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Saturday, August 05, 2006

Pentagon blocks soldiers from posting videos online

Pentagon declares war on internet combat videos
By Oliver Poole, Iraq Correspondent
Telegprah, UK
Ju;y 26, 2006)

The Pentagon is asking US 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.

Defence 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 and, 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 websites have become massively popular, with 70 million videos on YouTube alone.

The spread of the fad among US 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 US bases have internet facilities.

Hundreds of hours of video shot by three National Guardsmen based near Baghdad were edited by documentary maker Deborah Scranton into a film called The War Tapes, which was shown at a major US arts film festival.

The footage - filmed by Sgt Steve Pink, Specialist Mike Moriarty and Sgt 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 film of a marine singing a song he had composed called Haji Girl, in which a US soldier falls in love with an Iraqi woman and is then ambushed by her family when he is taken to meet them.

It was criticised last month in the US 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 US troops as a pejorative term for Iraqis.

The song's composer, Cpl Joshua Belile, 23, was required to apologise.

An official investigation was launched, but the military discovered that his behaviour 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 Cpl Belile to undergo informal counselling.
A new code of conduct on video postings is now being considered.

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