The faux outrage over members of the 82nd Airborne posing with a variety of muj corpses in Afghanistan is complete nonsense.

So young men who are trained to kill and encouraged to dehumanize the enemy let off some steam by taking some stupid happy snaps. There is only one lesson to be learned from this–TROOPS, LEAVE THE GODDAMN CAMERAS IN YOUR RUCKS.

Can you imagine the shit we would have seen if the soldiers in the Civil War had had I-Phones and digital mini-cameras? Ditto WW I and WW II. Let’s not forget the Korean War and Vietnam as well. Here is a news flash for any of you who are horrified by the Los Angeles Times story on these macabre candid snaps.

War is horrible and dehumanizing and troops in the field, who are under constant stress, sometimes find ways to let off steam that “normal” people may find offensive. Well, if you don’t like it, too fucking bad. It is called reality. I don’t advocate desecrating the bodies of the enemy. But it happens. Pat Lang at Sic Semper Tyrannis correctly observes that this is another indicator that we have had our troops on the ground in Afghanistan too long engaged in a fools mission.

Barack Obama and his team of politically correct assholes, of course, are trying to make some political hay out of this. They are threatening to go after these soldiers and “punish” them. I willing to bet some of the troops in these photos subsequently have died in combat or were wounded. I am thoroughly fed up with the media moralizing on these kinds of issues while turning a blind eye to the immorality of political and military leaders. People who sit in the safe confines of a cloistered office dare to pass judgment on soldiers operating in the midst of hell. To all of you arm-chair ass-sniffers–Go fuck yourselves.

According to the LA Times:

Virtually all of the men depicted in the photos had friends who were killed or wounded by homemade bombs or suicide attacks, according to the soldier who provided the images. One paratrooper on the mission wore a bracelet bearing the name of a fallen comrade.

On the first mission, to the police station in the provincial capital of Qalat, Afghan police told the platoon that the severed legs belonged to a suicide bomber whose explosives detonated as he tried to attack a police unit, according to the soldier who provided the photos.

On the second mission, to the morgue in Qalat in late April or early May 2010, Afghan police told the platoon that explosives had detonated as three insurgents were preparing a roadside bomb.

The platoon was able to obtain some fingerprints from the corpses for a database maintained by U.S. forces, the soldier said.

The soldiers felt a sense of triumph and satisfaction, especially after learning that the insurgents had been killed by their own explosives, he said.

“They were frustrated, just pissed off — their buddies had been blown up by IEDs” — improvised explosive devices — the soldier said. “So they sort of just celebrated.”

If anything this reflects badly on the chain of command. Leadership starts at the top. Who is the Commander in Chief? Barack Obama. Let’s start there if blame is going to be assigned in this matter. Teeing off on a bunch of privates and corporals two years after the fact without punishing their commanders is just plain stupid.

I’m not a fan of Ralph Peters (and I’m sure he reciprocates the sentiment), but he gets this one right:

By the way, Panetta should shut his yap and pay back U.S. taxpayers for all of the weekly boondoggle flights he took to California while serving as the Director of the CIA. He flew almost every week back to California on your dime. And he wants to moralize about the poor judgment of some your soldiers? Fuck you too Leon.

The troops who appeared in these fotos (and those who took them) need to be counseled and disciplined within their units. I don’t blame the troops if the leaders failed to set the proper boundaries. But what I am seeing today is the media eager to play lynch mob and judge these young men in the court of self-righteous public opinion without understanding the context.

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Larry C. Johnson is a former analyst at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, who moved subsequently in 1989 to the U.S. Department of State, where he served four years as the deputy director for transportation security, antiterrorism assistance training, and special operations in the State Department's Office of Counterterrorism. He left government service in October 1993 and set up a consulting business. He currently is the co-owner and CEO of BERG Associates, LLC (Business Exposure Reduction Group) and is an expert in the fields of terrorism, aviation security, and crisis and risk management, and money laundering investigations. Johnson is the founder and main author of No Quarter, a weblog that addresses issues of terrorism and intelligence and politics. NoQuarterUSA was nominated as Best Political Blog of 2008.
  • Ali M. Haider

    In an ideal world, the GIs would have pissed in the bastard’s mouth.

    But what could they do?!

    They didn’t see where his head landed.

    And how would Panetta have the GIs celebrate not being dead? Are they supposed to weep like little girls, as they lovingly collect all the little bits and pieces of the besplattered corpse and mournfully sop up the puddles of blood and bowel?

    Leon, bud, as long as we’re apologizing, I apologizes on your behalf, on account of you being a superciliousness prick and a political coward.

  • April454

    Hard to win hearts and minds in an insurgence strategy,  when you are pissing on bodies, making fun of  them, burning Korans, etc. even when it is the enemy. You are completely out of touch.

    • Flop_Flipper

      It’s even harder when they have black hearts and brainless minds. Something I’m certain you can relate to. And it doesn’t bother you in the least that Karzai has openly stated that he supports social laws closely aligned to sharia law.

      • April454

        So what is the point of having a counter insurgency strategy?

  • FormerDeminTX

    Thank you, Larry. Yes it’s horrible – that’s what war is.  And people have no idea what we ask of these young men and women. 

    While I don’t know what it’s like to be a soldier in his/her 3rd tour, I do know what it is like working in a healthcare profession, pulling 20 hours in an E.R.  And guess what? A lot of the “humor” that doctors and nurses routinely engage in behind the scenes would strike the average person as pretty shockingly callous.  And we do it because when you have worked days and weeks and years dealing with human suffering on that level, you HAVE to indulge in some black humor or you will lose your fucking mind.  Far from being de-humanizing, the crude jokes and insensitive horseplay are a means of  retaining your humanity in the face of all the pain and horrors. 

    I know it’s not exactly the same, but I daresay it’s similar.  And I’m not saying they were right to do this. I’m saying be careful what judgements, and how severe, you pass on the moral character of  these soldiers from the comfort of your very very normal life. 

  • Popsmoke

    The boyz have been at war way to long…. But this is definitely a sign of leadership breakdown… TIME TO COME HOME!!!!

  • John

    Larry, thank you for writing about this from a non-liberal, veterans point of view. ” Leave the cameras in your rucksack” should be the 11th general order. That being said, I dont buy the whistle blowers reasoning. I do not believe that this couldnt have been handled by the local chain of command, there is no way that some higher up wouldnt have called these guys in and said” Are you guys dumb? Are you trying to disgrace this service? Then quit posing for these stupid pictures! NOW GET OUTTA MY HOOCH”. And it would have ended there. Blue Falcon in my opinion


    off topic a little bit

    National Guard withdrawing from Mexican border. Why not have rotation not the same ones there for a long time??????
    We have 50 states that have a National Guard, or if you believe backtrack 57 states

    • Flop_Flipper

      Obama probably intends to replace them with the Maldives National Guard.


    karzai on photo, wants quicker handover and $2 Billion.
    does he have a deal with our enemy, that he will not become a body part when we leave?? I do not see them letting him hang a round for any length of time

    I do agree our troops should come home now. These people have been killing each other for almost a thousand years , we can not change that.

  • samb1

    Our troops have been there long enough, 
    they need to come home now.———————–“Leadership starts at the top. Who is the Commander in Chief? Barack Obama. Let’s start there if blame is going to be assigned in this matter.”———————-I’m no  expert but if I didn’t respect my leader or leadersI don’t believe I could do my job effectively.Now when I hear  the term ” War is Hell “I belive it.Well done Larry.

  • APO_AE_09173


    One cannot judge the actions in war by the social rules of civil society. War is one giant obscenity. To come out of war and still function these soldiers must dehumanize the enemy. No more, no less.  Walk in their shoes and then judge.

    • elizabethrc

      When is Karzai going to apologize for his people’s atrocities against our soldiers.  That’s okay with him, I guess, but it’s not with us.  These people are our enemies.  Their goal is to kill us as horribly as they can.  Not one apology from any of them, as far as I can calculate.
      And Kakrzai wants us, no, DEMANDS that we give him 2 billion a year?  For what?  For trying to save his miserable country, backward and loving it and unwilling to come into even the 13th century?
      Not a dime.  Not one more drop of American blood.
      Let them take care of themselves…or not!
      We should all be past caring about these enemies of all things western.

    • Larry Johnson

      Thanks.  I’m told by a buddy that the forces that be at Bagram are blocking access to this blog.  Glad you could get thru.

    • Hokma

      Extremely well said.

  • FLDemFem

    About the guys holding up the body parts.. EWWW!!!! ICK!!! I do hope they washed their hands before their next meal. Oh, and Larry, you said the troops might be guilty of desecrating a body. Well, I disagree. They held up body parts, the body parts of someone who blew himself up. Wouldn’t the one who blew himself up be the one who desecrated his body? Just askin’.

  • Roger Elder

    Note the complexion of the soldier holding the leg… note the complexion of the leg. The picture being published right now probably isn’t about desecration of the enemy or the atrocities of war at all. 

  • FormerLiberal9

    If these photos showed pictures of Korans being desecrated then heads would have rolled (perhaps even literally). Since it was only human beings probably very little violence will come from the enemy. Look what happened after the recent massacre that happened recently, nothing.

    IMO the left needed a news item to distract us from the good week the Romney campaign has been enjoying. Perhaps these photos would never  been released if Obama was surging in the polls.

    I don’t think many Americans really care about soldiers pictures taken with body parts of idiots who blow themselves up. Although many, as myself, may find the photos distasteful and inappropriate.

  • no_longer_a_democrat

    Great post!  completely agree with it!
    They shouldn’t have taken the pictures, but really LA Times, your “newpaper” said it “weighed it and decided that your readers deserved to be informed”?

    Really LA Times?? You really want to do there???!?  The same crap of a newspaper that still refuses to release the Rhashidi tape with Obama???
    LA Times is a piece of trash. Anything to hurt our troops, they will do, same with NYT, another piece of trash.

    I heard from an interview on Fox today(posted below), that in WWII, our troops would sometimes send home japanese skulls — its war, it happens, these little crap of “reporters” must really love making our troops look bad any chance they get.
    As for Barry, I doubt he’ll miss another chance to diss american trooops

    • John

      Yep, skull ashtrays were all the rage!!

  • bigscreen

    The only promising news I’ve heard recently on the topic of our envolvement in Afghanistan came in an AP release dated April 12, 2012: “Putin defends NATO link”   “He wants alliance to use Russian site in Afghan mission”

    Guess DC doesn’t want legs on that story as it could cause reasonable minds to question the need to continue dropping Billions into Pakistan for some level of cooperation logistically 

  • bigscreen

    Gross photos for sure but probably no worse than the horseplay that goes on with cadavers in med school 

  • Erik Blums

     “I don’t advocate desecrating the bodies of the enemy. But it happens.”Yes, it does. And when it does, the individuals involved need to be prosecuted. “it happens” is not a valid excuse. Many things happen that we wouldn’t try and excuse with “it happens”.Sometimes a guy comes home from a very hard day at work, He’s feeling inadequate, so he builds up his ego, his sense of power, by slapping his wife around. It also happens, but we would never try and excuse it with the obvious truth that it does happen. Some idiot on a California get’s a case of road rage and shoots at someone. It does happen, & we prosecute.One of the have not’s get’s tired of being so, maybe he hasn’t eaten, he shoplifts. The same… it happens and it is not an excuse.Ultimately, holding up to and living up to generaly held standards is what separates us from terrorists and criminals. In the last years (and well before 9/11, it has become increasingly difficult to sometimes separate the US and terrorist cells, and cases like these, and your response, just make the divide that much more difficult to find.

    • DianaLC

      Wartime situations are in many ways different from those tense or stressful situations that occur in everyday lives.  Larry is not excusing these behaviors so much as he is making the case that the leadership–the “chain of command” should be punished perhaps more if someone should be punished in this incident two years ago.  And I believe the person submitting the photo also did so because he wanted to make a point about the leadership of that unit. 

      As for sports teams–though even more important for military units–the leadership must set the standards for behavior.  Young people will most certainly give into undisciplined and negative behaviors under the terrible stress unless the whole unit is kept cohesive by good leaders who demand self-discipline.  Being constantly in danger of setting off an IED and thus being blown to bits or horribly maimed might make anyone act differently from the way he or she should act.  A good leader would be ubitquitous, if not in person but in the heads of his men, and this behavior would not happen.  But, as a teacher, I have seen many young people do things they may later be ashamed of because of the time and place and the people they were with.

      My father was a drill sergeant in the Army-Air Force of WWII.  He felt embarrassed that he was not overseas doing his part.  He tried unsuccessfully twice to get himself shipped out, but each time he was nabbed and brought back.  The explanation was that his strict training of those boys would help the effort more.  He was good at that training; my siblings and I thank him for it, as he was a good “drill sergeant” for us, too.  It’s that presence in my life that has helped me to refuse to participate in bad behaviors of a group I’m with.

    • Flop_Flipper

      Suicide bombers by definition desecrate their own bodies. Do not mistake that position as somehow condoning what took place. I find it very offensive. But I’ve never been in battle and therefore do not have the right to judge what may or may not happen in the mindset of those that are. The old saying War is Hell is not a misrepresentation of fact.

  • DianaLC

    Since this story broke, I have had remembrances of many photos printed of the effects of war flashing through my mind.  I’ve seen far too many.
    I am of the age that grew up after WWII.  I remember clearly seeing “death” on television and the movies mostly only in animation, so I knew it was not real.  I witnessed the real horror of watching a living creature die violently when I, instead of my other two sisters who went to a different show in the other theater in our town, watched a nature movie of animals and insects, etc., killing other things with my brother.  I knew animals died because I grew up on a farm, but I never watched the death.  Only when one of my parents remarked about who was being served on our table, did I feel the horror of violent death.  (It is a major reason I am vegetarian.)
    Then, I remember my first movie, a cowboy movie, with a scene that finally made a human death seem real and final. I was only about ten and then and had already seen the end of Old Yeller.
    I knew in the pit of my stomach and in the inner most part of my soul, that I personally could never voluntarily put myself into a situation where I might have to kill.  I know now that I would have been one of the soldiers coming back with severe PTSD because I have an above average memory (thus the reason I was such a good student in school).  I would never be able to put those images out of my mind.
    So what photos are flashing through my mind?  To name a few:  all the horrible images from the concentration camps, the kneeling man in Vietnam being executed, the little naked girl running in Vietnam, the many skulls from the killing fields of Cambodia, the almost video game like images of bombs being dropped in Desert Storm, the many images coming out Iraq, photos from the Sudan earlier.  (To name only a few.)
    And I could go on an on about the “fake” images from countless historical films and documentaries–how about Gladiator, or let’s try to recall Saving Private Ryan, or Platoon, or Glory.  You can add.

    All this is to say, that it’s absolutely strange to me that this photo is causing such a stir.  You are right to ask the men to forget their cameras.  Their minds’ photo album should be enough.

    I don’t want children growing up having to see those types of photos.  But I know that is only an impossible wish.  My childhood was so pleasant without them.  But, I grew up and had to face reality.  We all do sometime.

    All one has to do with that photo is use his or her mind and reverse the people.  Don’t forget the images of the bodies of American men being dragged through the streets in Iraq.

    Only when I die will I not have to face the possibility of seeing a photo of the effects of war.  They capture images of the  horrifying and traumatizing events for the (mostly) young men no matter if they’re standing and alive or bloody and dead in the end. 

    To make a political point about how they handled themselves while standing thousands of miles away and years later is absolutely wrong.

    And from one of the bloodiest wars ever, WWI, we get this verbal image:

    Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge, Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs And towards our distant rest began to trudge. Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind; Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hootsOf tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind. Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling, Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time; But someone still was yelling out and stumbling, And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime . . . Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light, As under a green sea, I saw him drowning. In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning. If in some smothering dreams you too could pace Behind the wagon that we flung him in, And watch the white eyes writhing in his face, His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin; If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs, Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, My friend, you would not tell with such high zestTo children ardent for some desperate glory, The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est Pro patria mori.
    Wilfred Owen 8 October 1917 – March, 1918

    • bigscreen

      “Don’t forget the images of the bodies of American men being dragged through the streets of Iraq.”

       Are you sure you’re not thinking of Somalia (Op Restore Hope)?  aka “Black Hawk Down”? I only question that detail should you ever choose to replicate your post in another venue.

      • DianaLC

        Actually there was an incident in Iraq involving contractors being dragged through the streets of Fallujah that I was thinking of. 

        You example from Somalia may be the most memorable; however, in regard to Somalia and the movie about the incident—for that one, I could not bring myself to watch.  Therefore it was not one running through my mind.

      • Larry Johnson

         Diana I believe is referring to the incident in Fallujah when former military working for Blackwater were killed and drug thru the streets.

      • John

        No he is not. Way back at the start of OIF there was a humvee hit, in Fallujah I think, and the rats got to em before we could get em out. There was some documentary a few years ago that had the footage

        • DianaLC

          I am thinking of the contractors–that’s the image I have in my brain.  There are so many from Iraq because it was so in our faces all the time at first.  Sometimes I really do have to make myself stop watching, though other times I feel it is our citizens’ duty to watch what we send our young people to do.  It’s not fair for so many to be back here ignoring them and what they must go through and then blaming them because we think we would do differently. 

    • DianaLC

      I’ve fixed the lines of Owen’s famous poems.  This was a favorite for many during the days of Vietnam, though it was written earlier during WWI.

      In case you can’t read the Latin, which is taken from one of Horace’s Odes, it means, “It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.”  It was used to recruit during WWI. 

      Owen did serve.

  • Flop_Flipper

    As offensive as I find these photographs I have to agree with you Larry, on many points. First, and foremost, our CIC is ultimately responsible for this. It’s his fucking job to be held responsible. If he doesn’t like the responsibility then he should resign. Period.

    Second, the media, namely the liberal media, has it’s own agenda for publishing the photographs. And they should be ashamed to publish dated photographs. I’d even go so far as to state explicitly that they are being unpatriotic for doing so. With all the uproar concerning the piss on the Taliban and burning Koran episodes we sure as hell don’t need prior incidents brought to light in an effort to establish a pattern of abuse. It’s an intentional effort to undermine whatever progress we may be making.

    Third, I completely agree with Pat Lang. It’s time to go, to get out and never look back. We can’t accomplish our intended objections when it is clear we have no partner in Karzai. It is a fool’s errand to believe for one moment that we are being appreciated. We are being taken and used, as has become abundantly clear.

    Fourth, I used to like Leon Panetta. I don’t any longer. He is a partisan hack that will willingly absolve himself of responsibility throw the grunts who do the hard work under the bus to protect his image and that of his leader. And all for the sake of an election and desperate attempt to cling to power.

    And finally, I have never been in the military. My aversion to violence is deep seated and unlikely to go away. So I don’t know the horrors of war and what that might do to someone’s mind. I’ve seen how it can twist people going back to Vietnam and friends lucky enough to make it back home alive. They were never the same people I knew before. But I do understand how being placed in a perpetual situation where friends and fellow soldiers are being ripped apart by an enemy that has no real regard for human sanctity could harden and twist a person. And that under such circumstances someone might do things that otherwise would never occur to them during a fair fight.

    It’s all so very sad.

  • RexandTillie

    Spot on analysis, thank-you for saying it. 


    I do not remember, us worrying about the enemy and their feelings before these wars.

    Afghanistan wants our military to leave and us to pay $2BILLION a year for eternity  That hurts my feelings.

    Iraq has bled us almost dry, that hurts my feelings

    • HELENK2

       comments are great

      I want one of these patches

  • BronwynsHarbor

    THANK GOD you wrote this, Larry.  The Left has a messed-up attitude towards soldiers. They usually don’t know any soldiers in “real life” — just in the movies or on really stupid TV shows like “Army Wives.”  

    I suspect that they secretly look down on soldiers as people who signed up only because they didn’t have what it takes to do anything else.

    Somehow I missed Obama’s threat to go after the soldiers. What a loser.  It is entirely HIS fault that these soldiers find themselves in that hell on earth where they cannot — they dare not — trust a single Afghan civilian.

    It’s unimaginable to me how they can stand it, probably scared out of their minds, fighting for god knows what reason, hated by the locals, mourning their fellow soldiers.

  • Dolly Cain

    You mean something bad happened during the war Obama ended? Oh wait. No he didn’t.  As a vet I suggest the media shove it where the sun don’t shine and then sit on it and rotate.

  • HARP2

    Although having my picture taken with these creeps is not something I would have done, It`s time the suicide bombers “pull themselves together” and get ready for the 72 virgins.

    • Larry Johnson

       badda bing.  rim shot!!  Harp2, appearing twice nightly.  Tip your waiters and waitresses.


    I brought my comment up from downstairs. It my feeling on this story

    off topic

    when is this government going to stop catering to people who are trying to kill us?????
    apologizes for picture of soldiers with dead suicide bombers. Well
    guess what fool, if the suicide bombers had gotten their way our
    soldiers would be dead.
    this government with their weakness gives ammunition to the enemy