The Los Angeles Times’ decision to publish photos of American soldiers posing with deceased Afghan suicide bombers against the Pentagon’s wishes has recently been condemned by communication experts. Critics are calling the decision unethical, but I take umbrage with that accusation. I respect the newspaper’s choice to publish them, because I don’t want insurgents dictating what media outlets in the United States can and cannot publish. It appears that the White House and the Pentagon want to give in to terror, but showing fear in the face of a threat should not be the policy the U.S. pursues.
The two photos, published in the issue at hand, showed the head of one insurgent and the severed legs of another being held up by grinning soldiers from the 4th brigade of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. Afghans have gotten all riled up over the photos, causing the Obama Administration to do damage control. However, I think that it is important to remember that these were suicide bombers, not innocent civilians, and the soldiers in the photos had friends who had been killed by IEDs and suicide attacks. I would be grinning, too, if I was staring at the corpse of the man who presumably killed my friend. Should soldiers not smile in the face of victory?
Whether or not the soldiers’ actions were ethical does not actually matter, because the L.A Times is the entity taking the heat for refusing to hide the truth. Sally Mounts, president of Auctus Consulting Group, posed the question, “Does the L.A. Times seriously think their need-to-know policy trumps the cost of retaliatory fallout?” Ms. Mounts went on to assert, “If even one life is lost as a result of these photos, it is an appalling and thoroughly preventable tragedy.” She is right, in that it is a preventable tragedy, but there would be no blood on the hands of the L.A. Times editors; the blame would lie solely with those responsible for taking the innocent lives. Why should Americans have their rights restricted out of the fear that somebody may harm someone in retaliation? If I walked into a room full of people and said “I will shoot everyone in here if somebody says the word ‘milk’,” and somebody said “milk” and I shot everybody, nobody in their right mind would blame the person who said “milk” for the murders. They would blame me. Terrorists would like nothing better than to change the way Americans live, so instead of caving in to pressure and trying to limit freedom of the press, the United States should stand up to intimidation and invite its opponents to follow through. We have guns, too.
President Obama will not stand up to our enemies. When two American soldiers were gunned down by an Afghan soldier after Qurans were accidentally burned at the Bagram Air Base, Obama was busy apologizing to Afghanistan’s President Karzai. I have to applaud former speaker Newt Gingrich for challenging Obama’s priorities when he posted on Twitter: “It is an outrage that on the day an Afghan soldier murders two American troops, Pres. Obama is the one apologizing.” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney responded that, “His [Obama’s] primary concern as Commander-in-Chief is the safety of American men and women in Afghanistan, of our military and civilian personnel there.” I wonder, though, how effective apologizing for U.S. soldiers and pressuring American newspapers to not publish photos of dead insurgents will be in the long run if security is the ultimate goal. The terrorists say that they will kill Americans if we write this, or publish that, or do this, but isn’t that their goal anyway? Apologizing for our actions and not publishing “offensive” photos won’t solve our security issues, neutralizing targets will.
Not to sound cliché, but if we start giving up our rights because we are afraid of what terrorists and insurgents may do to us, then the terrorists will have won. Just think about it, how many rights would we have to have given up, how many apologies would it have taken, to have appeased the Iraqi mob that brutally murdered and desecrated the four Blackwater guards killed at Fallujah in 2004? (And Afghanis think that peeing on the corpses of dead insurgents counts as defiling the dead.) I’ll end with this piece of advice: When confronted with threats, you don’t comply with the demands of the individuals issuing them; you track them down and liquidate them.