TMZ obtained a trove of photos that allegedly show U.S. Marines posing next to and burning dead bodies of insurgents in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004. (Warning: graphic images ahead.)
TMZ leaked 9 of 41 photos that appear to show Marines in Iraq pouring gasoline and then burning the dead bodies of Iraqis. An investigation into the photos has now been opened by the Marine Corps to see whether punishment is necessary.
"We have no details beyond the photos themselves," Pentagon spokesperson Commander Bill Speaks told The Wire over the phone, contradicting slightly what TMZ reported. The Defense Department plans to investigate the veracity of the photos and possibly the identify the soldiers involved. Burning bodies directly violates the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Crimes against the code can still be prosecuted, even all these years later.
The full set, which TMZ says was turned over to the military last week, allegedly also shows Marines posing next to corpses, a Marine going through a dean man's pockets, and a dog eating one body. "We have not included all of the photos," TMZ says. "Many are just too gruesome."
The photos were allegedly taken in Fallujah, which, in 2004, was one of the most dangerous cities for U.S. troops at the height of the Iraq war. In the last few weeks, Al Qaeda insurgents took over the city, and the Iraqi military has debated whether or not to attack to reclaim it. "It is heartbreaking to watch Fallujah descend into this kind of violence again," Jessica Lewis, a two-tour Iraq war veteran, told the CBC recently.
Here's the full statement from Commander Speaks:
We are aware of photos appearing on TMZ.com that depict individuals in U.S. Marine uniforms burning what appear to be human remains. 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. The Marine Corps is currently investigating the veracity of these 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.
CDR Bill Speaks
Office of the Secretary of Defense