April 18th, 2012
04:42 PM ET

Photos just latest issue hounding U.S. military in Afghanistan

Wednesday’s release by the Los Angeles Times of photos showing U.S. soldiers posing with what the newspaper says were insurgents’ bodies in Afghanistan has launched the latest in a string of recent investigations into U.S. military members’ conduct in that country.

A U.S. soldier provided the photos to the Times, saying that the photos reveal a breakdown in leadership and discipline that he believed compromised troops’ safety, and that he hoped that the photos’ publication would stop those shortcomings, the Times reported. Times Editor Davan Maharaj said the paper 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."

NATO’s International Security Assistance Force has blasted the photos, saying they represent "a serious error in judgment by several soldiers who have acted out of ignorance and unfamiliarity with U.S. Army values."

The Pentagon is investigating the photos, which allegedly were taken in 2010.

"An investigation that could lead to disciplinary measures is under way," Pentagon spokesman George Little said. "Anyone found responsible for this inhuman conduct will be held accountable in accordance with our military justice system."

The photos are just the latest of several high-profile U.S. military incidents in Afghanistan prompting U.S. investigation this year. Among the others:

March: Soldier accused of killing 17 civilians in two villages

On March 11, a U.S. solider left an Army outpost in Kandahar province’s Panjwai district, walked into two nearby villages and killed 17 Afghan civilians, U.S. authorities allege.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales is charged with 17 counts of murder with premeditation, for which he could face the death penalty. He also faces six counts of attempted murder and two counts of assault and is being held at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, after being flown from Afghanistan a few days after the killings.

U.S. officials haven’t publicly suggested any motive in the slayings. An Afghan general charged with leading Afghanistan’s investigation into the killings told reporter Yalda Hakim of Australia’s SBS network that villagers have alleged that Bales was upset over an injury to a U.S. colleague. In response to these suggestions, a U.S. official with knowledge of the investigation told CNN last month that a soldier at Bales' base had lost a leg in an explosion three or four days earlier, but that there was no reason to believe Bales had been present at the scene of that blast.

The U.S. government in March paid more than $800,000 to the families of the victims, Afghan officials said - $50,000 for each of the dead, and $10,000 for each of six wounded.

Bales' attorney, John Henry Browne, has accused U.S. military prosecutors of blocking access to information in the case, including witnesses.

February: Qurans burned at Bagram Air Base

Afghanistan erupted in violent protests in February after U.S. troops burned religious materials - including Qurans - that had been removed from the detainee library at the Bagram Air Base's prison.

U.S. officials have said the destruction of religious materials was inadvertent, and that books had been removed from the library because there were writings in them from detainees that officials believed were potentially extremist messages.

But days of protests and attacks in the country followed, leaving dozens of people dead - including at least four U.S. soldiers - and hundreds of others wounded.

U.S. President Barack Obama apologized for the incident in a letter to Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The Taliban Islamist militia rejected the apology and called on Afghans to take revenge "until the doers of such inhumane actions are prosecuted and punished."

This month, an International Security Assistance Force official said that investigations by U.S. and Afghan authorities were finished, and that it wasn't yet clear what actions Gen. John Allen, the ISAF commander, would take. Possible decisions include taking no action; recommending criminal charges; and issuing written reprimands, the official said, according to CNN's Barbara Starr.

January: Video shows U.S. Marines urinating on bodies

In January, a video surfaced on YouTube showing U.S. Marines urinating on the bodies of slain Afghans.

In the 39-second video, one of the men says, "Have a great day, buddy." A voice asks, "You got it on the video?" to which another voice responds, "Yeah." Another jokes, "Golden, like a shower."

Afghan President Hamid Karzai called on the U.S. government to investigate and hand down the harshest punishment possible. The Marine Corps at the time said it was investigating the actions, and news reports in February indicated Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who called the video "utterly deplorable," was briefed on the findings.

In a radio message posted to jihadist websites in March, Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri used the incident to call on Afghans to rise up against Western troops.

"This act represents their values," al-Zawahiri said,"and this is their view toward other people in general and the Muslims in particular, and this is their way of treating us."

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Filed under: Afghanistan
soundoff (77 Responses)
  1. Getoveritagain

    None of this matters. Our entire species is doomed to fail. Religion stagnates scientific progress, greed sacrifices well being in medicine and food production, politics is ultimately an individual accomplishment and not service to the people. I will always hate you, you will always hate me, we will always hate them, they will always hate us. Ever since the first caveman killed another for disagreeing or for profit we have done it ever since.

    All we can do is just wait for the fires to come.

    April 19, 2012 at 8:02 am | Report abuse |
  2. Rick

    The thing is soldies have been taking pictures with the enemy since cameras were made.The media published a few during Vietnam. Us soldiers just threw them in the draw when we came back. But now days with the PC it really out there. Thanks to the internet.

    April 19, 2012 at 8:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Suzy Jones

      I agree. I remember when my Uncles came back from Korea with pictures. They had bodies lined up to be run over by caterpillars. I'm hoping those people were dead already. I didn't look closely at the pictures. Piles of bodies I remember.

      April 19, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  3. charles bowen

    These Pigs Bomb and kill their own people destroy property and have murdered and maim our troops. They have Decapitated and Butchered our Soldiers and have earned a place in hell . We go to war with a Code Of Conduct that Dictates what we can and cant do, yet the enemy have no code or moral direction.. I may be a Bleeding Heart Liberal but i personally believe that the Taliban deserve all the hell that we can give them and a few photos of their evil carcases does'nt even come close to settleing this score..... I'm a Nam era vet and i believe we should Kill them all and let Their God Allah sort them out........ Charles Bowen Solomon Stone

    April 19, 2012 at 8:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      Remember, Thou Shall Not Kill. When you want to murder them for their beliefs, how are you different than them wanting to kill us for our beliefs?

      April 19, 2012 at 9:08 am | Report abuse |
  4. guest 568

    Not saying that we should or should not be in this war but I guess when you make it someones job to hunt and kill others like they are animals this is what you get. Almost like it is a defense mechanism. If you view your enemy as not human and treat them that way it is easier on you mentally. I do not like the pictures nor think they are right but if we ask regular people to kill others, we have to expect things like this.

    April 19, 2012 at 8:46 am | Report abuse |
  5. ILL WILL

    Not upset about the killing of insurgents and their degradation. More uposet about the soldier who killed innocents in the name og God knows what.

    April 19, 2012 at 9:01 am | Report abuse |
  6. sALADOR1254

    I agree with Charles. These idiots torture, maim and kill mankind with indifference! Oh yeah, they do it in the name of their deity "Allah"! Treat them like the animals they are! Personally I can't wait for the days when the US no longer is dependant on middle eastern oil. Let it all dry up and perish and the world will be better off!

    April 19, 2012 at 9:14 am | Report abuse |
  7. Arpad

    I served in the Corps in Nam. I was at Hue and Khe Sanh in 68. We did things too. Very Bad things. Much worse than this I can assure you. War is dirty business. It the devil's playground. It brings out the worst aspects of human behavior.

    April 19, 2012 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
  8. Justin

    Sigh, if the government just never took down the twin towers we wouldnt have to deal with this crap, guess we need the oil though.

    April 19, 2012 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
    • jimbojones

      Yeah, sigh. We can't even put a dent in some puny, raghead militia, yet we have the werewithall to take down our own buildings and cover it up and make it look like they did it. Jee willikers, you truthers sure know what you're talking about. Golly, I hope I'm as smart as you one day...

      April 19, 2012 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
    • FAIL

      Really?

      May 4, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Andrew

    In the pictures shown in this video the soldiers are posing with Afghani's, not saying its right, but definitely not a big deal. I say this with any post I make regarding the recent wars, do not bash what Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines are doing and/or have done, unless you have been over there yourself (as I have).

    April 19, 2012 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
    • charles bowen

      Thank You For Your Service......Charles Bowen Solomon Stone

      April 19, 2012 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
    • charles bowen

      Andrew, Thank You For Your Service......Charles Bowen Solomon Stone

      April 19, 2012 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
  10. Perry Traylor

    At one time in the history of the OUR ARMED FORCES there was a sense of HONOR and Discipline that would not allow this sort of activity to occur. to use the excuse that they do it to use does not justify it being allowed to happen. We are cut from a different cloth a stronger cloth.When acts such as this are allowed your start point is the highest ranking individual in that troops C of C. Got to get back to being soldiers, when were they allowed to stop ?

    April 19, 2012 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
    • FU9L

      WHAT WE HAVE DONE THIS TYPE OF THING IN EVERY WAR WE HAVE EVER FOUGHT COME OUT OF YOUR BUBBLE ...

      April 19, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  11. charles bowen

    Remember The Minute Men The British considered them Terrorists it all hinges on who's side your on.....Charles Bowen Solomon Stone

    April 19, 2012 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
  12. Santa

    Murder is murder, murderers are murderers.

    April 19, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  13. hara

    America is quick at pointinig human rights abuses and to others. Just tell me what they are doing in another country killing people in that country. The USA are the biggest hypocrites in the world

    April 22, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
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    I've been exploring for a bit for any high-quality articles or weblog posts on this sort of space . Exploring in Yahoo I at last stumbled upon this site. Reading this info So i am satisfied to express that I have a very good uncanny feeling I discovered exactly what I needed. I so much definitely will make certain to don?t fail to remember this website and provides it a glance regularly.

    April 23, 2012 at 8:11 am | Report abuse |
  15. JCM

    It's a self perpetuating cycle. The media gets hold of photographs. The media uses the photographs for shock value (usually with some story to stir controversy). The media reports on the controversy and heat the photos and story cause. Lesson: if there's nothing shocking going on, let's see what can be orchestrated.

    May 4, 2012 at 8:55 am | Report abuse |
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