You probably read on the Los Angeles Times about American soldiers posing with the body parts of Afghan suicide bombers. This behaviour has been condemned by both the American public and politicians.
However, argues John Rico in this Salon article, all troops keep "war porn" stashes. "I did too. What's crazy is the public's belief in a sanitized conflict."
Why do we take these photos?
Consider that the infantry is largely composed of 18-year-old kids who have spent a couple of years in training for the sole purpose of fighting with and killing the enemy. Then they are shipped off for a year at a time, to a foreign land where they are under constant threat and where some of their friends will die. Within this environment, they are then one day given the gruesome task of picking up the body parts of a suicide bomber. How does any sane human being respond to these conditions?
Taking a silly photo to relieve the stress doesn’t strike me as the worst thing in the world, given the circumstances. The desire to document surreal experiences is a normal human motivation. Yes, in this particular context the details are rather gruesome, but this is a gruesome task we’ve handed them.