Pentagon Investigating Shocking Photos of US Marines Burning Iraqi Bodies
WARNING: EXTREMELY GRAPHIC CONTENT–
Shocking photos that appear to show US Marines burning the bodies of dead Iraqi resistance fighters in Fallujah in 2004 have sparked a Pentagon investigation.
The photos, which were obtained by the celebrity news and gossip site TMZ, were turned over to the Pentagon last week before being published on Wednesday. Although TMZ said it received 41 photos, most were not published because they were deemed “just too gruesome.” TMZ did not say who provided the photos.
One of the published photos shows a Marine appearing to pour gasoline over the remains of what officials believe are a pair of insurgents killed fighting against the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq. Another two photos show those bodies on fire. Other photos show the charred remains of the bodies after they’re burned. Yet another one shows a Marine posing with a skull, a broad smile on his face. Another shows a Marine rifling through what appears to be the partial bodily remains of a person who has been dismembered, with what look like leg bones protruding from the bloodied, tattered remains of a pair of olive drab pants.
TMZ said that among the photos deemed too graphic for publication are one showing a dead body being eaten by a dog.
“We are aware of photos appearing on TMZ.com that depict individuals in US Marine uniforms burning what appear to be human remains,” Navy Cmdr. Bill Speaks, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement. “The actions depicted in these photos are not what we expect from our service members, nor do they represent the honorable and professional service of the more than 2.5 million Americans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Speaks added that the Marine Corps is “currently investigating the veracity of these photos, circumstances involved, and if possible, the identities of the service members involved” and that the inquiry would “determine whether we are able to move forward with any investigation into possible wrongdoing.”
The actions apparently depicted in the photos are violations of international, domestic and US military law, and Islamic law and tradition. The Geneva Conventions and the US Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) state that it is a crime to mishandle enemy remains.
Although most US troops conduct themselves with as much professionalism as possible in combat zones, war crimes and atrocities do occur with some regularity. There have been several notable incidents of US troops desecrating or mishandling enemy remains in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2004, photos of US military policemen and women posing with a detainee killed in US custody at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad, Iraq were among the many images of detainee torture, humiliation and even rape released by whistleblower Sgt. Joe Darby.
The following year, members of a US Army psychological warfare team filmed American troops burning the bodies of Taliban fighters, using the footage to taunt and terrorize other Afghan militants and civilians. In a particularly provocative move, US troops deliberately turned the bodies of the dead fighters toward Mecca before setting them alight. A US Army loudspeaker blared the following message to nearby villagers:
“Attention, Taliban, you are all cowardly dogs. You allowed your fighters to be laid down facing west and burned. You are too scared to come down and retrieve their bodies. This just proves you are the lady boys we always believed you to be.”
Under Islam, Islamic tradition, corpses must be washed, prayed over, wrapped in a white cloth and buried within 24 hours of death.
In 2011, Rolling Stone magazine published photos of members of a rogue US Army ‘kill team’ posing with the remains of innocent Afghan civilians killed for sport. Some ‘kill team’ members kept body parts of their victims as grisly souvenirs.
Two years ago, a video showing Marines urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters was widely circulated, sparking widespread outrage and, in some conservative US circles, support. A Marine staff sergeant pleaded guilty to desecration last January; three other Marines received administrative punishments.
US troops fought two fierce battles to wrest control of Fallujah, located in the heart of the notorious ‘Sunni Triangle,’ from Iraqi resistance fighters, including both foreign and Iraqi al-Qaeda militants, in 2004. Nearly 100 Americans and many times more resistance fighters and innocent civilians died there in November 2004 in what was the bloodiest US battle since the Vietnam War. Fallujah was recently captured from US-backed Iraqi government forces by al-Qaeda-linked militants, as Iraq continues to be plagued by violence that claimed nearly 9,000 lives last year.