Posing With the Dead, Dehumanizing the ‘Enemy’

John Glaser, April 18, 2012

The Los Angeles Times has released just two of 18 photographs depicting U.S. soldiers posing happily next to Afghan corpses, or pieces of bodies. As with previous such incidents, the dehumanization of the “enemy” – a virtual necessity in war – runs deep.

Source: LA Times

Other unreleased photos show “Two soldiers posed holding a dead man’s hand with the middle finger raised. A soldier leaned over the bearded corpse while clutching the man’s hand. Someone placed an unofficial platoon patch reading “Zombie Hunter” next to other remains and took a picture.”

The Army of course promised to “take appropriate action” against those involved, just after reciting the same line about how this isn’t representative of the rest of the soldiers. These are hard to listen to when news of such behavior is anything but new. It’s worth noting also that the U.S. military officials the Times approached to ask questions about the photos before their release, requested they not be published. Big surprise there.

The release of the images comes at a time when the Obama administration is losing its grip on the war. The last few months have held a number of high-profile failures and embarrassments. First, a video went viral depicting U.S. soldiers urinating on Afghan corpses. After that, the controversy over the U.S. Army’s burning of Muslim holy books sparked country-wide protests and violence. Then Staff Sgt. Robert Bales (& Co.) slaughtered 17 Afghan civilians in an unprovoked massacre of men, women, and children. Just last weekend, insurgents mounted spectacular coordinated attacks that set off an 18-hour battle with NATO forces, an indication of their annual spring offensive and a public relations embarrassment for the U.S. at what seems to be the lowest point in the war.

Posing with dead, tortured Muslims or their body parts is an all-too-common exercise in the military since 9/11 – whether in the Abu Ghraib torture dungeon, the urban kill zones of Iraq, or the arid plains of blood-soaked Afghanistan. But it’s not just smiling and flashing a thumbs up for the camera, it’s killing civilians. The “Kill Team” in Afghanistan, the army unit that planned and committed executions of multiple innocent, unarmed Afghan civilians, framed the dead as having been a threat and mutilated their corpses as trophies. They also took photos of their gruesome escapades.

The lives of Afghans, insurgents or not, become less valuable than other human lives, like last October when American troops forced civilians to march ahead of them on roads believed to have been filled with bombs and landmines planted by insurgents. On routine house searches, writes formerly embedded journalist Neil Shea, U.S. soldiers would demolish the home and its contents for the fun of it.

Kill Team Photo, Rolling Stone

War requires dehumanizing some enemy. The enemy becomes not only less than human, but also the origin of all your troubles. Nazis managed to proliferate this feeling towards Jews. But its prevalent in all of America’s wars as well.

Americans became aggressively anti-German during the First World War. In 1918, for example, a mob in St. Louis attacked a German immigrant named Robert Prager, who had tried to enlist in the Navy. They beat him up, wrapped him in the American flag, and lynched him. A jury found the mob leaders not guilty, citing a case of what they called “patriotic murder.”

U.S. troops fighting the Japanese in WWII commonly mutilated their corpses, severing their body parts to take as “war trophies,” just as the Kill Team did with Afghans. One famous photograph shows a decapitated Japanese head hung on a tree after a battle with American soldiers. Crimes by both sides served to intensify the dehumanization on both sides.

Abu Ghraib, Wikipedia

Psychologist Philip Zimbardo calls this part of the Lucifer Effect. “At the core of evil,” he writes, “is the process of dehumanization by which certain other people or collectives of them, are depicted as less than human, as non comparable in humanity or personal dignity to those who do the labeling…Discrimination involves the actions taken against those others based on the beliefs and emotions generated by prejudiced perspectives.”

Dehumanization is “fundamental to a nation’s public support for war,” writes Kimberly Elliot, “Dehumanizing others renders the requisite horrors of war tolerable.” Soldiers as well as American citizens have to go through indoctrination about the strategic justifications for war, which have all but evaporated in Afghanistan, as well as indoctrination about who it is we’re fighting. That such indoctrination has to occur for the war to be fightable is a good indication that it isn’t worth another second of anybody’s life.

Update: At the Daily Beast, Harry Siegel, a war photographer who has published his own images of U.S. soldiers smiling with “war trophies,” says “these types of acts are more commonplace than we think.”




79 Responses to “Posing With the Dead, Dehumanizing the ‘Enemy’”

  1. Dehumanizing, oh yeah. Flamethrowers and atomic bombs ala WWII the really big one, 'gook' hands and ears from the Nam. What might grandpa have to tell the young 'uns about a lei made of Vietnamese ears? Of course they would have been North Vietnamese ears and that, probably, made it all perfectly acceptable. Leaves me wondering what happened to the claymores that came back with those hands and ears.

  2. Yes, indeed. Dehumanization is de-rigueur within the military. In fact it's mandatory. As with the IDF and it's treatment of Palestinians so it goes with them and their poodles in the American establishment to paint Iranians as unter-menschen. Ja Vohl..! Amerika und Israel uber alles!

  3. I guess Ireman hasn't cottoned on to what the name of this website is.
    What Islamic hordes are you talking about, madman?

  4. "This is not us> This is not who we are."

    Except that it obviously is.

  5. Hey, what happened to American Exceptionalism?

    Anyway, remember that as a tax slave your toil helps pay for all this.

    This is what your government masters do with the money it steals from you.

  6. These images don't bother me at this time. It's all been seen before. What really bothers me today is seeing images of Mr. Obama conferencing with Micky Mouse at Disneyland and singing Marvin Gay songs while taking a break here and there to assure everyone the drone program is "on a short leash"…at the same time Mitt Romney shuffles around the Country memorizing old southern sayings—practicing them with his “southern drawl” consultant in between stops on the "Mittmobile bus tour" across America pledging he’ll never, under any circumstances, "apologize for America"–even in the face of a nuclear holocaust I would presume… Even death, along with the extinction of the human species (with a few others), would be much preferable than America suffering the potential consequences of experiencing countless millennium of National shame and humiliation resulting from "apologizing". It's common knowledge that if America "apologized"…ever… for anything…for any reason…the Mullahs in Iran would immediately declare it: "Infidel Died Day"—and a new Holiday of the Islamic Republic would be born. The date would also be added to the Islamic calendar as the: "Holy Day of Triumph Over the Zionist's Paper Tiger"–which would be strictly observed as the holiest of holy-days throughout the entire Islamic world. Every year Americans would be abused with the reminder of this traumatic event with non-stop images emanating from RT showing of Millions of Iranians dancing on American flags in Tehran's Freedom Square, as slow-motion reruns of the "apology" play over and over on the Chinese donated and built jumbo-tron added to Azadi Tower…a special gift given just so the two nations could share their "special day" together. If you consider the alternatives seriously here, although it may not seem like it at first, death would really be the easy way out. Besides…it will be a quick death.

  7. (…)
    But what Mitt's domestic policy advisor obviously hasn't briefed the Mittster on is the fact: "America" already died, so this issue really isn't important on the campaign trail, and he needs to focus much more on explaining why his personal financial success, if elected, will translate into the "American people" making more money for themselves, and unveil the big plan of personally conducting free weekly seminars on leveraged buyouts and corporate restructuring from the West Wing of the White House–which will be open to the public (seating will be limited). Mitt also needs play up his born-again, deeply held, and now unwavering commitment to staunchly "protect life"…….that's a no brainier…gotta turn the dial way up on that one Mitt…

  8. But this does not represent us or our values .It is,again, an isolated incident.Just trust us .We are sooo goood.

  9. The excuse makings has began.
    ""This is war, and I know that war is ugly, and it's violent," Panetta said at a NATO meeting in Brussels, Belgium. "And I know that young people, sometimes caught up in the moment, make some very foolish decisions" http://www.cnn.com/2012/04/18/world/asia/afghanis….

  10. You know, the ones building giant D-Day style landing fleets (to drop thousands of Taliban on the beaches of Coney Island) in the shipyards of Afghanistan…

    Oh wait, it's a land-locked country…

  11. [...] a statement issued by presidential palace less than 24 hours after the Los Angeles Times released the images, Karzai said demanded an ”accelerated and full transition of security responsibilities to [...]

  12. I applaud the soldier who had a “conscious” and released these photos. These were taken 2 years ago & just about a month after the massacre, couple months after the Piss on “Taliban” video, Panetta still had the balls to say “this isn’t who we are, or doesn’t represent the other 99 pct”

  13. Fox news had piece of shit lt col Ralph peters who was pissed that the pictures got published & why do people “trash” the military all the time (yea because all the parades including celebrating the IRAQ WAR is trashing), they said the times “endangers the troops” (apparently when you go to war with a gun against someone else with a gun, your barely in danger without pictures being shown)

  14. get over it. its war.

  15. yea a war that shouldn't have been fought.

  16. Similar to the scene in the film "Full Metal Jacket" where combat Marines pose with Viet Cong corpse.

    Life imitating art imitating life initating art.

  17. It is amazing how many similarities there are between The USSA occupation of Afghanistan and the invasion of the Mongol Ghengis Khan into the Kwarezm Shahnate . Starting in 1218 Ghengis Khan and about 100,000 Mongols sacked all the major cities of which is now Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. It took him about 3 years to do it and he later moved on and went around the Caspian Sea to Asia Minor, but it was common also for the Mongols to build monuments out of the dead bodies of their Enemies. Once when the Mongols sacked a town in Afghanistan where the town elders surrendered and let them in the City, so Ghengis Khan had all the People of the City march out onto the plain in front of the gates only to have them surrounded by his Army, the town elders asked why, so the Mongol War Lord gave them a speech about how evil they where and the he was sent by God to punish them. The Army then killed them and made a pillar out of their bodies. Ghengis Khan had the same rational to occupy Afghanistan as we do today. We also desecrates the bodies of the dead.

  18. If I kill you and piss on your corpse, it is OK then?

  19. Hey Count, when you decide to join the 21st century, start posting on its new inventions called computers and internet. But if you choose to live your forefathers' primitiveness you will lose this right. It is your choice boy.

  20. When o' when will you people understand that it's not a WAR it's an INVASION! of another country that has DONE NOTHING to your country. 'Jay' says 'get over it' I say 'get out of it'

  21. It’s very easy to criticize this when it happens. It’s easy because it wrong and correct to criticize it. The soldiers in these photos don't have the luxury of debating the moral or political reasons behind what they are doing or where they happen to be. They simply have to survive. What’s important to realize is that these young men who kicked down that door and took the lives of those other people did so because if they didn’t then they would be dead. Does that make it better? No. But does it make it understandable? Yes. Caught up in the excitement which follows a life or death situation, young people can do very stupid things. This is one of them. Whether it’s right to be in Afghanistan or not has no weight in how these solders acted. For them, at that point, it was kill or be killed. And when it was over and the deafening report of .556 and .762 finished echoing through that small clay brick house, and the soldiers each did a short once of their own bodies, checking to make sure that adrenaline wasn’t trying to hide from them a gunshot wound of their own, and realizing that they were alive and riding on that wave of euphoria, they acted without thought. …….

  22. …….It’s wrong. And it’s detrimental to the whole effort of the United States. It sparks anger in a country where everyone is already angry. These soldiers need to be punished, by the military, and then allowed to continue their careers. This won’t be that last time this happens. And it’s not a characteristic specific only to the American Serviceman. War-trophies have been around since the beginning of fighting and its spans all races, religions, and era’s of human civilization. It’s human nature, it won’t stop. Sometimes we like to think that as Americans were better than other people. After all we are the world’s super-power and we should hold ourselves to higher standards then a poor, ignorant, farm nation’s people. But I guess in the grand scheme of things we’re all the same. Animals with instincts and emotions that sometimes get the better of us. I guess all I’m trying to say is that this kind of act should be condemned but is as natural as breathing.

  23. "Posing with the Dead Dehumanizes the US Marine Corps and their Country."

  24. As natural as breathing is it ??? then a lot of your fellow Americans clearly NEED to stop breathing ! Nothing more than a bunch of BARBARIC ,MURDERING WARMONGERS . When will you lot ever learn – you are only seen nowadays as BULLY boys of the world ! Get OUT of Iraq, and Afghanistan & the DOZENS of other countries where you are NOT WANTED – GO HOME ! What a disgusting race of "humans" you are. Your heads are too far up your own arses to see REALITY ! Slowly but surely -The WORLD is seeing you for what you really are, murderers , liars and purveyors of hipocracy , at every level . Democracy is something you want to force on other nations , while you continue to abuse human rights at home in the US of A …CORRUPT SCUM !

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  26. This is very educational content and written well for a change. It's nice to see that some people still understand how to write a quality post!

  27. As everybody rushes to condemn the photographs of US troops posing with dead Afghans, some ask whether it's time to end this imperialist war.

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  28. Times published photos showing U.S. troops posing with the body parts of dead.

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  29. The soldiers who acted arbitrarily and abused the dignity of a human being, would be in the legal process. They did not think about the social values ??that exist. Greka

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  31. People in the US want their freedom, but fail to understand what must be done to keep our liberties. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

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  32. What could the Area Father be aiming to achieve posing dead in a coffin? This is just another one of his of Quarterly Publicity.

  33. Dehumanizing is not good at all. Human is still human no matter what happen.
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  34. But this does not represent us or values. It is the second time, once incident.Just confidence in us. We are sooo goood. greenhouse

  35. When Carl is found dead and his wound suspiciously resembles the wounds inflicted by Japanese solidiers in the war, the medical examiner advises the sheriff to “start looking for a Jap with a bloody gun butt” and many intelligent.

  36. I feel disgusted with what is done by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. In my opinion, what they do not reflect the attitude of a good soldier but as a psychopath. <a href="http://www.cdmcmachine.com” target=”_blank”>www.cdmcmachine.com

  37. The dishonorable culture of war that the Bush administration wrought on our military is endemic to atrocities like Marines urinating on the dead.

  38. The nation was shocked last week when we learned of more supposed bad behavior by US troops overseas, in the form of posing with the bodies of dead enemy combatants.

  39. Treatment of victims of American troops in Afghanistan seem less human. This can be viewed from several group photos in this blog, their attitudes did not show that they are a soldier. <a href="http://www.vargasfaceandskin.com” target=”_blank”>www.vargasfaceandskin.com

  40. But it is the military's rules of engagement in Afghanistan that is the “terrible mistake” and it is the public hand-wringing when events like these surface that provide propaganda victories to America's enemies and prolong U.S. involvement .

  41. Urinating on dead bodies; cutting off fingers for sport; murdering women and children; night raid home invasions on civilians; and the most recent embarrassment of soldiers posing with dead body parts, are all possible during times of war because of the original lie that starts the war, which must include dehumanizing the enemy.

  42. His images do not evoque "pride" in killing others, but a sense of loss and destruction. Young soldiers posing with dead bodies and parts of dead bodies is about dehumanizing your enemy and turning them into animals.

  43. I think that's a crazy act of him. It's not good to be in that pose.
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  44. That can be a prove for them for the report. That's why they take the picture together.
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  45. The latest trophy photos to emerge, obtained by the L.A. Times, show smiling soldiers posing with Afghan corpses, including two soldiers holding up a corpse's hand and extending his middle finger, and the mangled body of a suicide.

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  47. I think they know it better for the name. Because it comes from their country.
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  48. We were able to use many of the best ways that can be used to solve many existing problems. While you will be able to use many of the best ways other than war.Bespoke Props

  49. I'm not brave enough to be like him. I can be so scare to staying beside of death people.
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  50. For whatever reason, circumstances in that person's life lead him to take this path. But he is still a human being and no one should pose with a picture of their dead, charred bodies as if it were a sport. It is dehumanizing. .

  51. War is not going to give a lot of good things to many people. We were able to use a lot of interesting ways and solutions that can make us able to solve many problems.Beneful Coupon

  52. Maybe they take the picture for the prove. So they can seeing it from the picture.
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  53. Finally, this most recent scandal involving troops posing with the bodies of suicide bombers has further soured relations with the Afghan people.

  54. I think it's also scary to take a picture with a dead person. I don't think that I'm brave enough to do it.
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  55. Enemy is identical with war. Actually, I disagree with war. It leads to many damages and deads.

  56. We were able to use a lot of interesting posts because there are many people who could use a lot of posts to attract the hearts of many people with ease.Scenic Design

  57. Next up, how does dehumanizing the faithful look? It looks bad. It looks juvenile, puerile. It looks smug and self-righteous (the very features we claim the faithful display). When I was a teenager, I knew how the world worked.

  58. There are many people who thought that war would solve many problems exist. This is a wrong assumption. War will not solve many problems, even increase the problem.
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  59. But it is the military's rules of engagement in Afghanistan that is the “terrible mistake” and it is the public hand-wringing when events like these surface that provide propaganda victories to America's enemies and prolong

  60. Finally, this most recent scandal involving troops posing with the bodies of suicide bombers has further soured relations with the Afghan people.

  61. Before We Assume Our Respective Roles in This Enduring Drama, Just Let Me Say That When these Frail Shadows We Inhabit Now Have Quit the Stage We'll Meet and Raise a Glass Again Together in Valhalla.

  62. Urinating on dead bodies; cutting off fingers for sport; murdering women and children; night raid home invasions on civilians; and the most recent embarrassment of soldiers posing with dead body parts, are all possible during times of war.

  63. Urinating on dead bodies; cutting off fingers for sport; murdering women and children; night raid home invasions on civilians; and the most recent embarrassment of soldiers posing with dead body parts, are all possible during times of war because of the original lie that starts the war.

  64. Urinating on dead bodies; cutting off fingers for sport; murdering women and children; night raid home invasions on civilians; and the most recent embarrassment of soldiers posing with dead body parts, are all possible during times of war because of the original lie that starts the war, which must include dehumanizing the enemy.

  65. For whatever reason, circumstances in that person's life lead him to take this path. But he is still a human being and no one should pose with a picture of their dead, charred bodies as if it were a sport. It is dehumanizing.

  66. I guess Ireman hasn't cottoned on to what the name of this website is.
    What Islamic hordes are you talking about, madman?

  67. Now every soldier has a camera, rapid photographs can be made and sent around the world, and so we have events like Abu Ghraib or the recent photographs of U.S. soldiers posing with body parts of the enemy.

  68. Afghanistan on Tuesday welcomed a Pentagon decision to put two US Marines on trial for urinating on the bodies of dead Taliban fighters and posing for photographs with them.

  69. I don't believed this, they are doing like an animal..US troops are enjoying after killing innocent peoples.

  70. the most recent embarrassment of soldiers posing with dead body parts, are all possible during times of war because of the original lie that starts the war, which must include dehumanizing the enemy.

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  71. if you take pics and send them to your mates,the enemy will make a big propaganda.

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  72. There is always, always, always the temptation to abuse a detainee or pose for a picture with some dead fighter.

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