Michael's Dispatches

Jalalabad Urination: Facebook Censorship




06 August 2013

On Saturday a suicide attack unfolded near the Indian Consulate in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.  A dozen people were reported killed with another twenty wounded.   Eight of the killed were reported to be children.

The next day, 04 August, another bomb exploded in Jalalabad, wounding another sixteen people for a two-day total of about forty-five killed and wounded.

An Afghan friend forwarded the image above, saying this was a suicide bomber who was shot before he exploded and that his vest had been removed.  The man who forwarded the image said that even the kids hate these people.  Needless to say, this image, bad as it is, marks an important “atmospheric” in the war and is newsworthy.

For people unfortunate enough to experience a few suicide attacks, the image of the child urinating is not shocking.  The thunder of the bombs, the inevitable automatic weapons fire from security forces, follow on attacks, the frequent secondary explosions, the shrieks, the stunned children and adults stumbling in the smoke, the fully electrified high tension wires dangling waiting to fry people, the ambulance that arrives filled with explosives, the clothes and body parts up in the trees along with thick smells of petroleum and flesh all create a screaming chorus.

Normally little is left of the suicide bomber.  Often some random piece, a foot, or as so many veterans have noticed, his penis and testicles will remain magically intact but with no body.  The dogs come out to snatch pieces.  The people who are collecting body parts of their loved ones or rushing wounded to hospitals are frustrated, in shock, for what to them is normally a random act, often at a public market.  For a child whose mom and dad are killed, if he or she has no great family, that’s it: a life of prostitution has begun.  “Boston bombings” happen every day in Afghanistan – but usually much larger.  Many bombs are so big that they thunder.

Yet random, pearl clutching westerners who never experienced a suicide bombing are shocked out of their skins that a child would urinate on a suicide attacker.   The horror of the suicide attack is like a freight train running over your brain, while the urination after such an event is little more than a cup of tap water poured onto the face of a demon.  It is an insult, a slap to the face, yet in context it is the sound of a fly landing in a hurricane.

Having been to Jalalabad many times, I can say with certainty that locals have plenty of experience with these demons.  Context is not lost in these memories.

I posted this image on Facebook and amid hundreds of comments, Facebook posted:


Facebook included this note, blocking my account access:


Most sad about this Facebook affair is that Facebook makes no stab to censor video made by Marines who urinated on enemy corpses in Afghanistan.   Even today this video can be seen on Facebook.

These words are not to defend the actions of a handful of Marines who behaved like idiots and took the time to make video – and then somehow released the video.  US service members are well trained never to defile corpses.  These men were not random civilians.  They were professionals.  Marines.  Marines know better.  They violated orders.  They made video.  They somehow released the video.  That is “stupid x 4” and they got what they had coming, yet as per normal the media jumped in and fanned the flames.


Facebook makes no effort to censor poor behavior from our Marines.  This is fine.  It was a newsworthy event and should not be censored.  The families of our same Marines no doubt would be calling the Taliban savages if the Taliban defecated on the faces of dead Marines and posted it online.  If the sandal were on the other foot we would call it a war crime and demand B-52 justice.

But just why Facebook feels the need to protect the dignity of a suicide bomber who was reportedly involved in attacks that killed and wounded upwards of forty-five people this Saturday and Sunday, while widely advertising and condemning the poor behavior of a handful of Marines who were immediately disciplined, is beyond perverse.

The image of a child urinating on the face of a suicide attacker is a noteworthy and newsworthy atmospheric of local sentiment in America’s longest war, where nearly 3,400 American and Coalition allies have died, with more than 20,000 wounded.  We poured hundreds of billions of dollars into the war, yet with Facebook’s “Godlike” stature and severe arrogance, it feels worthy of passing judgment on what people around the world are allowed to see.

This is the same Facebook that allowed people to post death threats against George Zimmerman after he was found not guilty at his trial:


A concerned citizen petitioned Facebook to remove the death threats, to no avail:




More than 80,000 people subscribe to my Facebook and Twitter feeds.  This precipitous, politically charged editing by Facebook in particular will result in my decreasing usage of Facebook.

Facebook is enjoying the peak of its power and influence.  Yet at this rate Facebook will walk the path of the dinosaurs.  The day will come when the ants will gnaw on Facebook’s bones. 


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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Scott Dudley · 8 years ago
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Denise · 8 years ago
    I agree with you, Micheal
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Texas2Step · 8 years ago
    Even more reasons to hate Facebook, and for Facebook to have a HATE button.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Pam Sellards · 8 years ago
    So true. Thank you for continuing to keep us informed. You are so right when you say Americans twisting their pearls have no idea the mayhem caused by a bomb. Thanks for reporting what the media ignores.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jesse · 8 years ago
    I'm already pulling back from Facebook....besides being a giant time waster; it usually provides nothing noteworthy.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    TQuestar · 8 years ago
    Michael, are you *absolutely* sure the man was a bomber? He looks more like a westerner, perhaps contractor, to me. I hope you are right. Note skin color, body build, lack of beard, etc.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Scotch7 · 8 years ago
      The haircut and clean shave certainly make one question if this was indeed a bomber. The story is that he was spotted, killed and stripped of his boom vest and watered. Hopefully that's all true. But there's also no hole or bleeding puddle visible in the photo. I'm worried that the dead guy was "collateral" KIA, doomed by a bomb's overpressure, but not punctured. If so he would be not a bomber and the context of the photo would be rather different. Thanks for following up on this MY.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Linda Burton · 8 years ago
      I also thought his skin was too light to be a bomber. It would be sad if this is true, and he was a contractor or a westerner. There is so much hatred....so much sadness that the little kids are exposed to. A very sad world that (most likely) will never change for the better. Thanks Michael....I'm sorry that some people (facebook) don't appreciate what you have to offer. You're awesome!
      • This commment is unpublished.
        Michael Yon author · 8 years ago
        Thank you, Linda --

        I've noticed some comments on his looks. To that I would ask how many hundreds of suicide bombers have people seen to form that baseline?

        I would also ask some folks, "Have you been to Jalalabad?" There are Afghans with blond hair and blue eyes, or red hair with thousands of freckles. Some bombers are not Afghans at all, but from other places like Pakistan.

        As for the beard, that means nothing whatsoever. Many Afghans do not wear beards, and suicide bombers often shave them.

        As for the t-shirt, again, that means nothing. We sustain many attacks by enemy wearing complete Afghan or even US uniforms.

        Caution is always in order when commenting about faraway places that most people never see. I doubt that most people can find Jalalabad on a map without minutes of hunting. First they have to find Afghanistan, which I think few Americans can do.

        It is sad that kids are exposed to this so frequently. I totally agree, Linda, and thank you again for the note.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Charlotte · 8 years ago
      His shirt says Afghan Commander.I do not see an American contractor wearing that. I agree with you that he does not look like your average suicide bomber (bc we really know what they look like considering there is rarely anything identifiable left) however the Muslem extremists are getting younger and younger as well as more "civil" looking. They have to be able to blend into a lot of different places. Many are educated and most have passports. They have traveled and done many of the same things in their life that you have done. Some even look like your next door neighbor (take a look at street riot photos from any major journalist) I am 100% certain that the reason Facebook is banning this image is not due to consideration for the dead. There are as many Facebook users in the US as there is in those countries and I believe that Facebook is attempting to keep a neutral territory or perhaps cover up that they are not as different as we are? We will never know the logic behind it.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    old-gringo · 8 years ago
    where do I log in if the above doesn't recognize me?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Michael Yawn · 8 years ago
    How about: kill Facebook
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Dale · 8 years ago
    I hate censorship.
    Just shared this link on my Facebook page.

    Thanks for your reportage!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    peter · 8 years ago
    Yes, the ants will crawl on Facebook. It is already happening. I am losing my interest. It is no longer about connecting, but about advertising revenue.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    James Tuttle · 8 years ago
    Yon, my hero, I have always wondered why these demons go after simple folks and not the leaders, the politicians. Even here the idiots bomb the Boston Marathon instead of the Mayor or the Mass. Senator or someone that actually has done some harm. Ponder that for me.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Barbara Lawrence · 8 years ago
    Facebook has been harassing military pages repeatedly, shutting them down 1,2, and times for violating TOS in an attempt to wear them down till they give up and go away:Grunts11Bravo, F'N Oorah, Combat Infantry, Combat Grunts, The Person Above Me is A POG, and others. The accusation is for containing "nudity, pornography or sexual solicitation", because female fans submit pics of themselves in bikinis or lingerie. Meanwhile, clearly pornographic pages elsewhere on FB are untouched.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jukian · 8 years ago
    Because the image is of a child, perhaps?
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    Bombsled · 8 years ago
    Where is the proof of the identity of the man who appears to be deceased? Sources?
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    Amador Guallar · 8 years ago
    A fantastic piece. Your descriptions bring real scenes into life. Congratulations for your adjectives, they really are made of flesh.
    Greetings from ancient Bactria.
    Amador Guallar
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Joe Facebook · 8 years ago
    The one photo that says a million words about the feelings of locals who endure the wrath of zealots should be broadcast far and wide. Why not sell it to the AP or Getty? Fuck Facebook. It's like disco.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Sun Tzu · 8 years ago
    Hey Michael
    I have been threatened three times already by the FB Polit Bureau :lol:

    What I always love about these snot gobblers is that they can point to the specific "COmmunity Standards" I have violated in order that I may have objectionable dialog with them 8)

    One of the great features of the new versions of Joomla! is a thing called "Community Builder" with which ONE can build your own FB of sorts with FAR more features and flexibility for the community users and administrators 8)

    I am going there as soon as I move over to another hosting service :-*
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Non Compos Mentis · 8 years ago
    Re : # citizen — TQuestar 201 -08-06 16:49
    "Michael, are you *absolutely* sure the man was a bomber? He looks more like a westerner, perhaps contractor, to me. I hope you are right. Note skin color, body build, lack of beard, etc."

    I agree. This photo needs vetting.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Sun Tzu · 8 years ago
    Tell the story Michael, screw the critics :-x

    Just keep remembering your own words "the toxic guano of consensus journalism" 8)
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Dave Cottrell · 8 years ago
    Thanks for reporting, Michael. I have curated and passed it on as far as I can. FB may now block me, too, but this needs to get out. Arbitrary censorship of news is not something we should find in social media.
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    woodNfish · 8 years ago
    I applaud the Marines who pissed on their victims. They should be able to dump them in a ditch and pour pigs blood and offal over them, then bury them with the pig carcasses. When the identities of terrorists are discovered their families should be hunted down, executed and their dead bodies defiled as well. When terrorists understand that their actions will doom their families, they will stop their terrorism.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Steve Willie · 8 years ago

    Based only on the photo it appears that this individual was killed by trauma to the head and definitely was not in close contact with the explosives at the moment of detonation. As others have already hinted, lets explore other scenarios.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      CGS · 8 years ago
      "...this was a suicide bomber who was shot before he exploded and that his vest had been removed."

      The shot was presumably, as would be prudent, to the head.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Beth · 8 years ago
    I agree! Maybe you should move to Diaspora. They censor nothing and don't take any of your rights away, nor do they mess with your private info:
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    Pete · 8 years ago
    Zuckerberg and his little creation both suck. Why are you surprised that the witless lackies who work there wouldn't act this way?
    I've never had any time or patience for "social media". What a bunch of crap! Find another site.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    John - Capt in ANG · 8 years ago
    I think I'd you're asking the validity of the photo, you're sorta getting stuck in the weeds while the forest is burning around you. The point isn't really if the picture if real, if the kid is real, if the guy is a contractor or even if this is the Disney character Jack Frost finally spotted on film and so now you have to believe... The point is that there's arbitrary DCMA-equiv content yank downs with no logical, or to be more specific no non-subjective reasoning cited in context of content NOT yanked.

    To be honest, it just panders to the emotionally weak in my mind. The people who claim to hate the military ignore centuries of historical references to countries with weak standing armies and benefit from their shelter as they cast stones. So it's politically correct to be anti-military in many ways, in some circles which one could generalize the FB crowd into (Northern Cali company). However, the litmus changes when it's not an easy target, and someone hits the "report" button. I see it on a lot of geek websites I post up technical replies. If its non-military, my comment moderations goes sky high (rating it "informative, etc,") however if I post a similarly technical explanation to dispute incorrect military related articles, the moderation is much more muted and sometimes negative as "wiki-experts" misquote or don't understand the connext of what they COPY-PASTED.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    aj · 8 years ago
    So I read what you said and found it very interesting. But I have now spent 15 minutes looking for this online and have found NOTHING on it. This picture seems fake, and for the above comment^, that matters a lot. If facebook censored this when it wasn't a suicide bomber then you have no idea why it was censored. Personally I think the fact that you can see the guys face in comparison to the military ones where you cant make out any faces makes this more obscene, and its not as important because it doesn't effect America if some random kid in a random country peed on a dead guy. Ugh, in summation, this would be 1000000000000X better with a source, without it, you're just ranting.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Michael Yon Author · 8 years ago
      It takes all of 15 seconds to find stories and photographs from the attacks. For instance:

      http://zeenews.india.com/news/south-asia/india-announces-150-000-aid-for-jalalabad-attack-victims_86726 .html

      Which contains:

      "In addition, a reward of USD 2,000 has been announced by India for the brave Afghan National Police personnel who gunned down a suicide bomber and stopped the attackers in their tracks, they said."

      Aj, you have embarrassed yourself in a public forum and our wasted time. A swift apology will go far. Anything less is dishonorable.
      • This commment is unpublished.
        aj · 8 years ago
        lol sorry I didn't see that sentence, I take back what I said. And I found all the other attacks which made me question this more when I couldn't find this one. But thanks for posting the source like I wish had been originally done.
        • This commment is unpublished.
          Michael Yon author · 8 years ago
          My source WAS an original source -- and that article was not published yet when I went live. It was amazing in Iraq and Afghanistan when I would physically be on the scene, making images, and some folks would say, "Where's an original source?" and I would say...HELLO. I AM the source. Me and my video camera. What is an "original source?" AP or NYT who was not there?

          Thank you for owning the error. Speaks more about your character than the original mistake.
          • This commment is unpublished.
            chris higgins · 8 years ago
            I love that when people say where is the source? The intellectually lazy use that phrase to attack something they disagree with. A few minutes on a search engine usually gives me several takes on an event and more than one link to primary sources.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Michael Yon author · 8 years ago
      There are loads of articles about the attacks online. That you cannot find any speaks volumes about your research but not the events. It was all over the news.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    CJ · 8 years ago
    Now I'm really glad I never signed up with FB. Piss on FB!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Mike Lacey · 8 years ago
    It was a very strong image posted in an extremely open Forum. Its not a private place.

    Some things should be kept in your own blog which is something we can opt into, with our eyes open.

    Presumably plenty of people took offense and used the Snitch Switch. Not everyone wants to see ths kind of image in a lace thats open to everybody.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Michael Yon author · 8 years ago
    My website is no more closed than is Facebook -- In fact, my website is far more open. There are no privacy settings and the only things we censor are mindless profanity and ad hominem. Censoring those two things brings far better debate to the table, but that's as far as we go.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Mike Lacey · 8 years ago
      Don' worry - I'm a fan of your website / blog etc ( even if we disagree on the issue of Terps and PERSEC :-) ) but I think we go into that place with our eyes open - its your place, you call the shots.

      Facebook is just the same, but third parties can see your posts if, AIUI, somebody "likes" or comments on your posts. I suspect that causes the problem.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    chris higgins · 8 years ago
    Most of the facebook censorship is report driven. When they receive enough reports they remove the content. Mostly it is a remove first then restore later based on an appeal process. I encourage you to appeal the removal of that picture. It is an incredibly powerful image. I seem to remember a bit of a brouhaha over pictures of the marines you describe being removed as well. That was also an incredibly powerful image simply because our military is probably the most disciplined military force in human history acts like those shown are so rare that their occurrence is noteworthy as is the military's response to them.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    MarkWilliams · 8 years ago
    Michael - I respect your opinion, but your lack of understanding of online moderation is leading you to a wrong conclusion.

    My company does online moderation for major brands. Every company (including Facebook) clearly defines guidelines as to what is acceptable for the *whole* community. Most - and certainly Facebook - take no sides when it comes to politics.

    In regards to these two photos, the one of the child CLEARLY shows him urinating. I would remove *any* political context from determining whether the photo is offensive or not.

    Showing people clearly passing bodily fluids is not something that would be allowed, regardless of the political context.

    The photo of the Marines does NOT clearly show anyone urinating, and it's not even clear that anyone is exposed. It's a blurry photo, and without knowing anything about the photo and taking it on its own (which is how a moderator will make a determination), it appears to simply be 4 soldiers standing around some bodies.

    I think you're reading far too much into the determination. In one photo, a child is clearly urinating. The other photo is 4 soldiers standing around some bodies.

    It's as simple as that. If you want to make it more than it really is, that's your right. But there's nothing political behind the determination or conspiratorial about it.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    J · 8 years ago
    He probably was Uzbek. They've been bringing them in lately because they look more white than a local Afghan.
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    Terry Wentz · 8 years ago
    I got it removed. Wish I could post a snapshot of it. There is no more Kill George Zimmerman Page.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Terry Wentz · 8 years ago
    I got the Kill George Zimmerman page removed from FaceBook. YAY.
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    Tamara J Keys · 8 years ago
    Thanks Michael, you never disappoint the reader in the truth you write. We are so protected from everything (at this point) the only ugliness we see is that which we voluntarily tune in - for the thrill (bad movies). What were they expecting? If I'm not wrong you subscribe to a persons FB site. Anyone who subscribes to a war correspondents blog/FB page is naive to think rainbows and ponies will dominate if they truly report.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    seeClearly · 8 years ago
    The CEO and major share holder of Facebook, Mark Z has recently entered the political world by jumping in with Pres Obama and his Administration. Facebook will soon become the MSNBC of the social media world. 24/7 promotion of all things Obama and left wing. Like you said it might go belly up and the stock tank when users start taking sides, quitting or just changing their visiting habits. More and more politically correct activities will be coming to a Facebook page near you. Not me I will be leaving their radical playground.

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