Friday, July 01 2016

US damage limitation efforts after US forces/Afghan corpses photo scandal

The Guardian, BBC, Independent and the Daily Telegraph today report on the US Government’s attempts at damage limitation after photographs showing US paratroopers in Afghanistan posing “grinning … with insurgents' mangled corpses” were published in the LA Times.

From the Guardian:

“US military and civilian leaders have attempted to douse the latest scandal involving US troops in Afghanistan by swiftly condemning photographs which showed paratroopers grinning and posing with insurgents' mangled corpses.

“President Barack Obama on Wednesday demanded an investigation and for those responsible to be held accountable, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters. "The conduct depicted in those photos is reprehensible."

“As part of a wide-ranging damage limitation exercise, US defence secretary Leon Panetta made several apologies. "This is war, and I know war is ugly, and is violent. And I know young people sometimes caught up in the moment make some very foolish decisions," he told a news conference during a Nato meeting in Brussels. "I am not excusing that. My apology is on behalf of the department of defence and the US government … Again, that behaviour is unacceptable."

“The strongly-worded and co-ordinated responses, echoed througout the day by other officials, began even before the Los Angeles Times broke the story early on Wednesday and reflected official sensitivity in the wake of other cases of misconduct in Afghanistan.

“The paper published two photographs of members of the 82nd Airborne division stationed in Zabol province. In one, dated February 2010, they posed with what the LA Times described as the severed legs of a suicide bomber. Afghans, including at least two men in police uniform, were also in the shot.

“A second picture, apparently taken several months later, showed a grinning soldier in front of the corpse of an insurgent, one of three who Afghans accidentally blew themselves up, the paper said. The dead man's hand rested on his shoulder while a second soldier in the background appeared to manipulate the body. The paper said the pictures were a selection from 18 handed to the organisation by a soldier who served in Afghanistan with the division.

“It described but did not show an image of two soldiers holding a dead man's hand with the middle finger raised. Another image showed an unofficial platoon patch reading "Zombie Hunter" placed beside other remains.

“The LA Times ignored a Pentagon request to not publish the photographs on the grounds they could be used by Taliban propaganda to incite attacks on US targets.

“The paper said the soldier who supplied the photographs – on condition of anonymity – cited them as evidence that failures of leadership and discipline were risking troops' safety.

“The top commander of US and Nato troops in Afghanistan, General John Allen, promised an investigation into the images, saying the behaviour shown "represents a serious error in judgment by several soldiers who have acted out of ignorance and unfamiliarity with US army values."

This particular revelation is just one in a string of scandals to have rocked the US and NATO presence in Afghanistan. In January, video footage emerged showing four US marines urinating on Afghan corpses, and in February there was widespread anger and deadly rioting in Afghanistan after it transpired that NATO troops had ‘improperly disposed’ of Islamic religious materials including Qur’ans at a US airbase in Bagram. Last month an American soldier deployed in Afghanistan went on a killing spree shooting 17 Afghan civilians, including women and nine children.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 May 2012 22:36

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