US tries to limit damage over war pics

2012-04-19 07:49

Washington - The US has swiftly condemned photos of soldiers posing with the mangled corpses of insurgents in Afghanistan, seeking to limit the fallout from the latest scandal involving US troops.

The photographs, which date back to 2010 but were published by the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday, add to a string of damaging incidents that have ignited anti-Western feeling and complicated Nato efforts to withdraw most troops in 2014.

US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said those responsible would be punished but voiced "regret" that the LA Times had decided to publish the images against the Pentagon's wishes, warning that they could prompt a violent backlash.

"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," Panetta told a Nato press conference in Brussels.

"I'm not excusing that behaviour, but neither do I want these images to bring further injury to our people and to our relationship with the Afghan people."


The LA Times published two of 18 photographs it was given by a soldier who believed they pointed to a breakdown in leadership and discipline that compromised the safety of the troops.

One showed a soldier with a dead insurgent's hand draped on his right shoulder. The other showed soldiers grinning and giving a thumbs-up behind the disembodied legs of a Taliban fighter.

The Times said another set of photos, which it has not yet published, show soldiers from the same division holding a dead man's severed hand with the middle finger raised.

The first incident took place in February 2010, when paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team were sent to an Afghan police station in Zabul province to inspect the remains of an alleged suicide bomber.

The soldiers had orders to try to get fingerprints and possibly scan the irises of the corpse, but instead they posed for pictures next to the Afghan police, holding up or squatting beside the remains, the LA Times reported.

A few months later, the same platoon went to inspect the remains of three insurgents whom Afghan police said had blown themselves up by accident.

The soldiers allegedly involved in the incident served in a unit plagued by leadership problems, according to media reports.

Poor command climate

The commander of the brigade was cited for allowing a poor command climate, and a battalion leader and senior enlisted officer were relieved of their posts after showing racist and sexist slides in PowerPoint briefings, the Army Times reported.

The wife of the brigade commander also was reportedly banned from participating in family morale events at the unit's base in Fort Bragg, North Carolina after an investigation found she was harassing other spouses.

Senior US officials insisted the incident did not signal any wider discipline problem, and Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the photos did not represent the values of the alliance's mission.

"These events took place apparently a couple of years ago and I consider them an isolated event," he said.

White House spokesperson Jay Carney said the photos were "reprehensible" but also said US President Barack Obama's administration was "very disappointed" that the paper had published them.

The newspaper's editor, Davan Maharaj, said he had decided to publish a "small but representative selection" of the images because of their news value and to "fulfil our obligation to readers to report vigorously and impartially on all aspects of the American mission in Afghanistan".

Some analysts said the effect of the images would be felt mainly in Nato countries, as most Afghans did not have access to the internet or television and would not see the pictures.

The episode seemed likely to strain already frayed US-Afghan relations, after a series of incidents in which US troops have been accused of misconduct.

The release in January of video clips online showing American marines urinating on the bodies of Afghan combatants sparked outrage in Kabul.

That was followed by the inadvertent burning of Qur'ans by US soldiers in mid-February, which triggered anti-US protests that claimed 30 lives and may have motivated a surge of "insider" attacks on Nato troops by Afghan forces.

In March, a US soldier allegedly went on a shooting rampage in two Afghan villages, killing 17 people - mostly women and children - in what is believed to be the deadliest war crime by a Nato soldier in the decade-long conflict.

Nato has a 130 000-strong military force fighting the Taliban, which has led an insurgency against the Western-backed Kabul government since being toppled from power by a 2001 US-led invasion.

Afghan forces are gradually taking over control of security in the country, with the goal of being in the lead nationwide in 2013 and enabling most foreign troops to depart by the end of 2014.

  • Rob - 2012-04-19 08:31

    Ja. One only has to view the name of the LA Times editor to see why these pics were published. Probably anti American & pro Arab / Muslim. He should be deported.

      J-Man - 2012-04-19 09:02

      "Probably anti American & pro Arab / Muslim." - so? With these things happening more and more, its no wonder people are getting P*ssed off. Arabs and Muslims are people too you know, although some of them are extremists and do things we don't like. Just like we do things, they don't like. Its being Human. But based on your comment above, I think you should be deported you neanderthal.

      Saeedah - 2012-04-19 09:04

      @Rob I understand that ignorance is bliss, all blacks look alike and all asians are terrorist muslims. Had you decided to learn a thing or 2 about other cultures you would have known that this editor is of asian descent he is not muslim. He is accessing his right of freedom of the press to provide unbiased reporting. Nb. your exposure to bias reporting has clouded your judgement.

      Rob - 2012-04-19 09:13

      Saeedah. I did NOT SAY the editor was a muslim. I said he was probably pro muslim. J_Man. I must take a p!ssant like you who posts & hides under a name like that, seriously. J_Man, what is that, some kind of " hip hop " stage name....LOL.." Hi I'm J_Man ! "

      Toofaan - 2012-04-19 09:34

      Actually Rob, it's very unlikely that an editor with a name like Maharaj is \pro Arab/Muslim\. if anything, the stereotype is the exact opposite. He probably just did what he thought was his job. And if you think about it, we'd rather have more people like him, rather than a media that propogates only the interests of their own government/party.

      Rob - 2012-04-19 09:51

      Toofaan. If they are not allowed to publish pictures of Islamists holding up the heads of dead Americans, then they should not be publishing these types of pictures as well. Clearly this man is attempting to cause a stir & increase sales. Mind you, I dont think too many Americans are shocked by these pictures as they know what these Islamists are capable of themselves.

      J-Man - 2012-04-19 12:34

      "Rob"...Cool, mature "comeback" there. At least I'm not the only one on here who thinks you're a certified d00s.

  • - 2012-04-19 08:39

    They are not soldiers, they are cowboys! Dismiss them from the service asap!

  • Manford - 2012-04-19 08:50

    we should know the evils the Americans commit world wide,they have killed many people world wide and someone has the courage to say the one who published the photos should be deported , shame on you,tell that to victims,

      Rob - 2012-04-19 08:53

      The victims Manford were Taliban soldiers. Africa still holds out the begging bowl to America & it foolishly still provides aid to a continent of overbreeders, who will never, it seems, be able to be productive & fend for itself. What has the Taliban done for Africa ?

      J-Man - 2012-04-19 09:04

      @ Rob - what have YOU done that's so great?? The Taliban are a bunch of cowardly murderers, yes, but not Arabs/Muslims are Taliban you know. (And no, I'm not arab/muslim)

      Rob - 2012-04-19 09:14

      I gave a car guard R10.00 !

      Frank - 2012-04-19 09:21

      the same victims who make videos of themselves cutting peoples heads off and posting it on you tube? sent thousands of innocent people to thier death flying jumbo jets into high rise buildings killing thousands?i would have applauded while those soldiers took a leak on those taliban corpses.

      Rob - 2012-04-19 09:36

      Yes Frank. At last ! And the Arab world cheered @ the news. Strangely enough your average American did not run around their neighbourhoods & round up muslims & kill them in revenge. Had it been the other way round, one can only shudder @ the thought of what these people would have done to any Americans they might have rounded up.

  • bluzulu - 2012-04-19 08:50

    The more the US tries to hide the facts of their Culture unfortunately their TRUE colours as exposed.

  • Jeffrey - 2012-04-19 08:50

    War mongers. always hide their bad side. when countries give stastics, bad or good they only tell you about their achievements only. Oil mongers, US:"United Satanism". touch SA, we will touch you where you mothers had never touch you boys.

      Rob - 2012-04-19 09:02

      Jeffery. Our " Army " (LOL) has the highest average age of any army & the highest rate of HIV positive members. I doubt whether they would even be able to fend off an attack by Zimbabwe. Go America !

      J-Man - 2012-04-19 09:14

      @ Rob - name ONE war that the US has actually decisively won in the last 100 years...on their own.

      Frank - 2012-04-19 09:27

      the u.s that imposed sanctions on apartheid s.a? what would the world have been like without the u.s being involved in ww 2? s.a would have been run by gemany which would have made apartheid look like carefull not to bite the hand that feeds you.

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-04-19 10:01

      Unfortunately you cannot count the amount of lives the US has saved via aid and influence globally and in perticular Africa . The enormous support for SA in the fight against HIV and in trade which has probably done more than our Govt and their beetroot solutions. The US f's up for sure but it pales in comparison to the overwhelming good they do.

      bluzulu - 2012-04-19 10:29

      Only one would be their Civil war,

      Dylan Dario Sciarappa - 2012-04-19 15:26

      @ frank. True the USA helped free the world from nazi tyranny but ever since then they have pushed the empire agenda in a more covert sense using freedom and democracy as a front to push there true objectives ie global domination. One only need to look at all the false wars to see straight through them. Wake up

  • Tony Lapson - 2012-04-19 09:07

    Us should just withdraw all troops, and their 100's of millions of dollars of food aid that they provide every year. That will teach the bloody Americans.... Wait...

      Gaby - 2012-04-19 09:42

      @Tony, do you really believe that their food aid is for free? It's in exchange for serving American political interests only. I agree, they should pull out of all other countries and keep their food aid. The world is changing. We have our eyes wide open.

      Rob - 2012-04-19 09:57

      Not to worry Tony, the Arab world will help Africa as the African people appear to have a great love & appreciation of their " Arab Brothers. " I'm sure the Arabs have noticed & will only too gladly lend a helping hand to their " brothers in Africa. "

      Dylan Dario Sciarappa - 2012-04-19 15:21

      Food aid comes with tough conditions my friend don't for one second think they don't use aid as leverage to further there own interests ie military bases and puppet governments access to resources etc etc

  • clarence.leblanc - 2012-04-19 13:50

    Bush should have explained...Don't pose for pictures with Hearts and Minds...

  • Dylan Dario Sciarappa - 2012-04-19 15:19

    Funny to see people justify the USA trying to keep these images secret. But u would condemn the sa secrecy bill make up ur minds guys and stop blindly believing that the USA is a beacon for freedom. It stopped being that a long long time ago

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