Not Eudora By Harry Welty
March 28, 2008

War on Terriers

By Harry Welty

The You Tube begins with a whining puppy held before a camera phone by the scruff of its neck. Its captor is a grinning, helmeted, marine in full battle rattle. The voice of the camera operator, half sugary, half mocking calls the puppy cute. The smiling soldier swings the dog back and hurls it over a cliff as the camera follows its plummeting arc to the ground. The puppy yelps and twists head over heals to a last stifled bark as spray of dust kicks up from a distant point of impact. The camera operator, perhaps surprised or embarrassed, lamely, exclaims “that’s mean.” Welcome to Year Five of the Second Gulf War.

I didn’t actually find this video on You Tube because it was swiftly removed after some of its ten’s of thousands of viewers complained. Instead, I found it on a mirror site because someone had copied it, perhaps anticipating its removal from You Tube. It may live on in the Internet for generations as a testament to the mindless cruelty of war.

Posting such videos to the Internet seems to be something of a cottage industry for bored American soldiers. This was just one of dozens of videos posted by GI’s recording the destruction of Iraqi mongrels. I watched two others one which showed a soldier shooting a barking dog and another in which giggling soldiers atomize another with a bomb.

The soldier in the first video did nothing to hide his identity and was quickly outed by outraged dog lovers who linked to his sister’s My Space page, also since removed. They quoted her defense of the war in their complaints. If her brother makes it back to the U.S. without being blown to smithereens himself he will certainly face considerable hostility. Even now an image conscience U.S. military is reportedly taking him to task.

In an odd way I’m inclined to thank whoever posted this disconcerting video to the Net. The Internet is simply the latest means by which war’s terrors are brought home. The Civil War had Mathew Brady. The Second World War had Newsreels. The Vietnam War was the first televised war. Iraq is our first Internet war.

Some viewers commented that the death of an unlucky dog shouldn’t arouse as much passion as the loss of human life. Just a couple click’s away from the puppy’s demise I found another You Tube video which testified to this truth. It was a series of still images of blood spattered Iraqi children who had just been pulled out of the back seat of their parent’s car. The parents had mistakenly spooked American soldiers at a checkpoint and paid for it with their lives baptizing their children in crimson. The wild eyed children crouched beside their ruined car wailing at the calamity that had befallen them. You Tube had not been inundated by complaints about this video or removed it from the Internet. It was an Anti-American propaganda film backed with haunting Arabic music interspersed with English subtitles describing the unfolding horror. 

Why didn’t the dog throwing soldier hide his identity? It probably didn’t occur to him that his actions would be posted for the world to see but certainly he knew someone would see him. Did he have no shame? I’m inclined to give the young man the benefit of the doubt. I’ll bet he never tormented dogs before 9-11. Who knows how many tours of duty he’s endured? Two? Three? I can’t help but hope that as he flung the dog to its death somewhere in the back of his mind he was thinking: “This is what war does to people. This is what war has done to me. Watch me and never forget what the next five seconds shows you.”

I know I’m giving this kid a very generous benefit of the doubt that he may not deserve. I also know that he’s not home yet and that there may be an IED out there with his name on it. He certainly hasn’t seen anything that other American soldiers haven’t seen in earlier conflicts. God knows what we would remember today about the “Good War” if our grandfathers had carried cell phone cameras with them to Tarawa , North Africa , Sicily or France .

My Grandfather, a survivor of the First World War, suffered nightmares and migraine headaches for years afterward. His views of the senselessness of war were probably not unlike those of the German author Erich Maria Remarque who wrote the famous anti-war novel, “All Quiet on the Western Front.” At the end of the book Remarque’s young patriot turned killer waits out the last few minutes of the war before the Armistice. As he sits in his trench a butterfly crosses No Man’s Land and alights nearby. The soldier raises himself and gently stretches his arm for the butterfly. A shot rings out and his arm falls limp.

I hope our young marine is luckier and returns home able to recover his gentleness.

Welty is a small time politician who lets it all hang out at: www.snowbizz.com