A soldier from the U.S. Army’s combat hardened 82nd Airborne Division gave 18 pictures of fellow soldiers posing with dead Afghan insurgents, and sundry body parts, to the L.A. Times.
David Zucchino at the Times spoke with Army leaders who asked he not publish the pictures, but Times editor Davan Maharaj said there was a larger issue at stake than just the images.
The soldier who supplied the photos says they illustrate a “breakdown in leadership and discipline” that compromised his safety and that of his fellow soldiers, and the Times agrees.
Times Editor Davan Maharaj said, “After careful consideration, we decided that publishing a small but representative selection of the photos would fulfil our obligation to readers to report vigorously and impartially on all aspects of the American mission in Afghanistan, including the allegation that the images reflect a breakdown in unit discipline that was endangering U.S. troops.”
The photos were taken during a yearlong deployment of the 3,500-member brigade, which lost 35 men during that time, according to icasualties.org, a website that tracks casualties. At least 23 were killed by homemade bombs or suicide bombers.
The mission occurred in February 2010 during a yearlong deployment of the 3,500-member brigade when they lost 35 men — more than 20 to homemade bombs.
The men in the pictures had all been killed by bombs they’d made, which had detonated while they were planting them to kill U.S. soldiers.
Stars and Stripes reports that the commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan “strongly condemned” the publishing of the photos.
“The actions of the individuals photographed do not represent the policies of ISAF or the U.S. Army,” Allen is quoted as saying. “This behaviour and these images are entirely inconsistent with the values of ISAF and all service members of the 50 ISAF countries serving in Afghanistan.”
“These actions undermine the daily sacrifices of thousands of ISAF troops who continue to serve honorably in Afghanistan,” Allen goes on to say in the news release. “We will collaborate with Afghan authorities and carefully examine the facts and circumstances shown in these photos. As part of this process, we will determine responsibility and accountability of those involved.”
Army leaders are concerned the images will incite further violence against U.S. troops following the burning of Korans and the video of Marines urinating on dead Taliban that came out within the past several months.
No doubt that will be true to some extent, and while the anonymous soldier who gave these pictures to the L.A. Times may have been hoping to cause trouble for the command that made him mad, he also jeopardized the service of each of his fellow soldiers in the pictures.
There will be an investigation; regular soldiers could face legal discipline with the possibility of jail and loss of rank.
The 82nd deploys a lot, and those guys have so much they’re dealing with that this is the last thing they need.
I exchanged tweets with an Army Lt. Colonel who says the guys involved with this can reasonably expect to receive Company Grade or Field Grade Article 15s.
Field Grade punishments are harsher, imposed by Majors (O-4) and above.
They can carry the following penalties:
(1) Admonition or reprimand.
(2) Confinement on bread and water / diminished rations: imposable only on grades E-3 and below, attached to or embarked in a vessel, for not more than 3 days (USN and USMC only).
(3) Correctional custody: not more than 30 days.
(4) Forfeiture: not more than 1/2 of one month’s pay per month for two months.
(5) Reduction: one grade, not imposable on E-7 and above (Navy, Army, and Air Force) or on E-6 and above (Marine Corps).
(6) Extra duties: not more than 45 days.
(7) Restriction: not more than 60 days.
Company Grade Article 15s are imposed by officers in the rank of Captain (O-3) and below and carry these penalties:
(1) Admonition or reprimand.
(2) Confinement on bread and water / diminished rations: not more than 3 days and only on grades E-3 and below attached to or embarked in a vessel (USN and USMC only).
(3) Correctional custody: not more than 7 days.
(4) Forfeiture: not more than 7 days’ pay.
(5) Reduction: to next inferior pay grade; not imposable on E-7 and above (Navy, Army, and Air Force) or E-6 and above (Marine Corps), if rank from which demoted is within the promotion authority of the OIC.
(6) Extra duties: not more than 14 days.
(7) Restriction: not more than 14 days.
So, not as bad as getting dishonorably discharged, but not what you want to deal with on top of multiple deployments either.
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