WASHINGTON (AP) - The White House and the Pentagon voiced regrets Wednesday for newly published photographs that purport to show U.S. troops posing with the bodies of dead insurgents in Afghanistan, with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta calling them a violation of America's "core values."
"My apology is on behalf of the Department of Defense and the U.S. government," Panetta told a news conference following a NATO meeting in Brussels.
At the White House, President Barack Obama's chief spokesman, Jay Carney, echoed Panetta's comments, saying the incident was "reprehensible."
The photos were published in Wednesday's Los Angeles Times. One shows members of the 82nd Airborne Division posing in 2010 with Afghan police and the severed legs of a suicide bomber. The same platoon a few months later was sent to investigate the remains of three insurgents reported to have accidentally blown themselves up - and soldiers again posed and mugged for photographs with the remains, the newspaper said. A photo from that incident appears to show the hand of a dead insurgent resting on a U.S. soldier's shoulder as the soldier smiles.
Top U.S. military and civilian officials rushed to condemn the soldiers' actions Wednesday, calling them repugnant and a dishonor to others who have served in the conflict. The Army said an investigation is under way.
Panetta said he condemned the behavior, but said, "This is war. I know that war is ugly and it's violent, and I know that young people sometimes caught up in the moment sometimes make very foolish decisions."
The Times said that a soldier provided the newspaper with a series of 18 photos of soldiers posing with corpses. The soldier served in Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne's 4th Brigade Combat Team from Ft. Bragg, N.C., and said the photos point to a breakdown in leadership and discipline that he believed compromised the safety of the troops, the newspaper reported.