[PLEASE NOTE: The following photograph is disturbing. Some readers may wish to avoid.]
Earlier today, the Los Angeles Times published photos of American soldiers posing smugly and triumphantly with the dead bodies of their adversaries in Afghanistan. They, and the many other photos the LA Times chose, out of propriety, not to publish, are appalling, disrespectful of the dead, debasing of humanity. Not to excuse the behavior, but these are exactly the characteristics that can come out in people who are in protracted military conflict situations.
These photos, along with those of American soldiers cavorting in “humorously” sexualized positions with their prisoners, from inside Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, paint a horrendous picture of American forces, their commanders and their mission, their disrespect for our adversaries and their Islamic traditions.
And, as one would expect, the statements of response from the Pentagon were swift and furious. But the most intense condemnations were directed, not at our soldiers’ behavior, but at the Los Angeles Times. The spokesperson for Leon Panetta, the Secretary of Defense, said his boss was “disappointed that despite our request not to publish these photographs, the Los Angeles Times went ahead. The danger is that this material could be used by the enemy to incite violence against U.S. and Afghan service members in Afghanistan.”
Dead wrong, Mr. Secretary.
It is absolutely not the publication of these photographs that will incite violence against America and Americans. It is not even the fact that these horrific photographs exist. What incites violence against our men and women in the armed forces and against our nation is the fact that some of our servicepeople treat our adversaries as playthings and, frankly, the fact that our forces are still in Afghanistan.
Do you really want to end the violence against Americans in Afghanistan, Mr. Secretary? Bring our men and women home. We have no business being there. But because it is impolitic to state the plain truth – namely, that our mission in Afghanistan is both fruitless and endless – you create a false issue around the LA Times’ publication of these photographs.
In this matter, sir, you are not only wrong, you are shamefully so.