The LA Times, which received 18 pictures of soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division posing with dead bodies of the Taliban, published two. The two pictures released depict two separate occasions, where this apparently occurred. Was this part of the journalistic duty of the LA Times or was it irresponsible?
The US military has come under criticism in Afghanistan for a video and pictures published in January showing Marines urinating on dead Taliban, the burning of the Koran at Bagram airbase, and the massacre of 17 Afghans by Staff Sergeant Bales during a rampage in Kandahar province. Add to that the killing of civilians during night raids and you have the perfect storm for the Taliban.
General Allen, U.S. military commander in Afghanistan called the behaviour entirely inconsistent with the values of the American-led coalition, while in Kabul US ambassador
Ryan Crocker called the actions of those involved "morally repugnant."
A Pentagon spokesman said that the Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, "strongly rejects" the conduct of the 82nd Airborne Division soldiers who featured in the photos.
found responsible for this inhuman conduct will be held accountable in
accordance with our military justice system," he said.
The US military has pledged that there would be an investigation but expressed disappointment that the LA Times had published the pictures.
Leon Panetta, who is attending a NATO ministers conference in Brussels, said that he strongly condemns the actions of the soldiers, but portrayed them as immature reactions to battlefield stress.
is war, and I know war is ugly and is violent,” Panetta said. “I know
young people sometimes caught up in the moment make some very foolish
“I am not excusing that behavior,” he added
The war in Afghanistan is in a critical phase. The Taliban has been emboldened with events that have occurred lately and can use these latest pictures as a propaganda tool, demonstrating to the public that U.S. troops are not there to help them. Fueling the fire only puts the lives of the remaining U.S. and NATO troops in danger.
Are the pictures repugnant? Of course they are. Recent events also indicate that there is some sort of disciplinary breakdown within the military, which almost seems like deja vous and Vietnam all over again. There needs to be an examination of what stress these multiple tour put on troops. These incidents are a symptom of a bigger problem.
The Pentagon and the Administration should have been made aware of this incident to ensue it deals with it. As far as the pictures go "Discretion is the better part of valour." While the LA Times could have monitored Pentagon actions, it should have held back with the publication of these pictures.