Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s senior commander today advised NATO soldiers to treat Afghan corpses with “appropriate dignity and respect” as he sought to contain the international fallout from a video that allegedly shows four Marines urinating on Taliban bodies.
“We must treat the living and the dead with dignity and respect,” CNN quoted from the directive in which Scaparrotti advised troops to follow the rules of armed conflict and “act honorably at all times.
“In order to prevail, for the good of the coalition nations and the Afghan people, we can do no less.”
Scaparrotti’s task in addressing the Marine video parallels one of his assignments during the 10 months he spent at Lewis-McChord before his deployment to Afghanistan as the war’s No. 2 commander.
At Lewis-McChord, Scaparrotti was charged with overseeing the courts-martial of five Stryker soldiers who were accused of killing three Afghan civilians in combat-like scenarios. Four of them have since been convicted of murder or manslaughter, and one of the accused soldiers is due in court in March.
Seven others from the platoon have been convicted of other wrongdoing, including charges of assaulting a private or using drugs during their deployment with Lewis-McChord’s 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.
The so-called “kill team” soldiers posed for photos with their victims, and the images were published in Der Spiegel and Rolling Stone magazines last March – nine months after the Army arrested the five murder suspects and launched its investigation.
The Marine video, by contrast, was posted to a public web site this week before the military command learned of it. The Marines reportedly have been identified and face discipline.
Scaparrotti at Lewis-McChord ordered a command investigation into the leadership of the soldiers in the rogue “kill team” platoon. It resulted in administrative discipline against officers and noncommissioned officers up the chain of command to brigade leader Col. Harry Tunnell.
Scaparrotti kept his remarks about the investigation neutral because he was expected to remain impartial. He told The News Tribune last year, “Obviously it’s an important part of what I do, and I provide the time it requires. That’s about all I can say about that.
“We represent the American people and the Constitution. As a commander, I’m responsible to make sure we uphold those ideals and laws. Due process is one of them, and I’ll make sure our service members enjoy that right.”