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Special Report

Firestorm over gruesome images of Afghan corpses

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," April 18, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I strongly condemned what we see in those photos as has General Allen. That behavior that was depicted in those photos absolutely violates both our regulations and, more importantly, our core values. This is not who we are. We had urged the L.A. Times not to run those photos. And the reason for that is those kinds of photos are used by the enemy to incite violence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: There's a criminal investigation now by the Department of Defense, 18 photographs taken over the span of roughly 90 days. This is two years ago. First published, as the defense secretary mentioned, by the Los Angeles Times. We blurred some of this, but it's soldiers posing with body parts of a suicide bomber who had blown himself up in southeastern Afghanistan. There are a series of them. And there is pushback about this whole reaction to them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LT. COL. RALPH PETERS (RET), FOX NEWS STRATEGIC ANALYST: I'm furious. Not at the troops that did something dumb. But I'm furious at the moral cowardice of military leaders who never stick up for our troops but protect their own careers. The reflex action of our generals is always to leap out and say, oh my gosh, our troops are so awful. They're so wicked. This isn't us. This isn't us.

The real scandal is that the establishment media leaps on another chance to trash our troops. The worst of the scandal is that our leaders in and out of uniform rush to condemn our troops. No explanation. No context.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: OK, what about this, and the expected pushback perhaps in Afghanistan after a series of incidents? Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Look, let's start by stipulating that nobody should treat the body of a dead person with disrespect. However, this is a strange case because the victims themselves, suicide attackers, are people who did not treat their own bodies with respect. They deliberately destroyed their own bodies and turned themselves into body parts.

So here we have soldiers in the stress of war abusing what is left of the suicide attackers. I find it slightly different from had they been abusing the body of those who died in combat or who died accidentally. It doesn't excuse them, but I think there is a disconnect here, because suicide attackers are the most criminal of all the war criminals, abusing all the laws of war and generally speaking attacking helpless and unaware civilians.

BAIER: Kirsten, the Los Angeles Times said it obtained these photographs, two-year-old photographs from a member of the 82nd airborne and identified the corpses as being suicide bombers and insurgents who, quote, "had accidentally blown themselves up." What about the L.A. Times' choice to run the photos?

KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK POST: Well, I think that they did the right thing. The person who gave them the photos said that he felt like this represented a breakdown in leadership and discipline and that he hoped that by these pictures being published that it would bring attention to that and would actually help save troops in the future, because he felt there was such a lack of discipline. And I think unless you bring light to this kind of stuff that nothing is gonna be done about it.

And the people who put the troops in the danger are those men who took those pictures. You know, you can't blame the L.A. Times for what they did. We're all supposed to just pretend it didn't happen?

BAIER: Is there, do you think the connection that would be made to something like Abu Ghraib when a lot of those photos came up and immediately there was an investigation that led to all kind of things including the defense secretary offering his resignation.

POWERS: I can't predict what's going to happen with this. And I don't think these are quite on the scale, in the same situation as Abu Ghraib, but I think it's a serious issue. And I disagree with the contention that people come out and say, oh the troops are so awful and wicked. No one is saying that. The troops are incredible. These people do not represent the troops.

BAIER: Bill?

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think the L.A. Times was irresponsible to publish these photos against the explicit request, not of the terrible Bush administration or terrible Don Rumsfeld, but of the Obama administration, which last I looked was not a bunch of warmongers but are people in this case, I think quite correctly, Secretary of Defense Panetta, was concerned about the wellbeing of our troops who are there now.

The leadership of that brigade, the 4th combat brigade of 82nd is not the current leadership. In fact there were issues with the battalion that was responsible for these troops apparently at the time. It was reported at the time. In any case, the leadership of that battalion and brigade is not the current leadership. So the exposure does nothing. It's not a contemporaneous matter, where hey something bad is happening there and we're going to expose it. It's pure voyeurism by the media. It's unfortunate that these photos were taken. The brigade had 35 killed in its very rough deployment at that time. The soldiers shouldn't have done that. But just publishing these photos now is wrong.

BAIER: That is it for the panel. But stay tuned for a different part of a breaking story.

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