Australian video journalist denies bodies burned in disrespect

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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Stephen Dupont, the Australian video journalist whose footage of U.S. soldiers burning corpses in Afghanistan sparked worldwide controversy, is denying any claims made by others that the bodies in the footage were burned in a disrespectable fashion.

Dupont's video was first broadcasted by the Australian television network SBS earlier this month, showing footage of US soldiers burning bodies in a desertous region of Afghanistan. During an interview with the station regarding his footage, Dupont said, "They [ PSY-OPS ] used that as a psychological warfare, I guess you'd call it. They used the fact that the Taliban were burned facing west [towards Mecca]. ... They deliberately wanted to incite that much anger from the Taliban so the Taliban could attack them. ... That's the only way they can find them."

The issue has many questioning whether the burning of the bodies, which violate islamic principles, or the broadcasting of the PSY-OPS message violated sections of the Geneva Conventions.

Some initial news report coverage seems to have interpreted the PSY-OPS broadcast that was stating that the bodies were burned "facing west", as a factual statement. On October 21, Dupont appeared on the NPR talk show All Things Considered and clarified this point in an interview, reiterating that the bodies were either burned under orders from officials, or for hygiene concerns brought forth when locals did not retrieve the bodies. Dupont also corrected reports that the bodies were facing toward Mecca, saying: "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."

Both the Afghan government and the U.S. Army have begun investigations into the claims.