EDITORIAL | New Iraq war videos challenge our values

By Amanda Finnegan
October 27, 2006

Within the past five years, our generation has been directly hit by a war that has affected all of our lives in one way or another, a war that has fueled extensive media coverage. Certain images are burned into our brains when we think of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The soldiers toppling Saddam’s massive statue, Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” and the footage of an infamous dictator, disillusioned after months of hiding. But in recent months, new images have been circulated among sites like YouTube and Google Video that have put a new face on the war, one that is significantly more disturbing and completely uncensored.

Log on to YouTube.com and search “Iraq” and a user can find more than 14,000 videos matching the search. The videos range from music video parodies created by soldiers to a disturbing video called “US soldiers raping an Iraqi girl.” Some videos have close to 200,000 hits, proof of the global fascination and interest of the war in the Middle East. Is it a sick trend of our world becoming immune to violence and death or is there a thirst for information in a sugar-coated, spoon-fed nation?

Some of the videos come from freelance cameramen, Iraqi citizens, insurgents and others, but many of the videos come from the people who understand the war better than anyone, our soldiers. There is a possibility that insurgents have placed these videos on the sites to turn away American support. For this reason and others, some Americans want these videos removed. We cannot prohibit the posting of these videos; it is a freedom of expression and is our choice to view them and to judge for ourselves.

Much like YouTube and Google, soldiers understand that people have a right to know about a war that has their name plastered all over it. Whether a viewer makes the choice to expose themselves to the realities is up to them.

Thanks to technology, families back home are able to see how their loved ones are doing, good or bad. Some days even the news is too difficult to take and minds jump to worse-case scenarios. No one ever wants to see a child, friend or spouse in the situations seen in some of the videos. But at the same time it helps us to better understand the trauma these men and women have been through when they return home.

The Vietnam War was the first war where media played a large role and the public was able to see war for what it really was. Vietnam changed the face of war. It spilt our nation and Americans tested their freedoms to let their government know they didn’t agree. The media and political analysts have made comparisons between Vietnam and Iraq because of the graphic nature of the coverage. These new videos undeniably challenge our commitment to free speech. They force us to question and take a harsh look at what we as a nation stand for. Did we make a huge mistake? Are we doing more harm than good? How many lives need to be lost before we can come home?

Americans have every right to see footage of a war that their tax dollars are being poured into. If the government expects our support for the war in Iraq, the images of negativity need to be shown along with words that support that war and urge us to stay the course. We need to see both sides in order to think for ourselves.

These videos allow users to see the war from a point of view we may never witness ourselves. It puts you in the environment of war in the most raw way possible. Our hope is that these videos will serve as a history lesson to future generations. With war comes devastation and it is not something to be taken lightly.

Censorship brings ignorance. It assumes that the public can only handle so much. The internet is becoming one of the only outlets Americans are able to use to make choices of their own but years from now that may not be the case. YouTube and Google claim they have no stance on the matter, that they are simply supplying the means letting users form opinions of their own. Yes, these videos are disturbing and tasteless, but so is war.

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Amanda Finnegan

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