Porous graphite plates, cylinders and cones with densities of 1.55-1.82 g/cm3 were irradiated by a 10 kW fiber laser at 0.075 –3.525 kW/cm2 for 120 s to study mass removal and crater formation. Surface temperatures reached steady state values as high as 3767 K. The total decrease in sample mass ranged from 0.06 to 6.29 g, with crater volumes of 0.52 - 838 mm3, and penetration times for 12.7 mm thick plates as short as 38 s. Minor contaminants in the graphite samples produced calcium and iron oxide to be re-deposited on the graphite surface. Significantly increased porosity of the sample is observed even outside of the laser-irradiated region. Total mass removed increases with deposited laser energy at a rate of 4.83 g/MJ for medium extruded graphite with an apparent threshold of 0.15 MJ. Visible emission spectroscopy reveals C2 Swan and CN red, CN violet bands and Li, Na, and K 2P3/2,1/2 – 2S1/2 doublets. The reacting boundary layer is observed using a mid-wave imaging Fourier transform spectrometer (IFTS) at 2 cm-1 spectral resolution, 0.5 mm/pixel spatial resolution, and 0.75 Hz data cube rate. A two-layer radiative transfer model was used to determine plume temperature, CO, and CO2 concentrations from spectral signatures. The new understanding of graphite combustion and sublimation during laser irradiation is vital to the more complex behavior of carbon composites.