Foreign Policy Blogs

New Images Surface of U.S. Soldiers Posing with Innocent Victims

What is one to say about news of new incendiary images of American soldiers posing with the innocent civilians that they killed? How can one fortify oneself to stand for the idea that these images, published today by Der Spiegel- images, inhumane all; images, well outside the bounds of propositional expression to describe them-are only the work of a few bad apples.  This quite apart from the legal judgment on the murder of innocent civilians.  This quite apart from the fact that the news of these killings of innocent men has been floating around the major news outlets for months now? (Let us not allege innocence of the victims, here; let us insist on it!)

If perception is reality, than the three images that the German magazine Der Spiegel published of U.S. soldiers posing with the corpses of dead men, men that they only recently killed, the soldiers jubilant, jeering literally at the faces of their victims, must give pause to anyone who is interested in the U.S. intervention and nearly ten-year long travails in  Afghanistan.  Perhaps an Afghan man sat with his wife, is looking at these images-bewildered, cut right apart by the cruelty wildly on exhibit.    How can one that man and his wife not think that the reality is simply that, U.S. soldiers care not whit for Afghan lives?

According to Der Spiegel, the magazine that published three out of some 4000 images:

“US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has already telephoned with her Afghan counterpart to discuss the situation. National Security Advisor Tom Donilon has likewise made contact with officials in Kabul. The case threatens to strain already fragile US-Afghan relations at a time when the two countries are negotiating over the establishment of permanent US military bases in Afghanistan.”

“In a statement released by Colonel Thomas Collins, the US Army, which is currently preparing a court martial to try a total of 12 suspects in connection with the killings, apologized for the suffering the photos have caused. The actions depicted in the photos, the statement read, are “repugnant to us as human beings and contrary to the standards and values of the United States.”

To outline a bit of context on the publication of these images of events that occurred nearly a year ago:

“NATO, under the leadership of the US Army, has been preparing for possible publication of the photos for close to 100 days. In dozens of high-level talks with their Afghan partners, military leaders have sought to pursue the same strategy used by the US diplomatic corps in the case of the sensitive diplomatic cables released late last year by WikiLeaks. They warned those most directly affected and made preparations for the photos’ appearance in the public sphere. This “strategic communication” was aimed at preventing a major public backlash.”

One must strongly doubt whether these precautionary moves will do anything at all to quell the rage fire that will spread all throughout Afghan hearts, in every corner of Afghanistan.  Today, Monday is a Persian New Year holiday in Afghanistan. Tomorrow, the streets and villages will be inflamed against what most angry Afghans will think as an exception that verifies the rule: Americans are here to kill Afghans.  And ten years out, there simply isn’t any way to change that opinion; too little, too late.  The question now is, how will President Hamid Karzai elide the accusation that he is allying himself with a military whose members knowingly kill innocent Afghans.

News of the an U.S “kill team” has abounded recently.  Twelve men are about to face court martial for their alleged involvement in the deaths of innocent Afghan men, and the subsequent forensic cover-up of the acts that led to those deaths. This news is well known.  But the pictures behind the news, the ones that show the feral cruelty of these young soldiers, weren’t available until now.  So, where do we go next when a picture-or three- does more talking than a thousand words and more?

(I ask you, my readers, to be sensitive to the fact that the images that you’ll see in a slide show at the Der Spiegel website are hard to countenance.)



Faheem Haider
Faheem Haider

Faheem Haider is a political analyst, writer and artist. He holds advanced research degrees in political economy, political theory and the political economy of development from the London School of Economics and Political Science and New York University. He also studied political psychology at Columbia University. During long stints away from his beloved Washington Square Park, he studied peace and conflict resolution and French history and European politics at the American University in Washington DC and the University of Paris, respectively.

Faheem has research expertise in democratic theory and the political economy of democracy in South Asia. In whatever time he has to spare, Faheem paints, writes, and edits his own blog on the photographic image and its relationship to the political narrative of fascist, liberal and progressivist art.

That work and associated writing can be found at the following link:

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