American Troops Ordered To Stop Posting Combat Videos Online
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
The Pentagon is asking American soldiers in Iraq to stop posting private combat videos on to the Internet amid fears that they could be regarded as anti-Arab.
Many of the digital clips feature explosions, gunfire, and even dead bodies, with the images often set to a soundtrack of rock ballads, rap, or heavy metal music. Defense officials believe they could be interpreted as portraying the military as unsympathetic to Arabs and obsessed with barbarism.
Dozens of such clips can be found by searching for “Iraq” and “combat” on video-sharing sites such as YouTube.com and Ogrish.com, creating an unprecedented opportunity for the public to view servicemen’s unedited perspective of the war.
One cultural commentator described them as “semi-pro snuff films.” Such Web sites have become hugely popular, with 70 million videos on YouTube alone.
The spread of the fad among American soldiers has alarmed the military. Soldiers are being instructed by their commanding officers to remove inappropriate footage even though it is technically not against the rules.
A number of the films have been uploaded from Iraq itself, where nearly all American bases have Internet facilities. Hundreds of hours of video shot by three National Guardsmen based near Baghdad were edited by a documentary maker, Deborah Scranton, into a film called “The War Tapes,” which was shown at a major American arts film festival.
The footage — filmed by Sergeant Steve Pink, Specialist Mike Moriarty, and Sergeant Zack Bazzi — includes a firefight with insurgents and a roadside bomb. It is billed as enabling viewers to get a unique understanding of the “essence” of fighting in Iraq.
The Pentagon was woken up to the potential negative impact of the phenomenon by a film of a Marine singing a song he had composed called “Haji Girl,” in which an American soldier falls in love with an Iraqi woman and is then ambushed by her family when he is taken to meet them.
It was criticized last month in America by the Council on American-Islamic relations, which was outraged by its mocking of the Arabic language and its description of how the Marine grabs his girlfriend’s little sister when he is attacked.
“As the bullets began to fly, the blood sprayed from between her eyes, and I began to laugh maniacally,” the lyrics said.
In Arabic, the word Haji refers to a Muslim who has made the religious pilgrimage to Mecca, but it is often used by American troops as a pejorative term for Iraqis.
The song’s composer, Corporal Joshua Belile, 23, was required to apologize.
An official investigation was launched, but the military discovered that his behavior did not breach the Marines’ policy on Internet posting, which is aimed only at ensuring confidentiality about planned combat operations and troop deployments.
The most severe action it could take was to require Corporal Belile to undergo informal counseling.
A new code of conduct on video postings is now being considered.