Afghan dead bodies as US military trophies

This video is called Bring out the dead: US troops pose with Afghan body parts.

By Bill Van Auken in the USA:

Washington’s real concerns over the Afghanistan atrocity photos

20 April 2012

The images of young American paratroopers playing and posing with dismembered Afghan corpses provide a revolting but accurate reflection of a decade-old war and the demoralizing impact it has had upon the US military.

The Pentagon and the Obama administration exerted intense pressure to block the Los Angeles Times’ publication of the photographs. Just two of 18 photographs given to the Times made it into print. Taken in 2010, one depicts a smirking soldier, a member of the 82nd Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, posing with the hand of a dead Afghan placed on his shoulder. The other shows two soldiers grinning and giving thumbs-up while holding the severed legs of a dead suicide bomber in the air.

These were reportedly the least grotesque of the 18 images. One can only imagine what the other photos showed!

After they appeared, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told the media that he did “not want these images to bring further injury to our people or to our relationship with the Afghan people.” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney chimed in: “We’re also very disappointed … about the decision made to publish these photographs two years after the incident.”

This refrain, that the overriding concern in Washington was that publication of the photos would inflame Afghan public opinion and provoke an intensification of attacks on US troops in Afghanistan is based on a lie.

The Afghans do not need to see a picture on the front page of the LA Times to hate the foreign occupation of their country, which has lasted for over ten years and inflicted hundreds of thousands of casualties together with daily humiliation and oppression. The Afghans are living it, not merely reading it in a newspaper.

The real concern in Washington is the impact that the latest photographs, together with the unending succession of atrocities in Afghanistan, will have upon American and world public opinion. In the United States, opposition to the war is at record levels, with barely 30 percent of the population believing that it is worth fighting.

Internationally, people who are incessantly told that the US is engaged in a global crusade for “human rights” can see through these photos what American soldiers and their commanders in Afghanistan are really up to: murder and brutality on a massive scale.

To counter antiwar sentiment, the government and the military have done their best to control the reporting on the war and, above all, the photographic images that are accessible to the American public.

Such attempts at controlling the images of war are nothing new. The Nazi regime worked tirelessly to ensure that only positive representations of German militarism were made public. It concealed the real nature of the concentration camps and the crimes carried out by Hitler’s armies. Soldiers’ snapshots from the Eastern Front played a role in acquainting the broader German public with the monstrous scale of Nazi criminality.

The White House and the Pentagon, no less than the Third Reich, are well aware that photographic images are a powerful means of exposing the real character of a war. So it was in Vietnam, with the photos of a nine-year-old girl severely burned in a napalm attack, or the shocking pictures of hundreds of corpses piled into a ditch in My Lai. The war of aggression in Iraq ultimately is inseparable from the grotesque images of torture and sexual humiliation at Abu Ghraib.

The American news media, controlled by powerful corporations and conditioned to act as the lapdog of the wealthy and powerful, has acted as a full partner in this exercise. It faithfully repeats the official story put out by the Pentagon and readily trades any independence for the privilege of “embedding” itself in the US war machine.

Thus, while nearly 2,000 US troops have died in the more than 10 years since “Operation Enduring Freedom” was launched, virtually no photographs have been published of soldiers or Marines bleeding in Afghanistan. Until recently, similar discretion was routinely exercised towards the mountain of corpses and legions of wounded Afghan men, women and children produced by the war.

Where there have been exceptions—the video of laughing US Marines urinating on the bloodied bodies of slain Afghan resistance fighters and the photos published in the LA Times—they surfaced not out of the work of the media, but rather from the determination of individual soldiers to expose crimes that they had witnessed.

Despite the angry denunciations of the White House and the military command, the LA Times is hardly an exception to this rule. In its own account of its decision to publish the two photographs, it admits to protracted negotiations with Pentagon officials, repeated delays and a decision to self-censor the majority of the images. Some of the images showed American troops playing with a human head, and all of them were more shocking than those that appeared in print.

The reaction of official Washington to the photographs is equal parts intimidation and damage control. On the one hand, there is the heavy-handed message to the press that it will be held responsible for the armed resistance of the Afghan people. In addition, there are strong reasons to believe that Pentagon’s promised “investigation” will initiate a concerted effort to identify and punish the soldier who gave the photos to the LA Times. There is a real threat that he will face the same treatment as Private Bradley Manning, detained under conditions tantamount to torture and facing a possible life sentence for allegedly providing WikiLeaks with a secret video documenting the massacre of Iraqi civilians by a helicopter gunship.

Then there is the attempt to deny that the photos mean anything. Panetta, the top US commander in Afghanistan General John Allen, the White House, and NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen all have issued statements that are variations on the same theme, insisting that the photographs “are not us” and in no way represent “the standards of the US military”, the “core values of the United States” or the “principles and values that are the basis of our mission in Afghanistan”.

This is all bunk; the pictures do not lie. One sees in these photos the staggering levels of brutality that characterize the Afghanistan war and the demoralization of the troops who are sent to wage it. These sorts of atrocities are historically associated with a breakdown in military command and discipline that are the inevitable product of colonial wars waged to subdue entire populations.

The photographs reveal not only the nature of the war, but more essentially, that of the society that produced it. This undoubtedly is a matter of deep concern within the American ruling elite, as the seemingly unending exposures of massacres, torture and crimes carried out by the American military abroad provoke growing alienation from the social and political order at home.

Who is responsible? Defiling human remains is a violation of the Geneva Conventions—a war crime. But it, like countless other atrocities, is the product of a war of plunder and geo-political interests.

At the Nuremberg Tribunal following the Second World War, it was agued, by American prosecutors, that all of the crimes of the Nazis flowed from the Hitler regime’s use of aggressive war as a means of achieving its political and strategic aims, precisely what the United States has done in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. Up to this point, however, not one high level American official has been held responsible for any of this.

These crimes have been carried out in the name of the American people, though the great mass of working people in the United States are outraged by and ashamed of these atrocities. It is high time for the revival of the struggle against war. This must be based upon a mass, independent movement of the working class against militarism’s source, the capitalist profit system. This movement must include in its demands that those responsible for the crime of aggressive war—in the Bush and Obama administrations—be held accountable, both politically and legally.

The US in Afghanistan: A Tale of Urination, Desecration, Extermination, and … Posing with Corpses? Here.

From the Voice of America:

Americans Feared Dead in Afghan Helicopter Crash

Posted Friday, April 20th, 2012 at 2:30 am

U.S. officials said Friday the four people aboard an American Black Hawk helicopter that crashed in southwestern Afghanistan were likely Americans.

See also here.

NATO prepares troop withdrawal from Afghan quagmire: here.

Afghan Screams Aren’t Heard. Hakim and Kathy Kelly, Truthout: “The monthly Global Days of Listening conversations which the youth have had with ordinary U.S., European, Middle Eastern and Australian citizens have helped change their lives person-to-person, overcoming the cold impersonal ‘shoosh’ of overhead rockets and under-running bloodshed. Every day, Ghulam studies, cooks, washes the dishes and lives, very normally. But some nights, in the stupor of nightmares, Ghulam shouts subconsciously, out of ear-range to the million-dollar intelligence spies, ‘What kind of world is this that still insists on signing war agreements?'” Here.

Afghanistan War Is Turning GIs Into Junkies as Afghan Opium Production Soars Under US Occupation. Mark Karlin, BuzzFlash at Truthout: “What’s more deplorable is that under US occupation, the cultivation of poppies has grown – some might even say surged in Afghanistan…. Opium cultivation in Afghanistan basically has risen from 70 percent of the world’s supply in 2000 to 92 percent now – and it is continuing to rise according to a CBS News report…. Meanwhile, we send soldiers to Afghanistan and some of them come home junkies”: here.

US congressman refused entry to Afghanistan over criticisms of Karzai: here.

US and Afghan officials announced Sunday that they had reached a draft agreement committing the United States to continuing military and financial support to the puppet regime in Kabul long after the scheduled withdrawal of the bulk of US ground troops at the end of 2014: here.

Afghan Security Forces Attack Coalition Troops, Officials Say: here.

As Many As 1,000 NATO Soldiers Shot By Afghan Allies To Date: here.

Bombs Not Food: Republicans Aim To Save Military By Cutting Food Stamps: here.

Henry A. Giroux | Violence, USA: The Warfare State and the Brutalizing of Everyday Life. Henry A. Giroux, Truthout: “Since 9/11, the war on terror and the campaign for homeland security have increasingly mimicked the tactics of the enemies they sought to crush. Violence and punishment as both a media spectacle and a bone-crushing reality have become prominent and influential forces shaping American society…. The metaphysics of war and associated forms of violence now creep into every aspect of American society”: here.

Violence, USA: An Interview With Henry A. Giroux. Michael Slate and Henry A. Giroux, The Michael Slate Show: “… ‘[T]he United States is not only obsessed with military values shaping foreign policy, but war and militarism have become a mediating force that begins to seep into almost every aspect of daily life. That is we see war and its dynamics of cruelty and punishment seeping into a whole range of institutions…. [W]e see schools as being modeled increasingly after prisons. We see police forces being paramilitarized. We see popular culture endlessly celebrating the spectacle of violence, and so it goes”: here.

Three US marines who were videoed in Afghanistan urinating on the bodies of dead Afghans will not face criminal charges, the US military has announced: here.

17 thoughts on “Afghan dead bodies as US military trophies

  1. Returning soldiers have more car crashes: study

    Tuesday, April 24, 2012 12:06 a.m. EDT

    By Ben Berkowitz

    BOSTON (Reuters) – Military personnel have 13 percent more car accidents in which they are at fault in the six months after returning from overseas duty than in the six months prior, a USAA study revealed on Tuesday.

    USAA, a major insurer catering specifically to the armed forces and their families, based its study on 171,000 deployments by 158,000 of its members over a three-year period ending in February 2010, when combat was still raging in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    In many cases, USAA found, soldiers took the driving style that kept them alive on the streets of Baghdad and Kabul and applied it to the suburban roads at home.

    The results were most dramatic for returning members of the Army and Marines, whose accident rates rose 23 percent and 12.5 percent, respectively. (Rates were up 3 percent for the Navy and 2 percent for the Air Force).

    Not surprisingly, given the experience many soldiers had with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and other roadside obstacles in combat zones, USAA found “objects in the road” to be the most cited of the 13 accident causes it studied.

    The insurer also found a direct correlation between the number of deployments and the rate of accidents — those deployed three or more times had 36 percent more incidents, those deployed twice had 27 percent more and those deployed only once had 12 percent more accidents. A 2009 military study found that, since 2001, deployments for reservists had averaged from 8 to 14 months in duration.

    There was also correlation by age (soldiers under 22 were involved in more wrecks than those over 29) and by rank (the more senior a soldier the lower the number of accidents).

    “USAA has shared its research with each military branch’s safety center commanders. USAA has also shared the study with academics and traffic safety experts and has taken steps to make USAA members aware of the behind-the-wheel risks for returning troops,” the company, which had 8.8 million members as of the end of 2011, said in the report.

    The Army’s Office of Public Affairs declined to comment on the results of the study, saying it was the company’s research project and not the government’s.

    The USAA survey adds to the growing body of data on the psychological and physical effects of deployment to war zones.

    The U.S. Army said in January that violent sex crimes committed by active-duty soldiers have almost doubled over the last five years, due in part to the trauma of war. In March, Army researchers said one in five soldiers returning from Afghanistan or Iraq after a concussion develop chronic headaches.

    (Reporting By Ben Berkowitz; editing by Gunna Dickson)


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  3. Son’s habits changed after Afghan mission, mother tells suicide hearing


    OTTAWA— From Friday’s Globe and Mail

    Published Thursday, Apr. 26, 2012 10:32PM EDT
    Last updated Friday, Apr. 27, 2012 8:11AM EDT

    After Afghan war veteran Stuart Langridge returned to Canada, Sheila Fynes said she saw a “marked change” in her son.

    Rather than the “happy-go-lucky” and energetic boy she remembered, the corporal stopped sleeping well and started having nightmares, Ms. Fynes told a public interest hearing into her son’s suicide Thursday.

    More related to this story

    Probe into corporal’s death examines why suicide note was kept secret 14 months
    Military failing families of fallen soldiers, ombudsman says
    Lawyer describes ‘emotional’ chat with U.S. soldier accused in Afghan massacre

    The Military Police Complaints Commission is investigating the handling of the case, focusing on concerns brought forward by Ms. Fynes and her husband. Among their allegations are that investigations into Cpl. Langridge’s death by the Canadian Forces National Investigations Service were inadequate and biased, aiming to exonerate Canadian Forces members of responsibility.

    “After Afghanistan,” Ms. Fynes said, “he tried very hard to still be good at what he was doing. But there was a difference … he played his cards really close to his chest.”

    The corporal, who also served in Bosnia, returned from Afghanistan in 2005. He was drinking excessively and using cocaine by 2007, said his mother, who maintains he was suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. He attempted suicide several times, was hospitalized and stayed at a rehab centre before he was found hanging at Canadian Forces Base Edmonton in March, 2008. He was 28.

    When Ms. Fynes and her husband returned to their Victoria home on March 15, 2008, there was a message waiting and the call display said “DND.” Ms. Fynes said she knew immediately that her son had killed himself.

    She had recently come back from Alberta, where she had been visiting the corporal in hospital following a suicide attempt, Ms. Fynes told the hearing. He had returned to the base with specific conditions, she said, among them that he would be watched 24/7.

    “It’s the last time I will ever go against what my instinct tells me,” she said, responding to questions from the commission lawyer. “I believed someone I didn’t know, who said that my son was safe.”

    Much of the probe is focusing on a suicide note that Cpl. Langridge left for his family, one that requested a small funeral. They weren’t given it, or even told about it, for 14 months. The delay prompted public apologies from the Canadian Forces, but the cause of the delay remains unclear.

    It took months for Ms. Fynes to be told that she was designated as the next of kin, she said, which happened after the family filed a complaint about delays. Originally the family was told the soldier’s ex-girlfriend was still designated, leading to complications including her planning the funeral, Ms. Fynes said.

    Recently updated paperwork indicating the change of next of kin was lost behind a cabinet in the office of Cpl. Langridge’s boss, the probe has heard. It was found within days of his death but took months to get to the family, according to witnesses.

    Another complication was that Cpl. Langridge’s death certificate contained errors, even after she tried to have it corrected three times, she said.

    Previous witnesses have suggested that everything possible was done to care for the soldier before his death, including access to addictions counsellors on the base, said commission lawyer Mark Freiman. But Ms. Fynes, who only paused a few times during her emotional testimony, rejected that everything possible was done.

    Earlier, she recalled what her son said to her when he tried to turn things around once before his death: “I need to get back to the business of being a good soldier.”

    The witness before Ms. Fynes on Thursday was Lieutenant-Colonel Gilles Sansterre. The former commanding officer of the Canadian Forces National Investigations Service is one subject of the family’s complaints.

    The hearing was heated as he fielded repeated questions from lawyers for the family and the commission about why an operating procedure wasn’t changed in writing – to include reference to quickly informing families about suicide notes – until 2011. More than a year before that, following Cpl. Langridge’s death, officials said the procedures had been changed.

    Lt.-Col. Sansterre said the need to give notes to families quickly was communicated verbally before it was written into the procedure.


  4. Kandahar army shooting kills 2

    AFGHANISTAN: An Afghan soldier shot dead a US service member and a local interpreter and injured three Nato soldiers in Kandahar province on Thursday.

    There have been at least 16 such attacks against occupation forces this year.

    Three US soldiers were killed in a bomb blast in a separate attack on Thursday in the country’s east, according to Nato, which did not release further details.


  5. Number of suicides in military rises as troops return home from Afghanistan

    By: The Canadian Press

    30/04/2012 6:28 PM

    OTTAWA – The number of suicides in the Canadian military rose last year as thousands of soldiers returned home from the battlefields of Afghanistan.

    The Department of National Defence says 19 men and one woman died by suicide in the Canadian Forces in 2011, up from 12 in 2010.

    The department cautions against reading too much into the statistics, saying there’s no proof they signal an upward trend.

    In a statement on their website, the department says suicide rates among serving military personnel are lower than those of the Canadian population.

    According to statistics provided by the military, 187 soldiers have committed suicide since 1996.

    That’s more than the number of soldiers killed during the 10 years Canadians spent fighting the war in Afghanistan; of the 158 soldiers who died, at least three are believed to have committed suicide in the field.

    Canada’s combat role in Kandahar ended in the summer of 2011, though there are still several hundred troops training Afghan forces.

    A recent parliamentary study estimated that almost 3,000 of the soldiers who served there can be expected to suffer from a severe form of post-traumatic stress disorder and 6,500 will suffer from mental health issues.

    The study said the risk of suicide is a major concern with stress-related injuries. And while the rate of suicide among serving soldiers is less than the population, a study done by the military did find that former soldiers have a higher risk of suicide than average Canadians.

    The Canadian Forces have increased mental health screening and awareness programs since 2009 and returning soldiers must attend post-deployment sessions with mental health staff.

    But Chief of Defence Staff Walter Natyncyzk told a Senate committee that even using the gold standard of recruitment and all the screening techniques available, it’s impossible to identify all soldiers who are vulnerable.

    “One suicide is too many,” Natyncyzk told the committee Monday.

    “And we have too many every year.”


  6. AP EXCLUSIVE: US not reporting all Afghan attacks

    Monday – 4/30/2012, 4:25pm ET
    An Army carry team marches away from a transfer case containing the remains of Staff Sgt. Dick A. Lee Jr. Sunday, April 29, 2012 at Dover Air Force Base, Del. According to the Department of Defense, Lee, 31, of Orange Park, Fla., died April 26, 2012 in Ghazni province, Afghanistan from injuries sustained when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark)

    AP National Security Writer

    WASHINGTON (AP) – The military is under-reporting the number of times that Afghan soldiers and police open fire on American and other foreign troops.

    The U.S.-led coalition routinely reports each time an American or other foreign soldier is killed by an Afghan in uniform. But The Associated Press has learned it does not report insider attacks in which the Afghan wounds _ or misses _ his U.S. or allied target. It also doesn’t report the wounding of troops who were attacked alongside those who were killed.

    Such attacks reveal a level of mistrust and ill will between the U.S.-led coalition and its Afghan counterparts in an increasingly unpopular war. The U.S. and its military partners are working more closely with Afghan troops in preparation for handing off security responsibility to them by the end of 2014.

    In recent weeks an Afghan soldier opened fire on a group of American soldiers but missed the group entirely. The Americans quickly shot him to death. Not a word about this was reported by the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, as the coalition is formally known. It was disclosed to the AP by a U.S. official who was granted anonymity in order to give a fuller picture of the “insider” problem.

    ISAF also said nothing about last week’s attack in which two Afghan policemen in Kandahar province fired on U.S. soldiers, wounding two. Reporters learned of it from Afghan officials and from U.S. officials in Washington. The two Afghan policemen were shot to death by the Americans present.

    Just last Wednesday, an attack that killed a U.S. Army special forces soldier, Staff Sgt. Andrew T. Brittonmihalo, 25, of Simi Valley, Calif., also wounded three other American soldiers. The death was reported by ISAF as an insider attack, but it made no mention of the wounded _ or that an Afghan civilian also was killed.

    The attacker was an Afghan special forces soldier who opened fire with a machine gun at a base in Kandahar province. He was killed by return fire.

    That attack apparently was the first by a member of the Afghan special forces, who are more closely vetted than conventional Afghan forces and are often described by American officials as the most effective and reliable in the Afghan military.

    Coalition officials do not dispute that such non-fatal attacks happen, but they have not provided a full accounting.

    The insider threat has existed for years but has grown more deadly. Last year there were 21 fatal attacks that killed 35 coalition service members, according to ISAF figures. That compares with 11 fatal attacks and 20 deaths the previous year. In 2007 and 2008 there were a combined total of four attacks and four deaths.

    ISAF has released brief descriptions of each of the fatal attacks for 2012 but says similar information for fatal attacks in 2011 is considered classified and therefore cannot be released.

    Jamie Graybeal, an ISAF spokesman in Kabul, disclosed Monday in response to repeated AP requests that in addition to 10 fatal insider attacks so far this year, there have been two others that resulted in no deaths or injuries, plus one attack that resulted in wounded, for a total of 13 attacks. The three non-fatal attacks had not previously been reported.

    Graybeal also disclosed that in most of the 10 fatal attacks a number of other ISAF troops were wounded. By policy, the fact that the attacks resulted in wounded as well as a fatality is not reported, he said.

    Asked to explain why non-fatal insider attacks are not reported, Graybeal said the coalition does not disclose them because it does not have consent from all coalition governments to do so.

    “All releases must be consistent with the national policies of troop contributing nations,” Graybeal said.

    Graybeal said a new review of this year’s data showed that the 10 fatal attacks resulted in the deaths of 19 ISAF service members. His office had previously said the death total was 18. Most of those killed this year have been Americans but France, Britain and other coalition member countries also have suffered fatalities.

    Graybeal said each attack in 2012 and 2011 was “an isolated incident and has its own underlying circumstances and motives.” Just last May, however, an unclassified internal ISAF study, called “A Crisis of Trust and Cultural Incompatibility,” concluded, “Such fratricide-murder incidents are no longer isolated; they reflect a growing systemic threat.” It said many attacks stemmed from Afghan grievances related to cultural and other conflicts with U.S. troops.

    Mark Jacobson, an international affairs expert at the German Marshall Fund in Washington and a former deputy NATO senior civilian representative in Afghanistan, said attacks of all types are cause for worry.

    “You have to build up trust when working with partners, and years of trust can be destroyed in just a minute,” Jacobson said. No matter what the motivation of the Afghan attacker, “it threatens the partnership.”

    Until now there has been little public notice of non-fatal insider attacks, even though they would appear to reflect the same deadly intent as that of Afghans who manage to succeed in killing their foreign partners.

    Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry, said the army has tightened its monitoring of soldiers’ activities recently and, in some cases, taken action to stop insider attacks.

    For example, “a number of soldiers” have been arrested for activity that might suggest a plot, such as providing information on army activities to people outside the military, he said. Some have been dismissed from the Army, but he did not provide figures.

    U.S. officials say that in most cases the Afghans who turn their guns on their supposed allies are motivated not by sympathy for the Taliban or on orders from insurgents but rather act as a result of personal grievances against the coalition.


    Associated Press writer Heidi Vogt in Kabul contributed to this report.


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