When clips from a 27-minute amateur video documenting possible U.S. military abuse of Iraqi casualties hit the Web March 7, official reactions were unsurprising. Disturbed by footage showing Florida National Guardsmen kicking a wounded detainee in the face and waving an Iraqi corpse’s hand for the camera—among other scenes filmed by the guardsmen themselves and edited into a souvenir video entitled Ramadi Madness—the ACLU and the army disagreed only as to the degree of offensiveness on display. A more pointed question might have been asked about the video, however, and had anyone bothered to consult the experts most qualified to judge it—namely, the random G.I. auteurs whose home movies of the Iraqupation are collected on the indispensable militaryvideos.net—we might have heard the question asked loud and clear: Bro, WTF? Where are the tunes?
Where, indeed. To judge from Military Videos, depleted uranium is only the second most widely deployed heavy metal in the military arsenal. AC/DC, Metallica, Sepultura—whether you’re a gung ho grunt compiling an Eisensteinian tribute to the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit or an air force gun-trucker stringing together pics of your platoon buddies, nothing adds a sense of righteous avenging mission to your laptop-edited image flow like the vaulting horror chords and choked male rage of metal. Still, the harder these DIY music videos reach for portent and drive, the clearer it gets that they’re still just camcorder movies of scared, bored young people driving, shooting, and sitting around in the desert with no especially convincing purpose. You can’t begrudge those people their attempts to rock and roll some meaning into it all, but you can say this, finally, for Ramadi Madness: It takes a certain courage to let your only soundtrack be the shuffle of sand under boots.