Photograph by Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images
U.S. officials moved quickly Wednesday to strongly condemn the photos of American soldiers posing with the corpses and body parts of Afghan insurgents that were published by the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday.
The Times, which obtained the graphic photos from an unnamed soldier, published the pictures on its front page, explaining that they featured paratroopers in the 82ndAirborne Division. The unnamed solider reportedly turned the photos over to the paper because he or she wanted to draw attention to the safety risk of a breakdown in U.S. leadership and discipline in Afghanistan. You can see the photos here.
Army officials said Wednesday that they have already started a criminal investigation into the case—which includes photos of soldiers holding a corpse’s hand with the middle finger raised and placing a "Zombie Hunter" patch next to the remains. An Army spokeswoman said most of the soldiers have already been identified.
While the military urged the Times not to publish any of the photos, the newspaper’s editor, Davan Maharaj, explained the decision to do so anyway.
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.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was among the officials who condemned the photos, the New York Times reports. In an email statement he said that the images did not reflect the majority of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and should not have been published.
The New York Times also reminds us that the photos come at a particularly tense time between the U.S. military and the Afghan people. The year began with the discovery of video in January of American soldiers urinating on dead Taliban fighters. The following month, American soldiers were found to have accidentally burned Qurans, setting off widespread and violent protests in Afghanistan.