The Los Angeles Times yesterday published photos from nearly two years ago of U.S. troops posing with body parts of dead insurgents in Afghanistan. Top U.S. officials immediately condemned their actions. “The behavior depicted absolutely violates our regulations and, more importantly, our core values,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said. A Pentagon spokesman called the conduct “inhuman,” while White House press secretary Jay Carney yesterday said the troops behavior was “reprehensible.”
But conservative foreign policy chieftain Charles Krauthammer has a different take. Last night on Fox News, he downplayed — but made sure not to excuse — the incident, saying it’s not as bad as people are saying because some of the dead insurgents were suicide attackers and “did not treat their own bodies with respect”:
KRAUTHAMMER: Look, let’s start by stipulating that nobody should treat the body of a dead person with disrespect. However, this is a strange case because the victims themselves, suicide attackers, are people who did not treat their own bodies with respect. They deliberately destroy their own bodies and turn themselves into body parts.
So here we have soldier soldiers in war abusing what is left of the suicide attackers. I find it slightly different from had they been abusing the body of those who died in combat or who died accidentally. It doesn’t excuse them, but I think there is a disconnect here, because suicide attackers are the most criminal of all the war criminals, abusing all the laws of war and generally speaking attacking helpless and unaware civilians.
Watch the clip:
While the soldiers actions are inexcusable, the New York Times reports today that the incident highlights concerns about the breakdown of discipline at lower levels in the chain of command, mainly due to exhaustion and the so-called “stress on the force” from 10 years of war there.