For the UN Dispatch, I write about the latest controversy involving US soldiers in Afghanistan: a series of photos published by the Los Angeles Times depicting US (and Afghan) soldiers taking pictures with the dead body of a Taliban bomber.
Here is the gist:
The photos are, more than anything, about the United States, its (rightful) concerns about the troops’ professional conduct and its obsession, as it would appear to Afghans, with trivial moral matters.
The bigger question that no one seems to focus on is the mentoring faux pas of US forces, who started the photo session as Afghan soldiers watched nearby. The Afghan soldiers were later included in the shoot. [Addendum: The US soldiers set a pretty bad example of professional soldierly behavior in a war zone. The only silver lining is that most Afghan troops don’t have digital cameras and/or access to the internet.]
An even bigger question is the systemic issues in the US military that continue to allow for humiliating and dehumanizing incidents to occur. Incidents such as the Haditha massacre, the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse, theUS soldiers’ Kill Team, the Marine urination video, the Daniel Chen case, the Kandahar massacre of villagers, the Quran burning, etc. point to systemic loose ends. Unfortunately, the US looks into each incident individually and has not yet indicated that it is taking the whole-of-the-system approach to tackle these incidents, which continue to occur at great cost to the the US and the communities where they happen.