coalition, as the discovery came just weeks after video surfaced of U.S. Marines urinating on Taliban corpses.
The 39-second video of the incident, which took place during a counterinsurgency operation in the Musa Qala district of Helmand province, received worldwide attention and prompted condemnation from top military leaders.
Staff Sgt. Joseph W. Chamblin, assigned to 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, pleaded guilty to the crime Dec. 20 at a special court-martial to “wrongfully urinating on the body of a deceased enemy combatant,” failing to properly supervise junior Marines and wrongfully posing for photographs with dead bodies, according to a Marine Corps press release.
In August, two NCOs received nonjudicial punishment after pleading guilty to several charges, including taking photographs of and posing with dead bodies, the Marine Corps said.
Days of deadly riots and reprisals shook Afghanistan after news of the Quran burnings became public, leaving scores of Afghans and foreign troops dead or injured, including two American officers shot to death inside the heavily guarded Ministry of the Interior.
The violence prompted President Barack Obama to apologize, but the incidents, especially the Quran burnings, caused a serious rift between Washington and Kabul, emboldened the Taliban and set the groundwork for future revenge attacks.
The Qurans were confiscated from prisoners held at the Parwan Detention Center at Bagram and were thought to contain extremist writings.
Despite pleas from their Afghan counterparts, U.S. troops took the Muslim holy books to a burn pit to destroy them until news of the practice became public.
Desecration of the Quran is a grave offense in Islam.
In the aftermath of the burnings and the video, Afghan President Hamid Karzai demanded that the troops responsible face trial in Afghanistan.
Air Force Brig. Gen. Veralinn Jamieson, the deputy commander of a task force that oversaw operations at the detention center, has been reassigned to the Pentagon, pending an investigation, though the Air Force would not confirm the investigation was related to the burnings.
Six soldiers involved in the burnings and three Marines involved with the video received administrative punishments.