In just the latest indignity to the Afghan people, the LA Times published new photos with examples of US troops posing with dead and dismembered Afghan bodies.
Two soldiers posed holding a dead man’s hand with the middle finger raised. A soldier leaned over the bearded corpse while clutching the man’s hand. Someone placed an unofficial platoon patch reading “Zombie Hunter” next to other remains and took a picture.
The Army launched a criminal investigation after the Los Angeles Times showed officials copies of the photos, which recently were given to the paper by a soldier from the division.
“It is a violation of Army standards to pose with corpses for photographs outside of officially sanctioned purposes,” said George Wright, an Army spokesman. “Such actions fall short of what we expect of our uniformed service members in deployed areas.”
This isn’t the first example of soldiers posing with dead bodies as if they were trophies. Last March Der Spiegel released some photos from an Army Stryker “kill team,” including soldiers holding up corpses for poses. Those concerned incidents from 2010. So if the Army had made cracking down on this a priority, it didn’t help in stopping the practice. These photos also date from around 2010.
The Defense Department issued a statement saying that an investigation has begun and that “anyone found responsible for this inhuman conduct will be held accountable in accordance with our military justice system.” They also expressed disappointment that the LAT would publish the photos against their wishes, citing the possibility that “this material could be used by the enemy to incite violence against U.S. and Afghan service members in Afghanistan.”
My response would be that the military needs to stop generating the source material. As the LAT documents, in the last three months, we’ve seen videos showing US soldiers urinating on Afghan corpses, we’ve heard about the burning of inmates’ copies of the Koran at a US-run jail, and we’ve experienced the shooting rampage of a US sergeant in two Afghan villages. The way to stop the incitement of violence is to, you know, stop creating situations that could incite violence. I don’t think the Afghan people need the LA Times to confirm their suspicions about the state of affairs there.
The Times’ editor said in a statement, “After careful consideration, we decided that publishing a small but representative selection of the photos would fulfill our obligation to readers to report vigorously and impartially on all aspects of the American mission in Afghanistan, including the allegation that the images reflect a breakdown in unit discipline that was endangering U.S. troops.” I think it’s the right call. And the breakdown in unit discipline is only a symptom of the larger futility of this war and occupation in Afghanistan.
Kevin Gosztola has more at The Dissenter.