Brigade that posed with dead Afghan bombers showed signs of trouble
Newly published photos show US soldiers posing with dead Afghan insurgents, trophy-like. In 2009, before that brigade had left for Afghanistan, its commander was uneasy.
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For his part, the soldier who leaked the photographs to the Los Angeles Times said that the callous actions of the soldiers were linked in large part to the horrors of war. He told the Times that virtually all of the soldiers who posed in the photographs had buddies who had been killed or wounded during the deployment. The 4th brigade lost 35 soldiers on their year-long tour and was sent again to Afghanistan to begin another deployment in February.Skip to next paragraph
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But he also said the photos represented “a breakdown in leadership and discipline that he believed compromised the safety of the troops.”
Revelations of the photographs had senior defense officials once again promising an investigation “that could lead to disciplinary measures.” Said Pentagon spokesman George Little: “Anyone found responsible for this inhuman conduct will be held accountable in accordance with our military justice system.”
But critics point out that the photographs are two years old, yet no disciplinary action has been taken in the interim, even though the names of most of the soldiers who participated in the photographs are known, according to the Times.
Historically, the US military has chosen not to hold commanders responsible for the actions of “renegade” troops. The trial earlier this year of a Marine charged with crimes for the murder of two dozen Iraqi civilians in Haditha resulted in six Marines who had their cases dropped, and one found not guilty. A low-ranking officer, Capt. Randy Stone, was initially charged with dereliction of duty and violating a lawful order, but these charges, too, were dropped.
In the notorious case of Abu Ghraib, the highest ranking officer to be brought up on charges, Col. Thomas Pappas, was relieved of his command for allowing military dogs to be present during interrogations or Iraqi prisoners. Lt. Col. Steven Jordan was acquitted of all prisoner mistreatment charges. The remainder of those who faced charges were low-ranking enlisted soldiers, who received sentences that ranged from three months of hard labor to 10 years in prison.
Senior US military officials overwhelmingly tend to stress instead that the actions were those of a few bad apples. In the statement released on the heels of this latest scandal, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta did not veer from this approach. “These images by no means represent the values or professionalism of the vast majority of US troops serving in Afghanistan today,” wrote Mr. Little on Secretary Panetta’s behalf.
IN PICTURES: The Growing US, Afghanistan Divide
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