Through soldiers' eyes, 'The First YouTube War'

Through soldiers' eyes, 'The First YouTube War'

Through soldiers' eyes, 'The First YouTube War'

 The familiarity was not just because it was yet another “Apache video,” thousands of which are available on, the video-sharing site Hewitt helped to found in 2006.

Videos taken from Apache helicopters can indeed be as stylistically consistent as dollar bills: there is the bird’s-eye view of an Iraqi city captured in infrared “negative,” accompanied by the clipped banter of the crew members.

Everything usually ends with “a group of people on a FLIR camera being killed,” Hewitt said, referring to infrared equipment made by FLIR Systems.
But in this case, Hewitt meant there was something familiar about that exact WikiLeaks video, which documented 38 minutes of flying above Baghdad punctuated by gun bursts that ended in carnage, including the deaths of the two journalists, whose cameras were mistaken as weapons.

“We were racking our brains — there was some sort of takedown issue,” Hewitt said in an interview by telephone on Thursday from England, explaining why the video was not currently available on the site. A number of trusted, longtime visitors to LiveLeak distinctly recalled seeing it about a year earlier, he said.

After a day of searching, Hewitt reported that he could not find any record of the original tape behind LiveLeak’s firewall, where he expected it would be. Maybe the idea of an earlier leak of the WikiLeaks video is “urban legend,” he conceded.

If you want to see the horror of war, you do not need to look far. There are sites aplenty showing the carnage, and much of the material is filmed, edited and uploaded by soldiers recording their own experiences. “There are many more types of recording devices, mounted in different ways,” said Jennifer Terry, an associate professor at the University of California, Irvine, who produced a study of military videos from Iraq and Afghanistan for the multimedia journal Vectors. “The way these videos circulate on the Internet is unprecedented, in all these different leaky ways. That is why I like to say this is the first YouTube war.”

The one commodity that is exceedingly rare, however, is context. The Internet is overrun with footage from the United States military in Iraq and Afghanistan. What can be found on sites like YouTube and LiveLeak reflects the lives of soldiers in a war zone, from boredom to the highest drama. On the silly side is a YouTube phenomenon, the remake of the Lady Gaga song “Telephone” by burly soldiers in Afghanistan, which has been viewed more than five million times. And then there are videos of deadly firefights and aerial bombings.