The Defense Department scored at least a partial victory in its fight to quash newly released photographs of U.S. soldiers posing with the corpses of Afghan insurgents and suicide bombers: The Los Angeles Times only published two of the 18 photos an unidentified soldier had given them — reportedly the "least gruesome" ones. The military argued that the widely condemned trophy shots, taken in 2010, endangered the large majority of blameless troops. That's remarkably similar to the reason the unidentified solider says he leaked the photos in the first place: He hoped they would force the Army to fix the "breakdown in leadership and discipline that he believed compromised the safety of the troops," the Times says. Could these macabre photos actually help the U.S. military in the long run?
The military might regret not using this as an opportunity for reform: The Los Angeles Times was right to publish this "mortifying reminder" of what the increasingly baffling Afghanistan War has become, says Amy Davison at The New Yorker. "Our only defense when we find our forces doing things like this is outraged openness." But the Times is sitting on the other 16 photos, and if the military's promised house-cleaning doesn't really change anything, the "moral" response is releasing those graphic images, too.
"Eighteen soldiers: The photographs from Zabul"
It might be too late to undo the rot: It shouldn't have taken two years, and a solider willing to leak the photos, for these crimes to come to light, says Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway. The offending troops probably will be punished now, but we're still left with the "disturbing ethos in some parts of the military" that it's fine to cover up, or even commit, this kind of act. "With Iraq over and Afghanistan winding down, I certainly hope that someone in Washington is thinking about what role this new wartime military will play in peacetime."
"American troops posed with Taliban corpses"
Don't blame the soldiers. This is war: "I don't advocate desecrating the bodies of the enemy," but it's a part of war, and always has been, says Larry Johnson at No Quarter. So yes, if the foolish soldiers in these photos are still alive, they "need to be counseled and disciplined within their units," and their leaders need to set better boundaries. But let's cut the "faux outrage" in the media. "If blame is going to be assigned in this matter," let's start at the top — and the top is the commander in chief, Barack Obama.
"U.S. troops with dead Afghans – STFU media"