Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has signed the discharge paperwork for Marine Capt. James Clement, who was recommended for separation late last year for failing to supervise Marine scout snipers who engaged in inappropriate war zone combat during a 2011 deployment to Afghanistan.
Clement was the executive officer of Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines when scout snipers attached to that unit filmed themselves urinating on enemy corpses in a video later posted to YouTube. Marine Corps Times covered Clement’s case extensively after he was charged with dereliction of duty in connection with the incident.
His defense team, led by civilian lawyer John Dowd, alleged that Marine Corps leaders had attempted to thwart their efforts by classifying materials they needed to review as they built a defense. The charges against Clement were quietly dropped last fall and he was referred to an administrative board of inquiry instead.
During the board of inquiry in October, Marine Gen. John Kelly, head of U.S. Southern Command, testified in his defense, calling him an exemplary officer who didn’t deserve the treatment he’d received.
“I can’t offer an official apology to him and his family, but I think at the end of this board, he should receive that from someone,” Kelly said the day before the board recommended that Clement be separated.
Clement was recommended for an honorable discharge from the Marine Corps Oct. 17, and quickly appealed the decision.
But Mabus finalized the board’s recommendation Wednesday in a brief memo, released at the same time as the Marines released an investigation report into the sniper incident. According to the Wall Street Journal, this March 2012 report found that discipline in the sniper unit had broken down because the snipers were seen as strong in combat and were given more latitude in their behavior. On the day of the sniper patrol during which the urination video was taken, the snipers had also engaged in other loutish conduct, according to reports.
“During that day’s mission, the Marines punctured the tires of a tractor with a knife and vandalized a water well, running the risk of alienating the local Afghan population,” WSJ quoted the report as saying.
Clement is the last of eight Marines to face punitive action regarding the sniper incident.
“This fine young Marine deserved a lot better than he received,” Dowd said.
He said the Marine Corps has not yet provided a date for Clement’s separation.