The Los Angeles Times (LA Times) reported April 18 the Army was to launch a criminal investigation after a series of photos surfaced depicting soldiers posing with dead Afghan militants.
According to The Hill, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta quickly took to the press and issued an apology saying, “This is not who we are,” but later added, “this is war, and I know that war is ugly and it’s violent.”
Seeing as the photos were given directly to the LA Times, “the soldier who provided [them] did so on condition of anonymity.”
The soldier decided to come forward with this information because he believed this behavior was proof of, “a breakdown in leadership and discipline that he believed compromised the safety of the troops … [and 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.”
Over the weekend, the buzz continued over the 82nd Airborne Division soldiers’ “reprehensible” and “deplorable” behavior.
But the accusations became somewhat softer when experts began questioning not who did it or how they did it, but why they did it.
CNN’s Don Lemon spoke to Dr. Terry Lyles, Psychologist and Stress and Crisis Management expert, about the severity of the issue during a CNN special, “The Stress of War.”
While both Lemon and Lyles agreed neither side condoned the soldiers’ behavior, Lyles did believe the stress and ages of the soldiers shed light on the situation.
Lyles began by saying, “They’re in very difficult circumstances … to be on high alert all the time … [in these situations], the body begins to beat up on you chemically, and it could cause you to have lack in judgments, make poor choices … but I understand to a degree because our people are warriors.”
Lyles defines this “warrior mentality” as, “hunters … individuals who live day and night with life and death at their hands, trying to take down insurgents that are also trying to eliminate them.”
Lyle believes these photos are these soldiers’ “trophies” of what they’ve won in battle, but by no means is this acceptable behavior.
But the advice Lyle gives is these soldiers need to be trained to see a peaceful return because many suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder when they arrive back home from war, or “hell” as Lemon calls it.
These are all agreeable statements.
Yet there are so many questions that remain unanswered: Why not ensure proper training, physically, psychologically and emotionally, before leaving for overseas missions?
Did the soldier who gave up the photos possibly endanger fellow soldiers in overseas missions?
Was that in it of itself just as irresponsible as the soldiers inflicting those actions? Where is the accountability? Who is truly responsible here?
It is easy for us to all sit here and pass judgment while looking at such an act in the privacy of our own homes is easy.
We aren’t out there just as those serving our country.
But even as citizens of this country, soldiers, “warriors” or not, all should be represented with the correct mindset even in violent times of war.
To an extent, changes must be made – in programs at home, training and in leadership positions.
Burning copies of the Koran, shooting sprees, urinating on corpses, much less taking photos with dead bodies, or taking parts of bodies for that matter should never be the “trophy” of a situation.
We may not understand, those of us who sit in our warm beds watching T.V. and going to work or school everyday.
But a word to the soldiers out there representing The United States of America: the trophy should never be an admiration of death.
The trophy should be the success of a mission, remaining loyal to fellow soldiers and allies and finally coming home to families and loved ones with the proper care, treatment and gratification all soldiers deserve.