On the War Porn We Don't See

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Common Dreams

On the War Porn We Don't See

There is a trove of dark documentation of our wars' worst moments

Yet another example of “war porn” has leaked to the surface from Afghanistan, and once again we are reminded just how far our ‘boys’ have grown from us. Imagine, just a few years prior, some of these men were posing for prom photos. Now, from the looks of it, their courtships are with death.

Here again, we have something that looks outwardly atrocious, however to many in the military, the practice of photographing themselves with dead bodies is anything but. While war trophies taken by soldiers in Vietnam often were literal body parts removed from the dead to remember them by, such as the fingers, ears and tongues, in Iraq and Afghanistan, these trophies usually take the form of war porn, or photographs and video depicting the carnage of combat.

Many excuses are offered up by the military and the government every time another example of war porn goes public. Usually, the excuses involve combat stress, the austerity of conditions on the ground, grievances for a lost buddy or simply that some soldiers are bad soldiers and will be put out of the Army. What doesn’t often get acknowledged is how widespread the existence of war porn from Iraq and Afghanistan truly is.

After the video of U.S. Marines urinating on dead bodies in Afghanistan broke last January, I estimated in a longer expose on war porn that there could be perhaps hundreds of thousands of terabytes currently in existence, waiting to be discovered and released. I did not, however, say it would likely be initiated by U.S. servicemembers and veterans. I predicted that more likely, it will be hacked free or recovered from electronics recycling plants outside of the United States. 

However, these most recent images were exposed by an anonymous active duty soldier in Afghanistan moved by conscious and concern to speak out -- an encouraging sign. Far better we take the burden of truth upon ourselves now, than have it thrust upon us by outside forces later (which I still suspect will more often be the case). However, this soldier’s actions demonstrate the power even low-ranking servicemembers have not just to inform the population about the truth of war, but to ignite policy discussions and spur concessions to be made at the highest levels of authority.

To soldiers and veterans in possession of war porn, I say you have an incredible power and responsibility to inform. Chances are if you feel ashamed, the public needs to see what happened, not just for our sake as veterans and those still on active duty, but for the sake of future generations who may repeat our mistakes if they are not made aware of them.

Let’s open the floodgates ourselves before they are opened for us, with the courage to build an honest history of this war using what we know and recorded. Society must see these images so its members will know how commonplace they are and how as Americans, they are also responsible. We cannot allow the military and the government to scapegoat a few specific troops, when the structured hell of the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq has made us all complicit in their atrocities.

Release your war porn, veterans and servicemembers, release your war porn through whatever outlets you have. Initiate a movement right now. Set up anonymous accounts if you must. Youtube it, Tweet it, Facebook it, Blog it. Send it to me at matthisresists@gmail.com. Send it to the national networks and the local networks. Send it to the newspapers and the radio stations, even. Stand near the White House and hand out copies on the street, and tell everyone who takes it that their government is to blame.

But whatever you do, make sure the world sees it. Americans deserve no more opportunities to feign surprise about this war, especially after allowing their kids to fight it for more than a decade now.

Matthis Chiroux

Matthis Chiroux is a former Army sergeant, an Iraq War Resister and an Afghanistan veteran. In 2008, he refused deployment orders to Iraq in the U.S. Congress, calling the war illegal and immoral. Eventually, he obtained endorsement for his position from 13 Democratic House Members who penned a letter to then President George W. Bush expressing support for Iraq War Resisters. Matthis has organized extensively within the veterans peace movement since, organizing a variety of direct actions and campaigns in military communities around the country.

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