Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Now It's Us

American soldiers in World War II were astonished when they found, tucked in between pictures of wives and children, pictures of atrocities on German soldiers they had killed. That was a different world. This is now:

When Pfc. Chase McCollough went home on leave in November, he brought a movie made by fellow soldiers in Iraq. On his first night back at his parents' house in Texas, he showed the video to his fiancee, family and friends.

This is what they saw: a handful of American soldiers filmed through the green haze of night-vision goggles. Radio communication between two soldiers crackles in the background before it's drowned out by a heavy-metal soundtrack.

"Don't need your forgiveness," the song by the band Dope begins as images unfurl: armed soldiers posing in front of Bradley fighting vehicles, two women covered in black abayas walking along a dusty road, a blue-domed mosque, a poster of radical cleric Muqtada Sadr. Then, to the fast, hard beat of the music — "Die, don't need your resistance. Die, don't need your prayers" — charred, decapitated and bloody corpses fill the screen.

"It's like a trophy, something to keep," McCullough, 20, said back at his cramped living quarters at Camp Warhorse near Baqubah. "I was there. I did this."

How very proud this junior Waffen SS type must be. There's more:

Troops often carry personal cameras and video equipment in battle. On occasion, official military camera crews, known as "Combat Camera" units, follow the troops on raids and patrol. Although the military uses that footage for training and public affairs, it also finds its way to personal computers and commercial websites.

The result: an abundance of photographs and video footage depicting mutilation, death and destruction that soldiers collect and trade like baseball cards.

"I have a lot of pictures of dead Iraqis — everybody does," said Spc. Jack Benson, 22, also stationed near Baqubah. He has collected five videos by other soldiers and is working on his own.

By adding music, soldiers create their own cinema verite of the conflict. Although many are humorous or patriotic, others are gory, like McCollough's favorite.

"It gets the point across," he said. "This isn't some jolly freakin' peacekeeping mission."

Fortunately, in spite of the propaganda we've been exposed to, the folks back home aren't real impressed by this kind of pornography of violence:

McCullough was surprised that his favorite video was disturbing to his loved ones back in Texas.

"You find out just how weird it is when you take it home," said McCullough, whose screensaver is far more benign, showing him on his wedding day.

Brandi McCullough, then his fiancee and now his wife, said she had walked in as he was showing the videos to friends who were "whooping and hollering."

The 18-year-old was shocked by images of "body parts missing, bombs going off and people getting shot."

"They're terrifying," she said by phone from Texas. "Chase never talked about anything over there, and I watch the news, but not all the time. I didn't realize there was that much" violence.

She also wondered why anyone would record it.

"I thought it was odd — a home video," she said. "People getting shot and someone sitting there with a camera."

McCullough said his father, a naval reserve captain, had told him, "'You know, this isn't normal.'

Indeed, it's not normal. But, like Abu Ghraib, it's a symptom.

And imagine when these little sickos come home from the war (via)

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