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Top Marine’s alleged comments around Taliban desecration draw scrutiny

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WASHINGTON, DC — A senior Marine general said in an extraordinary sworn statement obtained by CNN that the head of the corps wanted several Marines ultimately kicked out of the service for their alleged roles in urinating on Taliban corpses — even before any charges were brought.

Lt. General Thomas Waldhauser told military authorities in the sworn statement on Tuesday that he had a private meeting in February 2012 with Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos, who had just named him to lead the investigation and possible prosecution.

“I do not remember the exact words or sequence of what was said, but the CMC did make a comment to the effect that the Marines involved needed to be ‘crushed,'” Waldhauser said, adding that the “CMC went on to say he wanted these Marines to be discharged from the Marine Corps when this was all over.”

Waldhauser’s statement was made as part of the record for upcoming court martial proceedings against two Marines involved in the case.

The Marine Corps said that Amos would not comment on the matter.

At the time of the meeting, Waldhauser had been ordered by Amos to become the “convening authority,” which meant he was to handle the investigation and potential prosecution of several Marines allegedly involved.

The incident occurred in Helmand Province in July 2011 but did not come to light publicly until more than six months later when a video was posted on the Web. The video inflamed tensions over the U.S. presence in Afghanistan.

Under military laws governing what is referred to as “undue command influence,” it’s illegal for commanders more senior to the primary investigating officer to take any actions or make statements to pressure the outcome of a case.

The Pentagon’s inspector general is investigating whistleblower allegations that Amos did just that.

Waldhauser’s statement is a rare view into private communications at the highest levels of the U.S. military. At the time, he was the senior commander for all Marines serving in Afghanistan.

Waldhauser now serves as the senior military assistant to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

The former commander said he told Amos that he did not believe the cases warranted general courts martial, which could have resulted in their dismissal from the corps.

“The CMC told me that he could change the convening authority on the cases, and I responded that would be his prerogative,” Waldhauser said in his statement.

By any measure, a commander in Amos’s position would not be allowed to essentially switch prosecuting jurisdictions because he did not like the potential outcome.

The matter took another turn after that meeting. Waldhauser said he received a call from Amos’s deputy saying the commandant “was upset and regretted the conversation he had with me.”

Waldhauser said Amos felt he had put his own office “in a bad position.” Shortly after that, Waldhauser said he and Amos spoke directly and the commandant “admitted that he had crossed the line.”

Amos moved the cases from Waldhauser’s jurisdiction and gave them to another general.

In a February 10, 2012, memo to Waldhauser, Amos said, “I believe some of my comments during our recent conversation could be perceived as possibly interfering with your independent and unfettered discretion to take action in these cases.”

By Barbara Starr

CNN Pentagon Correspondent

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