US military mishaps threaten foreign relations
On April 18, The Los Angeles Times released disturbing photographs of U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan posing with the deceased bodies of suspected Afghan suicide bombers, against the wishes of the Pentagon. The photographs were released on the “condition of anonymity.” The anonymous solider reportedly told the Times he released the photos to prove a point about shortcomings in security on U.S. bases in the Middle East.
These pictures were allegedly taken in 2010, when the 82nd Airborne Division had a mission to investigate reports that Afghan police had recovered the remains of an Afghan suicide bomber and gain evidence by taking fingerprints. However, the American soldiers ended up posing for photos with the corpse, grinning and even making an unofficial platoon patch that read “Zombie Hunter.” A few months later, this same platoon posed next to the remains of three insurgents, who, according to Afghan police, had accidently blown themselves up. They even posed with members of the Afghan police force, grinning and holding the legs of one of the remains upside down. One of the soldiers can even been seen giving the camera a thumbs up, while standing over the dead body.
Army spokesman George Wright said, “Such actions fall short of what we expect of our uniformed service members in deployed areas.”
After the release of these horrific and offensive photographs, the Army launched a criminal investigation.
Pentagon spokesman George Little said, “These images by no means represent the values or professionalism of the vast majority of U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan today.”
While the majority of troops may not have such deep errors in judgment, it would be misleading to try to claim this is an isolated incident. This scandal is just another addition to the list of solider misconduct that adds unnecessary tension to U.S. – Afghan relations.
In January of this year, a video was posted of U.S. Marines urinating on corpses of dead Taliban members, which turned stomachs everywhere. Then, in February, protests and riots occurred in Afghanistan over the burning of Qurans at a NATO airbase. The Taliban retaliated with a car-bombing, killing six civilians,a solider and two airport guards.
A Taliban spokesman said, “This attack is revenge against those soldiers who burned our Quran.”
These incidents demonstrate a lack of integrity in the soldiers, who are harming relations with Afghanistan and other nations. There already exists an immense anti-Western sentiment in the Middle East, which, after cases like these, hardly seems unwarranted. These actions devalue life, reduce security of other troops in the region and further complicate negotiations, as the U.S. works with Afghanistan to determine the presence of troops in the nation after the majority of combat troops return home in 2014. These actions are treason, and should be treated at such. When such behavior occurs, it reflects poorly on the U.S. globally. Despite the behavior being ‘condemned’ by the U.S. government, it does no good to issue apologies if the actions continue.
Lives are risked, and have even been lost, when soldiers act out of accordance with the values preached by the military. Nothing should be done, under any circumstances, to further aggravate relations with Afghanistan. The nation’s respectability falls, and it shows a disturbing lack of discipline from our soldiers. It is easy to understand how the anonymous solider who sent in the photographs to the Times would be concerned about lack of security. These behaviors will spark protests and outrage, putting the lives of American and Afghan soldiers at risk, increasing global tension and working backwards in conflict progress.