If you want to see the true face of war, go to the amateur porn Web site NowThatsFuckedUp.com. For almost a year, American soldiers stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan have been taking photographs of dead bodies, many of them horribly mutilated or blown to pieces, and sending them to Web site administrator Chris Wilson. In return for letting him post these images, Wilson gives the soldiers free access to his site. American soldiers have been using the pictures of disfigured Iraqi corpses as currency to buy pornography.
At Wilson’s Web site, you can see an Arab man’s face sliced off and placed in a bowl filled with blood. Another man’s head, his face crusted with dried blood and powder burns, lies on a bed of gravel. A man in a leather coat who apparently tried to run a military checkpoint lies slumped in the driver’s seat of a car, his head obliterated by gunfire, the flaps of skin from his neck blooming open like rose petals. Six men in beige fatigues, identified as US Marines, laugh and smile for the camera while pointing at a burned, charcoal-black corpse lying at their feet.
The captions that accompany these images, which were apparently written by the soldiers who posted them, laugh and gloat over the bodies. The soldier who posted a picture of a corpse lying in a pool of his own brains and entrails wrote, “What every Iraqi should look like.” The photograph of a corpse whose jaw has apparently rotted away, leaving a gaping set of upper teeth, bears the caption “bad day for this dude.” One soldier posted three photographs of corpses lying in the street and titled his collection “DIE HAJI DIE.” The soldiers take pride, even joy, in displaying the dead.
This could become a public-relations catastrophe. The Bush administration claims such sympathy for American war dead that officials have banned the media from photographing flag-draped coffins being carried off cargo planes. Government officials and American media officials have repeatedly denounced the al-Jazeera network for airing grisly footage of Iraqi war casualties and American prisoners of war. The legal fight over whether to release the remaining photographs of atrocities at Abu Ghraib has dragged on for months, with no less a figure than Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Meyers arguing that the release of such images will inflame the Muslim world and drive untold numbers to join al-Qaeda. But none of these can compare to the prospect of American troops casually bartering pictures of suffering and death for porn.
There’s the image of Our Troops, every last one of whom are Noble and Good. And there’s the reality of our troops, many of whom are kids who didn’t know much about life outside of Bumfuck, Wherever, before they were suddenly thrown into a world in which the normal rules of moral conduct are not remotely applicable. Americans would prefer to think about the former, but every now and again, we get our faces rubbed in the latter.
Billmon has further thoughts.