READING: LA Times’  ”US Troops Posed With Body Parts Of Afghan Bombers”

OUR TAKE:

The LA Times’ decision to publish photos of members of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division posing with the body parts of dead Afghan insurgents has met criticism from some of the nation’s highest ranking military and government officials. Military officials had requested that the photos not be published for fear they would increase unrest over the presence of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

This incident is the latest in a pattern of similar situations. A video of U.S. Marines urinating on the corpses of Afghan insurgents was circulated in January. Last May, Rolling Stone published the “Kill Team” photos, which depicted U.S. soldiers posing with various body parts and “trophies” of their kills. Pentagon officials made great efforts to suppress their release, again citing concern that the photos would stimulate insurgency in the Afghan region.

There has been a recent increase in violence from Afghani insurgents that is mainly attributed as a response to news of misdeeds by U.S. service personnel, such as the shooting rampage which left 17 dead in an Afghan village, Quran burnings, and video of soldiers desecrating insurgents’ corpses.

However, as much as these stories have contributed to stalling peace talks with Taliban officials and renewing fervor within the Afghan insurgency, there has been no sign or call for retribution since the release of these pictures. A leading intelligence publication, KGS, noted “US soldiers in Afghanistan are not placed in increased risk because of this incident. Most Afghans most likely will consider taking pictures of the lower half of a dissected body bewildering, if not sick. Any protests will be perfunctory. Protests over the dead never last more than a day or two, if they occur at all.”, lending less credence to the argument from U.S. defense officials that the future release of any similar reports or photos will only strengthen the upsurge.

Atrocities of this nature are not unique to our present day wars; throughout history, many horrors have been exacted that would have enraged the groups against which the acts were perpetrated, if proper media outlets had been available. However, in the internet age, news of this incendiary nature can be disseminated quickly and worldwide. This raises an ethical dilemma for modern news media regarding decisions to publish photos or stories that could have this galvanizing effect.

As modern technology has changed how people receive their information, man’s inhumanity towards man has stayed constant.  It is the responsibility of our trusted journalists to report the truth, and make the public aware of injustices being done across the globe. It is the job of our national defense to ensure our safety, and protect the interests of our nation. The line at which these two entities meet has become increasingly grey in recent years, there are no clear answers to this quandary.