US 82nd Airborne Soldiers Posed for Photos with Body Parts of Dead Afghan Resistance Fighters
Troops from the renowned US Army 82nd Airborne Division posed for photos with the mangled remains of Afghan resistance fighters, the latest in a string of recent American war crimes in what is an increasingly protracted and unpopular conflict.
The Los Angeles Times obtained the gruesome photos from a member of the 82nd Airborne Divisions’ 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, a unit hard-hit by casualties caused by improvised explosive devices and suicide attacks.
The photos, taken in Qalat in 2010, show 82nd Airborne troops posing for photos with the severed legs of one fighters, which are being held up by a smiling American. Other images show Americans smiling as they pose next to the remains of would-be suicide bombers who accidentally blew themselves up. Two soldiers are seen holding a dead man’s hand with the middle finger extended; someone placed a patch reading “Zombie Hunter” near the remains.
The Army has launched a criminal investigation of the apparent war crimes.
“It is a violation of Army standards to pose with corpses for photographs outside of officially sanctioned purposes,” Army spokesman George Wright is quoted in the Times. “Such actions fall short of what we expect of our uniformed service members in deployed areas.”
Wright said that the Army would “take appropriate action” against anyone found guilty of wrongdoing. But if history is any guide, punishments will be light, if anyone is punished at all. For example, none of the Marines involved in the cold-blooded slaughter of 24 innocent Iraqi civilians at Haditha in 2005 served any prison time for their role in the massacre.
The revelation of the Qalat photos is the latest in a string of US war crimes in Afghanistan, a war that has been dragging on for more than a decade and which the majority of Americans of all political stripes oppose. In January, a video was leaked which showed US Marines urinating on the bodies of dead Afghan resistance fighters. The following month, US troops mistakenly burned Qurans, leading to violence which killed 30 people, including six Americans. Last month, US Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales massacred 16 innocent Afghan civilians, including nine women and three children, in Kandahar province.
US Army Capt. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, told the Times— which was asked not to publish any of the photos– that the actions of the soldiers in the photos “most certainly does not represent the character and the professionalism of the great majority of our troops in Afghanistan.”
Nevertheless,” he continued, “this imagery — more than two years old — now has the potential to indict them all in the minds of local Afghans, inciting violence and perhaps causing needless casualties.”
Kirby said that “the necessary precautions” have been taken to protect US troops in the event of any backlash caused by the photos’ release.
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