U.S. Troops to Receive Penalties for Burning 500 Copies of the Koran
The U.S. military announced on Monday that it has taken disciplinary actions against U.S. troops that had acted in two inappropriate incidents over the last year in Afghanistan, Reuters reports. Officials did not reveal the names of the troops involved or what type of punishment they will receive but did announce plans to take disciplinary action, which did not involve outright criminal prosecution.
The first incident involved a video which captured Marines urinating on dead bodies and laughing after an operation in Sandala. The incident reportedly took place in July 2011 and a video was anonymously posted online in January. All of the Marines involved in the incident pleaded guilty to the charges, including one for filming the incident, and another for indecently posing with human casualties.
On the same day as that disturbing case was closed, another more recent incident involving the destruction of hundreds of copies of the Koran and other religious texts was also concluded. A new report by the U.S. military surfaced this week that reveals that around 500 copies of the Koran were destroyed in an incinerator at the Bagram air base in February north of Kabul.
The number of copies of the religious text that were destroyed by U.S. troops was much higher than officials had first thought. The incident has remained a touchy topic for both the U.S. military and Afghan officials. Six troops were involved in the incident in which the religious texts were taken from a prison library and incinerated nearby. According to many reports, the incident was completed at the spur of the moment.
Initially, the books were taken away on suspicion that they were being used to convey messages between prisoners. The Washington Post notes that a translator for the U.S. troops erroneously told the troops that the books were extremist in nature after they had been investigated. Around 2,000 books were boxed up, including nearly 500 copies of the Koran, and burned in an incinerator.
The incident touched off massive riots that left at least three dozen people dead near the beginning of the year, according to the Wall Street Journal. The unrest and discomfort also raised tensions between President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who demanded that the individuals involved in the book burning be put on public trial for their offenses.
Depite Karzai’s repeated requests for criminal prosecution, the U.S. military announced in its newest report that a lack of training and cultural awareness were at the root of the incident and not any malicious intent. Army spokesperson Col. Jonathan Withington told reporters, “It all came down to a lapse in leadership. As leaders, these individuals have a requirement to ensure proper actions through supervision and enforcing standards.”
In conjunction with the newest reports, the U.S. military also decided not to press criminal charges on the six troops involved in the book burning. Although they did not disclose what the exact nature of their punishment would be, most sources have confirmed that the punishments will remain administrative in nature, including a reduction in rank or a forfeiture in pay.
Both incidents have put U.S. military officials on edge. The conclusive paragraph of the most recent U.S. military report regarding the burning of religious books stated that, “we have not yet achieved a level of cultural awareness within our ranks that puts respectful treatment of the Koran and other religious material to the forefront in our conduct.”
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