Soldier-Made Videos from Iraq, Part 2

The comments that I left on the new PBS blog, Mediashift, led to journalist Mark Glaser contacting the military and asking them about whether the soldier-made videos violate the army code of conduct. In the meantime, I had gone to Youtube.com and watched another video, “The Enemy,” which contained much more gruesome footage of Fallujah.

Military spokesman Maj. Matt McLaughlin responded to Glaser. He stated that they sampled some videos from Youtube.com and, “What we saw does not appear to violate policy. It does fall in the category of what some would consider bad taste. Bad taste however is a subjective standard.�

To me, this response has a veiled message: that the US military doesn’t want to criticize soldiers; these soldiers are spread thin in Iraq and recruiting is down. Although the military’s policy explicitly prohibits soldiers from “photographing or filming detainees or human casualties,” they do not want to get into a fight about this, since fights often call more attention to an issue, and right now they are just trying to lay low and get through the rest of this war without the American public becoming even less supportive and more morally outraged.

This has been a learning process for me, as I went from primarily acting out of my mother-bear-with-cubs mentality, to thinking in terms of what these videos are able to convey to the American public. Here is my response, posted on Mediashift:

Thanks for exploring this question further. In its sample of videos, I wonder if the military looked at one called “The Enemy.” Here is the URL. http://www.youtube.com/?v=4ZIjXp3uT_4 This was reportedly shot in Fallujah. It contains video of a man being shot to death in the street, multiple pictures of men covered in blood, presumably dead, multiple pictures of blindfolded detainees, a close-up of what looks like an older man shot in the head, an aerial video of about 2 dozen people being blown up, pictures of blindfolded detainees with guns raised to their heads, a picture of a body burned to death with the face still recognizable, and two pictures of men with their heads blown off. And there’s more.

I am still worried about how easy it would be for children to access these videos. All I typed in to find this one was “Iraq War.” It was the second listing in my results.

However, I am now starting to appreciate a bigger picture here — the bigger picture of helping the American people understand what is going on in Iraq. Perhaps video footage like this will function as the film “Hearts and Minds” did in the post-Vietnam era — helping to inform people and ultimately change the public’s tolerance for senseless killing.

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3 responses

  1. i was talking with a vietnam vet about the impact of news coverage on the public perception of the war. i still remember the horrific photos in life magazine that showed the people back home what was being done in our name.
    the press in iraq is embedded, or physically threatened, or both.
    the soldiers have unprecedented ability to send us images and firsthand accounts of what is happening there.
    how will this sort out?

  2. Nancy, Yeah, I wonder if the videos put online by soldiers will have an impact, especially if the war drags on anymore than it already has. It’s such a depressing topic, I think most people do everything they can to avoid it entirely. Once you get exposed to a video like “The Enemy,” though, it is much harder to shut down and turn off. It has been suggested to me that perhaps the military wants the American people to get exposed more to the war, so that there will be more of a concerted effort to pressure the Bush administration to withdraw our troops.

  3. There is no good or easy answer to this. I was horrified and appalled by the images on the video; but, maybe that’s not a bad thing. the bu$h crowd has made mighty efforts to sanitize this war. Remember the flap about showing pix of the flag-draped coffins? That was blasted as ‘exploitive.’ And notice that we haven’t seen any since the summer of ’03 or ’04. So maybe seeing stuff like this video is exactly what we need.

    After all, the real horror of war isn’t just what happens to soldiers who have to go over and kill people. Many times the horror is that some of them enjoy it. Before I get flamed as disparaging the troops, my older brother was of Vietnam age, and he had a friend who went and who found the experience thrilling. Either Ulysses Grant or William Tecumseh Sherman– he of “March to the Sea” fame in the Civil War– said something like “it is good that war is so horrible, or we should enjoy it too much. ” Maybe we need to see the horror perpetrated in our name.

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