The paratroopers had their assignment: Check out reports that Afghan police had recovered the mangled remains of an insurgent suicide bomber. Try to get iris scans and fingerprints for identification.
The 82nd Airborne Division soldiers arrived at the police station in Afghanistan’s Zabol province in February 2010. They inspected the body parts. Then the mission turned macabre: The paratroopers posed for photos next to Afghan police, grinning while some held — and others squatted beside — the corpse’s severed legs.
A few months later, the same platoon was dispatched to investigate the remains of three insurgents who Afghan police said had accidentally blown themselves up. After obtaining a few fingerprints, they posed next to the remains, again grinning and mugging for photographs.
Two soldiers posed holding a dead man’s hand with the middle finger raised. A soldier leaned over the bearded corpse while clutching the man’s hand. Someone placed an unofficial platoon patch reading “Zombie Hunter” next to other remains and took a picture.
The Army launched a criminal investigation after the Los Angeles Times showed officials copies of the photos, which recently were given to the paper by a soldier from the division.
Which means no one is keeping an eye on the course of war at the grunt level.
“It is a violation of Army standards to pose with corpses for photographs outside of officially sanctioned purposes,” said George Wright, an Army spokesman. “Such actions fall short of what we expect of our uniformed service members in deployed areas…blah, blah, blah!
U.S. military officials asked The Times not to publish any of the pictures…
Times Editor Davan Maharaj said, “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…”
RTFA for lots of unpleasant details. Unpleasant graphically, unpleasant politically.
Yeah, yeah, I know all about the fog of war. I know all about “both sides” arguments. They all end up being rationales, excuses for lousy units under lousy command.
In this case, you can add in a stinking war that shouldn’t have lasted longer than six months – but, turning the misadventure into a political crutch for George W. Bush, first, and then Barack Obama – was more important to the DC warriors than actually solving questions with scale and principle.
When you have one administration after another ignore the Geneva Convention and appropriate military behavior – and cover it up with protestations of innocence and expedience – why expect anything different from folks actually on the ground.