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Obama: Conduct of troops who posed with dead Afghans ‘reprehensible’

By Kathleen Hennessey, Tribune Washington Bureau –

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE — President Barack Obama has been briefed on a series of photos published in the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday, and finds the conduct of troops who posed with the bodies of dead Afghans “reprehensible,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

“The conduct depicted in those photographs is reprehensible and does not in any way represent the high standards of the U.S. military,” Carney said Wednesday as the president flew to Ohio for speech on job training. “The president certainly shares in the defense secretary’s opinion that this should be investigated and those held responsible will be held accountable.”

Carney said he did not know if Obama had seen the photos. He repeated the Pentagon’s argument that the newspaper should not have published photos out concern for troop safety.

Los Angeles Times Editor Davan Maharaj said, “After careful consideration, we decided that publishing a small but representative selection of the photos would fulfill 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.”

Carney said the White House was “disappointed” in the decision to published photos, despite being warned about the “dangers that publishing photographs like that can create for the men and women in uniform.”

The Army launched a criminal investigation after the Times showed officials copies of the photos, which recently were given to the newspaper by a soldier from the division.

“It is a violation of Army standards to pose with corpses for photographs outside of officially sanctioned purposes,” said George Wright, an Army spokesman. “Such actions fall short of what we expect of our uniformed service members in deployed areas.”

Wright said that after the investigation, the Army would “take appropriate action” against those involved. Most of the soldiers in the photos have been identified, said Lt. Col. Margaret Kageleiry, an Army spokeswoman.

The soldier who provided the Times with a series of 18 photos of soldiers posing with corpses did so on condition of anonymity. He served in Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne’s 4th Brigade Combat Team from Fort Bragg, N.C. He said the photos point to a breakdown in leadership and discipline that he believed compromised the safety of the troops. He expressed the hope that publication would help ensure that alleged security shortcomings at two U.S. bases in Afghanistan in 2010 were not repeated.

The photos were taken during a yearlong deployment of the 3,500-member brigade, which lost 35 men during that time, according to, a website that tracks casualties. At least 23 were killed by homemade bombs or suicide bombers.

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