Pentagon condemns release of photos showing soldiers with dead Afghans

(CBS News) WASHINGTON - They are literally the pictures the Pentagon didn't want you to see. American soldiers posing with the dismembered remains of enemy suicide bombers, were published Wednesday by the Los Angeles Times despite pleas from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

The White House called the photos reprehensible. CBS News correspondent David Martin reports.

"We had urged the L.A. Times not to run these photos and the reason for that is those kinds of photos are used by the enemy to incite violence," Panetta said at a press conference Wednesday.

Photos show U.S. GIs posing with dead Afghans
Losing the media war in Afghanistan
Video: Troop leaders concerned about new photos

Soldiers from the Army's 82nd Airborne Division pose with the mangled corpose of a suicide bomber in Afghanistan's Zabol province. The image was first published in the LA Times, which received it from an unnamed soldier in the division.In this image provided to the LA Times by a soldier in the division.
Soldiers from the Army's 82nd Airborne Division pose with the mangled corpse of a suicide bomber in Afghanistan's Zabol province.
LA Times

Army investigators have had the photos for about a month and do not doubt their authenticity. Taken two years ago, they show paratroopers from the 82nd airborne, most of whom have been identified and are under investigation for violating an order governing the conduct of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

According to the paper, the photos came from a soldier who said they are evidence of a breakdown in discipline that endangered the lives of troops.

They are the latest in a string of blows to the American image in Afghanistan. In January, a video surfaced of Marine snipers urinating on dead bodies. Both sets of images stand as testament to the dehumanizing effect of war.

"This is war and I know that war is ugly and it's violent and I know that young people sometimes caught up in the moment make some very foolish decisions," said Panetta.

A soldier from the Army's 82nd Airborne Division poses with a dead insurgent's hand on his shoulder. The image was first published in the LA Times, which received it from an unnamed soldier in the division.
A soldier from the Army's 82nd Airborne Division poses with a dead insurgent's hand on his shoulder.
LA Times

There was also the inadvertent burning of the Quran which set off anti-American protests and the infamous case of Sgt. Robert Bales, charged with murdering 17 Afghan civilians.

But the war grinds on. The unit to which those paratroopers belonged is already back in Afghanistan for another tour.

The L.A. Times told CBS they decided that publishing the photos would "fulfill our obligation to our readers to report vigorously and impartially on all aspects of the American mission in Afghanistan."

  • David Martin

    David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent.

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