L.A. Times Releases Controversial Photos of U.S. Soldiers in Afghanistan

L.A. Times Releases Controversial Photos of U.S. Soldiers in Afghanistan
By Amanda Walgrove
  • It was recently announced that this morning, at 5 a.m. PST, the L.A. Times would be realeasing never-before-seen photos depicting U.S. troops posing with the bodies (and body parts) of Afghan suicide bombers. Major publications began to tweet this news, wondering if it would happen. And early this morning, it did.

    The L.A. Times article includes a set of 18 photos, contributed by an American soldier who felt that the images pointed to the safety risk of a breakdown in leadership and discipline. The Army has since started a criminal investigation.

    According to the anonymous source, the paratroopers were sent to check out reports that Afghan police had recovered the mangled remains of an insurgent suicide bomber. They were assigned to try to get iris scans and fingerprints for identification — but events took a turn.

    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.

    The bottom line is that these soldiers violated army standards. 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.”

    @BreakingNews has been covering the reported government reaction to this controversial move: