“The Real Nasty Side of War”: Exploring the Embodied Experience of American Soldiers on the Frontline in Iraq through Their YouTube Videos

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Author: Noémie Oxley, American University of Paris, France
Email: noxley@aup.edu
Published: July 31, 2017
https://doi.org/10.22492/ijmcf.4.1.05

Citation: Oxley, N. (2017). “The Real Nasty Side of War”: Exploring the Embodied Experience of American Soldiers on the Frontline in Iraq through Their YouTube Videos. IAFOR Journal of Media, Communication & Film, 4(1). https://doi.org/10.22492/ijmcf.4.1.05


Abstract

This article examines four amateur videos shot by American troops in Iraq. Posted on YouTube, they depict the bombing of installations by military close air support. This article relies on a careful examination of these videos, observing its detail and describing as fully as possible the content of the footage as well as the visible marks of the video apparatus. It explores the complexity of the role of infantrymen facing their removal from actual combat on the Iraq war counterinsurgency battlefield. It looks at these productions by the yardstick of the CNN footage of the bombardment of Baghdad on the first day of the “Shock and Awe” campaign. Using this comparison, this study stresses the strong influence of traditional representations of war on the soldiers’ videos. The videos of installation bombings reproduce the official war imagery conveying a spectacular and highly aestheticised version of the war. This article further demonstrates the similarities between the television viewer of the bombardments and the soldiers witnessing the bombings. By analysing the war watcher’s participation in the military’s exercise of power, this article addresses the contribution of the soldiers, as spectators, to this demonstration of force that takes place without their direct involvement. It shows the different ways in which the soldiers use their practice of filming to assert their supremacy over their enemy. Yet this study also explores the limits of such power, since the soldiers’ representations are marked by the absence of the enemy on the counterinsurgency battlefield.

Keywords

Iraq War, Shock and Awe, counterinsurgency battlefield, soldiers’ amateur videos, trophy-pictures, pornography, CNN