Like Joe Darby (of Abu Ghraib fame), an anonymous soldier took 18 sensitive photos and “leaked” them to the press. Specifically, to the LA Times.
The photos have emerged at a particularly sensitive moment for U.S.-Afghan relations. In January, a video appeared on the Internet showing four U.S. Marines urinating on Afghan corpses. In February, the inadvertent burning of copies of the Koran at a U.S. base triggered riots that left 30 dead and led to the deaths of six Americans. In March, a U.S. Army sergeant went on a nighttime shooting rampage in two Afghan villages, killing 17.
The soldier who provided The Times with a series of 18 photos of soldiers posing with corpses did so on condition of anonymity. He served in Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne’s 4th Brigade Combat Team from Ft. Bragg, N.C. He said the photos point to a breakdown in leadership and discipline that he believed compromised the safety of the troops.
The only comment I want to make here is to question whether or not this anonymous “whistleblower” bothered to bring attention to these photos by first going through the proper chain of command. What compelled him to give these 2-yr old photos over to the Los Angeles Times? And why now?
Actually, it doesn’t seem that the soldier was offended by these photos having been taken (which violates Army standards). He wasn’t motivated by a belief that these photos were wrong to take. Apparently he’s using them to draw attention to something else.
It would seem that personal security concerns are allegedly his motive, 2010 being a tough year for his brigade:
He expressed the hope that publication would help ensure that alleged security shortcomings at two U.S. bases in Afghanistan in 2010 were not repeated. The brigade, under new command but with some of the same paratroopers who served in 2010, began another tour in Afghanistan in February.
U.S. military officials asked The Times not to publish any of the pictures.
The soldier who provided the photos, and two other former members of the battalion, said in separate interviews that they and others had complained of inadequate security at the two bases.
And so by making these photos public, security for his brigade will improve…how?! How does that correlate? The photos are 2 yrs old and the brigade itself is under new leadership. Yet he feels that these photos will expose “a breakdown in leadership and discipline that he believed compromised the safety of the troops.” Unless what results is our immediate withdrawal and surrender from Afghanistan, does anyone believe public attention to this will increase the security of our troops?
Times Editor Davan Maharaj explains why he denied the request of the military not to publish any of the photos:
“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.”
And I’m sure they weighed in the potential consequences of whether or not publishing these photos might not be used for propaganda purposes, potentially further endangering U.S. and NATO troops. Surely it wasn’t for macabre sensationalism to sell papers.
Why not simply tell the soldiers’ stories about security inadequacies and personal losses without the publishing of these photos?
Soldiers have always done macabre things, along with displaying gallows humor to cope: Trophy body-part collecting, photos with the gruesome, etc. And given that these guys lost about 35 in their brigade in 2010 with 23 from suicide bombers, taking a photo with a failed suicide bomber is a rather tame reaction. Should we demand a higher standard of our soldiers? Certainly, the rest of the world always seems to be holding our soldiers to a tighter microscope.
The soldiers might have used bad judgment in defying Army standards by taking the photos; really poor judgment in circulating them around. The soldier who wanted to make a statement exercised even worse judgment in handing the photos over to the LATimes. But worse than all this? The LATimes going ahead and publishing a couple of them.
The 18 photographs were taken in 2010 in Zabul province by soldiers from the 82nd Airborne’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, the newspaper reported. Although the pictures were dated, the fresh disclosure of misbehavior extends a string of recent incidents in which U.S. troops have disrespected the dead, allegedly killed Afghan civilians and desecrated the Koran.
U.S. officials, concerned that the cumulative impact will further alienate an Afghan public already weary of foreign military occupation,
The Afghan public aren’t the only ones that are growing war weary…
“Our presence by its very nature creates tension between us and the local population,” Smith said in an interview Wednesday. “Past a certain point, a foreign presence is as destabilizing as it is stabilizing, and that’s what these incidents are pointing out.”