Controversy is growing over the release of an amateur video of what appears to be a singing U.S. Marine performing a song called “Hadji Girl” while people in the background laugh and applaud. The video was first released on the video-sharing network YouTube which features a wealth of silly and bizarre amateur videos. It eventually came to the attention of the frequent terrorist-apologists at The Council on American-Islamic Relations who complained to YouTube and issued an enraged press release, with the result that YouTube yanked the video, the press began playing up the controversy and immediately every teenager who had downloaded a copy re-uploaded it to YouTube.
I was out in the sands of Iraq,
Then the first thing that I see
Then suddenly to my suprise,
Dirka dirka Muhammed jihad
And she said that she wanted me to see;
She took me down an old dirt trail
Dirka dirka Muhammed jihad
As the bullets began to fly
And I said
The video features a man dressed in camouflage pants and an olive-green t-shirt with a miltiary-style haircut - to all appearances a Marine - playing guitar and singing while the recording picks up laughter and applause from the background. The song is clearly intended to be humorous, and the crowd heard on the video clearly appreciates the humor. However, the lyrics of the song and its references to violence both to and by moslems were not at all appreciated by CAIR, who apparently have a different take on what's amusing. The Marine Corps doesn't seem to be amused either and strongly condemned the video as “clearly inappropriate and contrary to the high standards expected of all Marines.” The reaction in the blogosphere has been to disseminate the video everywhere, even as friends of the marine involved are attempting to discourage any further distribution and get it off of sites where it has already been posted. Not wanting that to happen, CAIR has even posted it on their website. The written reaction has been mixed, from right wing blogs like General Quarters calling the singer “the finest stage talent the Marine Corps has EVER produced!” to those on the left who are cursing it for everything from insensitivity to being an outright war crime.
Interestingly, the video has been circulating on the internet for several months with little public reaction or criticism from Moslem groups until this week, when it CAIR discovered it and has made much of the video in the context of the Haditha incident. The video itself is ambiguous in a number of ways. There's no indication who the singer is, where he is, and what his status as a Marine is. While he's wearing what look like military clothes he is not technically in uniform and has no insignia of rank or unit visible. There's also the issue of the sound quality of the video. The audio track appears to be out of sequence with the video and may even have been recorded separately and combined with the video. While lip reading suggests that most of the lyrics are the same in the audio and video, the fact that they are out of synchronization raises a lot of questions.
CAIR has been accused of misrepresenting the nature and content of the song. Clearly it's a song about the Iraq war, but at the same time it's obviously satire - the oft-repeated nonsense phrase having been drawn directly from the movie Team America: World Police. In addition, contrary to CAIR's claims, the song is not about murdering Iraqi civilians, but appears to clearly be about a soldier who is lured into danger by terrorists and defends himself. It isn't the Marine who starts the violence, but the family of the 'Hadji Girl' who shoot her and her sister to get to him. Plus there's a dark irony in the final refrain where by repeating the nonsense words of the terrorists the Marine demonstrates that he has become like them. Yes, the images are ugly and the tone is jingoistic, but it's hardly as terrible as some are making it out to be.
Although the Marine who sings the song in the video has not been officially identified, some comments have surfaced on the internet from people in the service who claim to know him and to have been present when the song was performed. According to those sources he is not referring to any specific incident, and the song was written immediately after and in the context of having viewed the movie Team America: World Police. In addition, the singer has not been deployed in combat in Iraq and there's nothing autobiographical about the song, contrary to suggestions which have been made by some critics. CAIR is, of course, demanding that the singer be disciplined, and it's quite likely that by this point he has been identified, but as yet there has been no statement from the Pentagon regarding his identity or his fate.
There's a long history of the 'barracks-room ballad' - humorous songs written during wartime about the enemy, like the famous Colonel Bogey's March during World War II. The tradition goes back as long as there have been wars. I actually presented a paper at a conference about war ballads of the 14th century. When these songs originate with the troops they tend to be scatalogical, graphic and pretty dark. In past eras they've circulated quietly and then ultimately been recorded nostalgically after the fact and become part of our cultural heritage. The existence of video and the internet has taken them out of the barracks and put them on the front lines of the propaganda war which now accompanies every conflict.
What's truly unfortunate about this video is the use to which it is being put. Taking it at face value and setting aside all the questions about the origin and nature of the video, what we're dealing with here is basically a silly song from some soldiers who are blowing off steam about the frustrating nature of the war they're in. The real tragedy is that in our overexposed culture their private moment of humor has now gotten out into a public forum where it cannot be just laughed off as it would have been…