Operations

Panetta apologizes for Afghan photos; White House calls them ‘reprehensible’

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.

{mosads}White House press secretary Jay Carney said the photos were “reprehensible,”
and that President Obama shared Panetta’s opinion that the incident should be
investigated and those responsible should be held accountable.

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 McCain (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.

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