White House Criticizes L.A. Times For Publishing Afghan Photos Of Abuse Of Corpses By U.S. Troops

The Obama White House is again striking out at the media for a lack of self-censorship. The Los Angeles Times correctly published the photos of U.S. soldiers posing with corpses in Afghanistan. Spokesman Jay Carney reacted to the publication of photos in the Los Angeles Times of U.S. soldiers posing with corpses in Afghanistan. Such acts are viewed as violations of the law of war and gross violations of human rights. Yet, White House Spokesman Jay Carney, a former journalist, criticized the newspaper and said the President was “disappointed.. [with] the decision to publish two years after the incident.” The most recent disappointment by the President involves a core journalistic obligation to inform the public. The pictures in this case are the story and to understand the abuse — and the reaction — it was important for the readers of the L.A. Times to see the images in my view.

This is a repeat offense for American troops and leads to legitimate questions over the training and response after the prior scandal. However, once again, the Obama Administration (which has continued the Bush policies to bar the release of embarrassing photos and material) displays an unnerving intolerance for the free press and the right of the public to review evidence of government abuse.

The international and domestic law on this issue is clear. Article 15 of the First Geneva Convention states that “at all times, and particularly after an engagement… search for the dead and prevent their being despoiled.” Article 16 of the First Geneva Convention, states an obligation that parties have to return bodies of enemy dead and that “As far as military considerations allow, each Party to the conflict shall facilitate the steps taken … to protect [the killed] against … ill-treatment.” Article 17 of the First Geneva Convention deals with the mandatory rules for the burial of the battlefield dead. Article 34(1) of the 1977 Additional Protocol I provides: “The remains of persons who have died for reasons related to occupation or in detention resulting from occupation or hostilities … shall be respected.” Likewise, Article 8(2)(b)(xxi) and (c)(ii) of the 1998 ICC Statute, “[c]ommitting outrages upon personal dignity” constitutes a war crime in both international and non-international armed conflicts.

This includes our own military manuals. US Instructor’s Guide (1985) states: “In addition to the grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, the following acts are further examples of war crimes: … mutilating or mistreating dead bodies”. The US Naval Handbook (1995) provides that “mutilation and other mistreatment of the dead” are representative war crimes.

Thus, by our own definition, these acts constitute war crimes and yet the L.A. Times was supposed to withhold the pictures. How about theses pictures?

The American media released the pictures of the My Lai massacre and forced Americans to face the true image of the atrocity. It is far easier for the government to brush over such crimes as abstractions than when citizens are exposed to the actual images of abuse.

The Administration has rightly condemned the photos but should have confined such criticism to the culprits not the media.

What do you think?

34 thoughts on “White House Criticizes L.A. Times For Publishing Afghan Photos Of Abuse Of Corpses By U.S. Troops

  1. idealist707 1, April 19, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    patricparamedic said:
    “And to our leaders in Washington? You might want to keep in mind, the males in these photos will someday soon be out of the armed forces, in your neighborhoods, standing behind counters at Wal Mart & McDonald’s, smiling at your children.”

    I add: …..and in your local police force too.

    Besides my new fríend from Herat says that her husband’s family from Kandahar are more or less regarded as incurable islamic hardliners. Afghanistan reminds me of America, united fully.

    Progress here? Nil.
    At best.

    War is just a shot away. Gimme shelter.

  2. I’m with Gyges.

    When you let the head of the fish commit war crimes, don’t be shocked when the body follows suit. A fish rots from the head. It’s an old Russian proverb, but it fits. And man do Bush and Cheney smell fishy.

  3. What Gyges and Gene said.

    18 Apr 2012 12:18 PM
    “How Bush And Cheney Used A Stasi School For Torture”


    “Isn’t there something grotesquely appropriate in that Bush and Cheney, in importing into the US the torture techniques of totalitarian regimes, used one building named in honor of the founder of the East German Stasi? They remain war criminals, and the rule of law in America remains unenforced by the Obama administration on the core issue of torture. But not all politicians are as craven as Obama on this. Here’s the current conservative prime minister of Poland, Donald Tusk:

    “Poland will not be a country anymore where politicians will arrange something under the table and it will not come to light, even if they do it hand-in-hand with the biggest empire in the world,” and “those in power must be able very effectively to safeguard the dignity of the Polish state; in other words, they must act only in accordance with their conscience, Polish law and international law.”

    Good for Poland. There is far more accountability in that new democracy than is allowed to exist in this one.”

  4. The Constitution of the United States expressly prohibits the Government from abridging the freedom of the press in any way, shape, or form. That American news organizations even bother checking with the Government before publishing whatever they want testifies to a corporate fear of freedom almost beyond lampooning.

    As I understand the Government’s ridiculous contention that it has some extra-constitutional right to exercise “prior restraint” upon the press: the Aghans don’t know what we’ve done to them — and so cannot possibly get angry about it — unless they see pictures of their dead family and neighbors in American newspapers. Afghans, please understand, cannot recognize blood-drenched human body parts and connect them with the sudden absence of their loved ones and the horrendous blast from a guided missle descending from a cricling robot drone overhead. Afghans, please understand, only know what the American government allows Americans to know. Namely, precious little of anything. So, no pictures no problems.

    Reductio-ad-absurdum aside, the American government has no fear of what Afghans or Iraqis or Pakistanis or Yemenis or Somalis think, only a terror of what Americans might think — on the rare occasions when they actually do. As in Vietnam and Iraq, “we lost the day we started and we win the day we quit.” The American people quit this crap crusade in Afghanistan years ago, yet the invested egos of our maniacal miscreant ministers cannot accept this and so will go on babbling bureaucratic bullshit until the people yank the funding plug on the whole errant enterprise. As the jaded Vietnamese bar girls used to jeer at the broke and hard-up GIs on Tu Do Street in Saigon: “No money, no honey!” America’s never-ending debacle in Southeast Asia finally ended in 1975 on just that note. Way past time for a reprise of the old refrain:

    With their tails tucked proudly ‘tween their legs,
    Advancing towards the exit march the dregs
    Of empire, whose retreat this question begs:
    No promised omelet, just the broken eggs?

    No more huge standing military. No more secrecy. The abusive and despotic American government has forfeited any claim to either.

  5. Hughes and Gene are right. If we prosecute everyone involved in torture, all the way to the top, less chicken hawks would be screaming for it!

  6. “History affords few if any examples of a free people — in such a powerful country, under no existential threat, undergoing no invasion, no armed insurrection, no natural disaster or epidemic or societal collapse — giving up their own freedoms so meekly, so mutely. Most Americans like to boast of their love of freedom, their rock-ribbed independence and their fiercely-held moral principles: yet they are happy to see the government claim — and use — the power to murder innocent people whenever it pleases while imposing an ever-spreading police state regimen on their lives and liberties. Sheep doped with Rohypnol would put up a stronger fight than these doughty patriots.” — Chris Floyd, Empire Burlesque

    For the whole article, “The Way of the Drone: Emblem for an Empire of Cowards,” see here.

    How far we’ve come from those days in 1961, my first year of high school, when I read William J. Lederer’s timeless book: A Nation of Sheep, all about the CIA and American military mucking about in Laos conniving with local drug lords and terrorizing the peasantry into not thinking kindly of anything designated “communist” by the United States government. Now an “updated” version of that same lunatic government tells our newspapers that they cannot show us pictures of our CIA and military mucking about in Afghanistan conniving with local drug lords and terrorizing the peasantry into not thinking kindly of anything designated by us as “terrorist.” Good thing that the words “Communist” and “Terrorist” don’t look or sound anything alike to Americans or a few of them might begin to notice uncomfortable connections between the dead, dismembered peasants and the maniacal American government that creates ten new “terrorists” for each foreign “bug” that it kills, maims, or renders a homeless refugee.

  7. As another indicator of “how far we’ve come,” the pictures in question reveal what American drone operators (military, CIA, and Corporate Mercenary) like to call “bug splat.” Which ought to remind us of this:

    “In early 1967 [General William] Westmoreland gave a most complicated and interesting explanation for the rationale behind the President’s “ceiling” on the number of American troops. “If,” he said, “you crowd in too many termite killers, each using a screwdriver to kill the termites, you risk collapsing the floors or the foundation. In this war, we’re using screwdrivers to kill termites because it’s a guerrilla war and we cannot use bigger weapons. We have to get the right balance of termite killers to get rid of the termites without wrecking the house.” To continue this extraordinary metaphor, the American force had managed to wreck the house without killing the termites; they had, further, managed to make the house uninhabitable for anyone except termites. In a different manner, they had made the [American-created puppet government] house unlivable as well.” — Frances Fitzgerald, Fire in the Lake: the Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam

    In Vietnam, our vaunted Visigoths killed so many termites with screwdrivers that the termites multiplied and eventually drove us out of their house that we had destroyed. At the rate the American military keeps killing all those “bugs” in Afghanistan, in no time at all the bugs will overrun Afghanistan and force us to go find some other impoverished house to wreck. Killing bugs to make more of them: the American way of “war.”

  8. Would the WH condemn pictures of atrocities by the ‘bad guys’, or use them to inflame ? Or remain mute?

    Right now it’s the warmongering of the establishment against our unheard calls for sanity. Most anything that can wake up the public is ok by me.

  9. The beginning of the “chilling effect”. What’s next? Call the editor in for a little chat? Exclude LA Times reporters from pressers, or question?. Have Holder “look into” the matter? A suit?

  10. MikeA,
    Thanks, many thanks.
    How many parodies can we create?

    A nattion which engages in corruption should be blind to it.
    The only difference between the corruption in Indonesia and here is that they speak another language.
    The only nation that the CIA has killed the president of……..sorry there are many.
    Do our politicians give courses to foreign ones?
    Has Mossad given up on CIA?

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