Military Opens Investigation Into Photos of Dead Iraqi Militants
By ASHLEY SOUTHALLJAN. 16, 2014
The United States military said it had begun an inquiry after photographs that appeared to show Marines
burning the dead bodies of Iraqi militants appeared on a gossip website.
The photos were obtained by the website, TMZ.com
, which published some of them online on Wednesday.
TMZ said the photos were shot in Falluja sometime in 2004. Two of the photos posted on Wednesday show a man in a Marine’s uniform pouring liquid from a gasoline can on two decaying bodies. Two other photos show the bodies on fire, and two more show the charred remains. In one photo a man poses on one knee with his rifle pointed toward a human skeleton. In another, a man is running his hands through the pants pockets of one of the bodies.
TMZ said the pictures showed more than a dozen bodies. The site posted eight of 41 pictures, withholding the rest because it said they were “too gruesome.”
TMZ said it turned over all the photographs to the Department of Defense last week. The website did not say when or how it obtained them.
Navy Cmdr. Bill Speaks confirmed in an email that the Marine Corps was investigating.
“We are aware of photos appearing on TMZ.com that depict individuals in U.S. Marine uniforms burning what appear to be human remains,” he said. “The actions depicted in these photos are not what we expect from our service members, nor do they represent the honorable and professional service of the more than 2.5 million Americans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Commander Speaks added that the Marines were “investigating the veracity of the photos, circumstances involved, and if possible, the identities of the service members involved. The findings from this investigation will determine whether we are able to move forward with any investigation into possible wrongdoing.”
TMZ also reported that the United States Central Command, which runs military operations in the Middle East, said that the photographs had not been previously brought to its attention.
Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, mishandling human remains in a war zone is a crime for which there is no statute of limitations. However, if those involved are now private citizens, the military would have to recall them to active duty to face charges, a potentially complex legal procedure.
Falluja, in Iraq’s Anbar Province, was the site of a November 2004 battle where about 100 Marines died. In recent weeks, the city has fallen into the hands of Sunni insurgents
, some backed by Al Qaeda, who have raised their black insurgent flag over government buildings.
A year ago, a video that showed Marines urinating on the bodies of dead Afghans threatened to upend delicate talks among the United States, the Afghan government and the Taliban. A Marine involved in that episode, which officials said occurred in 2011, pleaded guilty
in December 2012, and was sentenced to a reduction in rank and a forfeiture of $500 in pay. The Marine, Staff Sgt. Joseph Chamblin, said he had no regrets
and that he would do it again as revenge for the deaths of American service members.