In a public relations nightmare for the U.S. military, the German news magazine Der Spiegel has published photographs of grinning American soldiers posing next to the corpse of an Afghan civilian. (See the graphic photos here.) The soldiers, Spec. Jeremy N. Morlock of Alaska and Pfc. Andrew H. Holmes of Idaho, are among five members of a rogue 5th Stryker Brigade "kill team" facing murder charges in the deaths of three Afghan civilians last year. Military commanders say they are bracing for an explosion of anti-U.S. anger akin to that which followed the Abu Ghraib scandal in Iraq. Is this as bad?
This is worse than Abu Ghraib: NATO leaders know these images "could be more damning than the photos from Abu Ghraib," says Nitasha Tiku at New York. The photos from Iraq showed U.S. soldiers abusing prisoners, and that was bad enough. But these soldiers have been accused of "deliberately" murdering Afghan civilians. And these images might just be the tip of the iceberg — apparently, the Stryker "kill team" recorded their actions in 4,000 photos and videos.
"Trophy photos of Army's 'kill team' with Afghan civilians could be worse than Abu Ghraib"
Not if military officials succeed with preemptive damage control: U.S. officials are determined to keep this scandal from creating an Abu Ghraib-like backlash, says Alissa Rubin in The New York Times. With Abu Ghraib, suspicions of a coverup fueled the anger; this time, the Army apologized immediately, calling the images "repugnant." And military commanders and diplomats are hoping that the fact that these soldiers are already being "brought to justice" will "mute public anger."
"Photos stoke tension over Afghan civilian deaths"
The real difference is the liberal media's reaction: The "mainstream media and liberal blogosphere" could not contain their "shock and revulsion" when the Abu Ghraib scandal broke in 2003, says Howard Portnoy at Hot Air. But George W. Bush was president then. If the response to these images is muted, it will be because, with Barack Obama in the White House, the liberal media are pretending the Stryker kill team's "trophy photos" don't exist. "What a difference a president makes."
"Obama's Abu Ghraib: The stuff hits the fan"