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The Real Reason Marines Were Burning Corpses In Fallujah

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Jonah Bennett Contributor

Outrage took the media when photographs sent to TMZ early in 2014 appeared to show Marines burning the bodies of Iraqi insurgents—a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. But a new email chain released following a FOIA request shows a source saying there’s perfectly valid reasoning behind the fires.

Immediately, Army Col. Steven Warren, Pentagon spokesman, told TMZ that “The actions that are depicted in these photos are not in any way representative of the honorable, professional service of the 2 1/2 million service members who went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last decade.”

A FOIA request published first on military blog Task and Purpose has since turned up 18 pages of internal emails from Headquarters Marine Corps, and while most of the emails are standard responses to journalists requesting more information, one email in particular presents an interesting account of the burning bodies.

The redacted source explains to Capt. Eric D. Flanagan, a Headquarters Marine Corps spokesman, that the bodies were burned after confirming with Iraqi forces that the act wouldn’t be considered desecration.

“The first reason for the task force was that we were living in close proximity to these corpses, mixed with the 135 degree temperature and 90% humidity made them decompose more rapidly than other places. It was so bad that the bodies were literally exploding from being blotted in the sun. You could literally tastes the corpses the smell was so atrocious and I can still remember it to this day,” the source, who was reportedly present for the burning, stated. The source further added that “since we were heavily engaged…burning them was the only viable option.”

A second source, emailing Col. Chris W. Hughes, the then-deputy director of Marine Corps public affairs, stated, “The photos I saw on TMZ do not appear to be from April of 2004. I don’t see what the deal is. Anyone on the lines knows the smell is sickening and lowers morale. Red Crescent in both battles In Fallujah refused to pick up some terrible bodies. What else can you do?”

In January 2014, TMZ published a total of 8 photographs showing Marines, apparently in 2004 during the infamous second battle for Fallujah, burning a pile of bodies. TMZ sent the rest of the unpublished photographs to the Department of Defense, which sparked an internal investigation.

It’s clear from the email chain that Marine Corps Forces Central Command finished an investigation into the matter, but the results have not yet been released.

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