photo here: U.S. troops posed with body parts of Afghan bombers - latimes.com
U.S. Condemns Photos of Soldiers Posing With Body Parts
By GRAHAM BOWLEY and ALISSA J. RUBIN
Published: April 18, 2012
KABUL — Photographs apparently showing United States soldiers posing with body parts of dead insurgents drew strong condemnation on Wednesday from American officials including Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and the commander of international forces in Afghanistan.
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The Los Angeles Times published on the front page of its early editions a photograph of what it described as a soldier from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division with a dead insurgent’s hand on his shoulder. It said the photograph was one of 18 of soldiers posing with the corpses of insurgent fighters given to the newspaper by a soldier who served in Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne’s Fourth Brigade Combat Team from Fort Bragg, N.C. The newspaper said the Afghan died planting a bomb, citing police.
The story was later posted to the newspaper’s Web site with another photograph of American soldiers posing with the dismembered legs of another insurgent held upright by ropes.
The photographs were believed to have been taken in 2010, according to a spokeswoman for international forces in Afghanistan. She said it was not yet clear where the photographs had been taken, the number of service personnel involved nor whether they were still serving in the military.
According to the newspaper, the photographs were taken in Zabul Province in 2010. Zabul is a particularly impoverished province in the south of the country, and the Taliban has maintained a strong presence there.
The story said in one photograph two soldiers posed holding a dead man’s hand with the middle finger raised.
The revelation of the photographs followed video uncovered in January of four American Marines urinating on dead Taliban fighters and appeared likely to complicate an already tense atmosphere for American forces in Afghanistan. There is a military investigation under way into the burning of Korans at Bagram Air Force base in February that touched off deadly riots. The military is also investigating the killing last month of Afghan villagers, including women and children, by a rogue American soldier in Kandahar Province, also in the south.
The hostility over those episodes has redefined the already-strained relationship between the United States and Afghanistan, and has added urgency to talks under way to lay out a long-term strategic partnership between the two countries — a critical step before the troop withdrawal deadline set for 2014.
In a news conference at a NATO meeting in Brussels, Mr. Panetta criticized the soldiers’ actions, saying, “This is not who we are, and it’s certainly not what we represent when it comes to the great majority of men and women in uniform.”
He added: " I know that war is ugly, and it’s violent. And I know that young people sometimes caught up in the moment make some very foolish decisions. I am not excusing that behavior. But neither do I want these images to bring further injury to our people and to our relationship with the Afghan people. We had urged the Los Angeles Times not to run those photos. And the reason for that is those kinds of photos are used by the enemy to incite violence, and lives have been lost as the result of the publication of similar photos. We regret that they were published. Having said that, again, that behavior is unacceptable and it will be fully investigated.”
Gen. John R. Allen, the senior allied commander in Afghanistan, condemned the actions apparently depicted in the photographs. “The actions of the individuals photographed do not represent the policies of ISAF or the U.S. Army,” he said in a statement, referring to the NATO coalition in Afghanistan. The White House said that President Obama had called for an investigation and promised that those responsible would be “held accountable.” And General Allen, too, said the military would collaborate with Afghan authorities to investigate the photographs.
The strongly worded statements seemed to be in part an attempt to head off reaction in Afghanistan to the photographs. The photograph — along with a story under the headline “U.S. troops posed with body parts of Afghan bombers” — showed a young soldier posing with what seemed to be a hand on his right shoulder. What appears to be the body of a dead insurgent lies in the background.
Nadir Nadiry, an Afghan human rights activist in Kabul, said Afghans would likely react negatively because similar photographs had surfaced before and despite military investigations the latest pictures suggested the actions continued to be perpetrated.
“It gives them a sense of, ‘Oh they are continuing to do this,’ ” he said. “Each time they say they will conduct a thorough investigation, but these investigations are not being made public so the results are not known to the Afghan people. So it’s hard for them to believe the investigations were real and that measures were taken to change things.”
Hamidullah Tokhi, a member of the parliament from Zabul Province, said in a telephone interview that while there may not be any large outpouring of outrage over the photos, episodes like this do contribute to a worsening of the already poor image of the American military among Afghans.
“This kind of degradation and dishonoring of the human corpus is not bigger than what the foreign forces have done to the people in their houses,” he said, speaking of the night raids that have enraged Afghans. But he added, “All this dishonoring and disrespecting of the people religion and tradition is not acceptable at all. All these were the reasons motivate peoples to go to the mountain and join the Taliban.”