There has been a lot of outrage in the media concerning the burning of a couple of dead, Taliban fighters in Afghanistan in early October. Yet, the Australian journalist who videotaped the proceedings, Stephen Dupont, stated in an interview on National Public Radio yesterday (audio link to follow courtesy of Bareknucklepolitics.com) that he believed the bodies were burned purely for reasons of hygiene when the local villagers refused to retrieve them, and that the American soldiers didn't do anything wrong. (Video links to an SBS "Dateline" promo for Dupont's piece as well as an SBS interview with him on the subject also follow):
“I actually believe that the guys who were involved in the burning did it with honorable, you know, reasons. They did it through their orders, or they did if for hygiene. I had no doubt in my mind that they were telling me the truth. If they were doing something that was problematic or controversial, there’s no way they would have shown me this. There’s no way they would have let me go up there and film this.”
With regard to the bodies intentionally being pointed toward Mecca as many in the press have asserted, Dupont said:
“No. Look, the bodies as far as I’m concerned, the bodies were lying on the ground, they weren’t facing anywhere, they were just lying there.”
In Dupont's interview on SBS's "Dateline" Wednesday night (transcript), he did what few in the American media seem to be willing to do -- discuss why the PsyOps representatives broadcast hateful material to the villagers over loudspeakers:
STEPHEN DUPONT: They deliberately wanted to incite that much anger from the Taliban so the Taliban could attack them.
GEORGE NEGUS: Smoke them out.
STEPHEN DUPONT: Smoke them out. They want the Taliban to fight them because they can't find them otherwise. It's a really crazy situation. And, you know, the fact that they're announcing these kind of, you know, sort of incredible statements, I think, says a lot about the war that's going on there. I mean, they really want to be attacked. That's the only way they can find them.
Does Dupont think the strategy is working?
STEPHEN DUPONT: Look, I think it's having some success. I do believe - I think it's very, very slow. I think there is a certain amount of success because they are engaging with the enemy, as in the Taliban. The Americans are using this, you know, psychological warfare to announce - to make announcements to get the enemy to fight them. It is working on that level. And they are being attacked and so they are responding and they are taking prisoners of war and so forth. So, in the eyes of the Americans and the coalition, there is a sense that things are working, but it's very, very slow.
Unfortunately, the media don’t seem interested in his view on this issue. An Associated Press report today stated:
“The US military declared the alleged abuse ‘repugnant’ and vowed to investigate, while the State Department directed US embassies to say such actions do not reflect American values.”
“Cremating bodies is banned under Islam, and one Muslim leader in Afghanistan compared the video to photographs of US troops abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
“'Abu Ghraib ruined the reputation of the Americans in Iraq and to me this is even worse,’ Faiz Mohammed said from northern Kunduz province.
“‘This is against Islam. Afghans will be shocked by this news. It is so humiliating. There will be very, very dangerous consequences from this,’ he said.”