Army steps gently into Iraq porn scandal

The military says it's investigating whether soldiers are trading pictures of dead Iraqis for access to amateur pornography.

Published September 28, 2005 12:32PM (EDT)

As Iraqis express outrage over the three-year sentence handed down yesterday to Abu Ghraib abuser Lynndie England, the U.S. Army is finally beginning to investigate another photo-related scandal from Iraq. As we reported last week, soldiers serving in the country are apparently trading pictures of the dismembered bodies of dead Iraqis for access to free amateur porn on the Web. The Army now says that it will look into the practice.

As the New York Times reports this morning, the Army investigation comes amid complaints from the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Army spokesman Paul Boyce tells the Times that soldiers who posted images of dead Iraqis at Now That's Fucked Up may be guilty of violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which prohibits conduct unbecoming an officer or enlisted soldier. Another Pentagon official told the Times that posting photos to the site could be viewed as a violation of the Geneva Conventions, which provide that "the remains of persons who have died for reasons related to occupation ... shall be respected."

In an interview with the Annenberg School's Online Journalism Review, the proprietor of Now That's Fucked Up said that his site provides a service by offering its "porn community" unfiltered news from the war zone. "I enjoy seeing the photos from the soldiers themselves," said Chris Wilson, a Florida resident who hosts NTFU out of Amsterdam. "I see pictures taken by CNN and the mainstream media, and they all put their own slant on what they report and what they show. To me, this is from the soldier's slant. This is directly from them. They can take the digital cameras and take a picture and send it to me, and that's the most raw you can get it. I like to see it from their point of view, and I think it's newsworthy."

That's not the question for the Army, however. The question the Army must address is whether its soldiers ought to be contributing to such "news coverage" by submitting photos of charred arms, bloody legs and heads with faces blown off in exchange for naked pictures of other people's wives and girlfriends. The answer to that one ought to be obvious, but the Army seems to be dampening expectations for its investigation before it really begins. Pentagon officials tell the Times that it's going to be really hard to identify the soldiers involved in the photos -- despite the fact that some of the pictures depict U.S. troops posing with Iraqi remains -- and Boyce, the Army spokesman, tells the Associated Press that a preliminary inquiry has determined that felony charges against soldiers won't be possible.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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Abu Ghraib Iraq Iraq War Middle East War Room