Peace advocates, whose calls for an Afghanistan withdrawal are supported by nearly 70 percent of the American people, appreciate David Zucchino, Laura King and the Los Angeles Times for refusing Pentagon demands that the paper not publish photos of grinning American soldiers posing with “trophy” body parts of dead Afghans.
Revealing how much Afghanistan is a “war of perception” with American citizens the target, both Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. John Allen directly lobbied the Times, using an upside-down claim that releasing the photos to Americans would incite violence in Afghanistan. Here's Panetta speaking in Brussels on Wednesday at a meeting of NATO ministers:
This is war. And I know that war is ugly, and it’s violent. And I know that young people, sometimes caught up in the moment, make some very foolish decisions. I am not excusing that. That’s—I’m not excusing that behavior. But neither do I want these images to bring further injury to our people or to our relationship with the Afghan people. We had urged the L.A. Times not to—not to run those photos. And the reason for that is those kinds of photos are used by the enemy to incite violence, and lives have been lost as a result of the publication of similar photos in the past. We regret that they were published.
This was during the same week that insurgents laid siege to Kabul. Certainly the Afghan people are aware of atrocities inflicted on their society by American and other foreign troops, while the American people are kept in the dark. The same claim was made by the Obama Administration over release of the WikiLeaks logs on civilian casualties. In nearly two years after those leaks, no evidence of harm has been provided, except to the reputations of the US officials engaged in news management and keeping secrets from American allies.
The Times was the scene of sharp internal debate about bucking the Pentagon pressure. In the end, the compromise was to release the “least offensive” of many photos, leaving the public to wonder what awful horrors continue to be unfit to print.