Defense Secretary Leon Panetta apologized Wednesday for photos that showed U.S. troops posing with body parts of dead Afghan militants.
“This is not who we are,” Panetta said at a news conference in Brussels during a NATO meeting of defense and foreign ministers.
Panetta said that he “strongly condemned” the troops' actions and that a full investigation is already under way. The photos were published by the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday.
But the Defense secretary added that “this is war, and I know that war is ugly and it’s violent.”
“I know that young people sometimes caught in the moment make some very foolish decisions,” he said. “I’m not excusing that, 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.”
Sen. John McCainJohn McCain9 GOP senators Trump must watch out for Flawed Democratic idealism GOP lawmaker: Calling Putin a war criminal could lead to conflict with Russia MORE (R-Ariz.) said Wednesday that the photos were “deplorable and despicable,” and that incidents like this harm the 99.9 percent of soldiers serving in Afghanistan who “have the highest standards.”
“It does such damage, and it grieves me because there are so many brave and honorable Americans who have served there, so many who have sacrificed, so many I see ... who have suffered the wounds of war, and it tarnishes their reputation,” McCain said following a speech on Afghanistan at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Panetta said the Pentagon had urged the Times, which had published the photos from 2010 of U.S. troops posing with body parts, not to run the pictures for fear that they will be used to incite violence.
He said lives had been lost when similar photos were published in the past, and he “regrets” that the photos were published.
Carney said the White House was "disappointed" with the decision to publish the photos two years after the incident.