The pornographic website, administered by 27-year-old Chris Wilson, boasts dozens of often nauseating pictures of Iraqis after they were killed allegedly submitted by US military personnel in exchange for gaining access to the website.

 

In one picture, the skin of the face of an unidentified person is peeled off – apparently blown off - and lies on a Baghdad street. Body parts are strewn about the street and another picture depicts bits of his flesh splattered across a building wall.

 

A picture of a man with his internal organs visibly torn out of his body is accompanied with the caption "What every Iraqi should look like".

 

Another picture shows the near-unidentifiable remains of a man, his upper body mangled in a bloody pulp.

 

The website, hosted on an Amsterdam-based server, caught the attention of mainstream media after it became the point of discussion on several blogs, chiefly those focusing on the effects of the US invasion of Iraq.

 

"Disgusting images"

 

But the US military says it is taking the allegations of impropriety by its personnel seriously.

 

"Army criminal investigators examined this recently as a preliminary inquiry but found no evidence of a felony," Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant-Commander Joe Carpenter told Aljazeera.net.

The US military says it does not
know who took the pictures

 

Carpenter said the US military was taking the allegations seriously and would take appropriate action based on the facts as they are learned.

 

While the website does feature non-graphic pictures of life through the eyes of US military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is pictures such as "Cooked Iraqi" – showing a group of smiling US soldiers standing over the charred remains of an Iraqi – that may spell trouble for the Bush administration.

 

"These are disgusting images and it is disgraceful that they are on the web. We do not know if they are genuine or who posted them," Carpenter said.

 

Explaining that the use of graphic pictures was not in keeping with the values of the US military, Carpenter said: "No one should be disrespectful of anyone who has died. This shows an intolerable behaviour that is not condoned by the US military."

 

Staggering

 

Ibrahim Hooper, National Communications Director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Washington-based Islamic advocacy group, believes the US military has not done enough, however.

 

"They closed their inquiry into it - I think their decision is premature," he said.

 

"We have since learned that 30,000 members of the US military are registered on the website. They use their military email addresses to register on the site."

 

Website administrator Wilson declined to be interviewed. He did not reply to an email asking for confirmation of the figures cited by CAIR.

 

"For the military to say they found no evidence is to me staggering," Hooper said.

 

Helena Cobban, author of the Just World News blog and a columnist for the Christian Science Monitor questions the length of the inquiry.

 

"That is simply not serious, and certainly does not look sufficient either to determine the full level of criminal responsibility of people up the whole length of the US command for such behaviour, or to deter its occurrence in the future."

 

Carpenter, however, insists that the US military is not taking the issue lightly.

 

"The different components of the armed services and the Multinational Forces all have policies which prohibit pornography and non-work related material on government computers.

 

"If a serviceman is proven to be engaged in this they will be prosecuted according to the Uniform Code of Military Justice," he told Aljazeera.net.

 

Pornography

 

While the site does feature many pictures of corpses, it also features an extensive pornographic section, often of pictures and videos of men and women submitted by their spouses or disgruntled former partners.

 

Washington Post images of
abuse in Iraq shocked the world

There are pictures of scantily-clad US military servicemen, nude US military servicewomen straddling their rifles (one picture shows a female US soldier holding two hand grenades to her exposed breasts), and video footage of flooding in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

 

Some pictures are non-pornographic in nature depicting a desert sunrise, Iraqi children posing with US soldiers, and US special forces and militia in Afghanistan.

 

The website also includes several discussion forums where topics range from the sexual to the ethical often debating whether the pictures are amoral or serve to highlight the horrors of war.

 

Geneva Conventions 

 

In the wake of the outcry over the pictures of Iraqi inmates abused and tortured at the Abu Ghraib prison, the Bush administration has sought to dispel accusations that it was implementing policies which directly violated the Geneva Conventions.

 

According to the 1977 Additional Protocol to Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions (12 August 1949 relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts), remains must be protected "from being despoiled and from being exposed to public curiosity, by placing them in an appropriate place before burial or cremation. This also, for that matter, constitutes a measure of essential public hygiene. Respect for the remains also implies that they are disposed of as far as possible in accordance with the wishes or the religious beliefs of the deceased, insofar as these are known."

 

Section 1305 and 1306 of the Additional Protocol identify the remains as belonging to persons who have "died as a result of hostilities. Death may be due in particular to bombardment or other attacks, possibly aimed directly at such persons in violation of international humanitarian law, or they may be victims of incidental damage resulting from attacks on military objectives".

 

However, when contacted by Aljazeera.net, Human Rights Watch said they were not taking a position on the issue as they believe the Geneva Conventions had not been violated.

 

Desensitisation?

 

Cobban believes the fixation with taking graphic images of war dead may be a phenomenon directly linked to the desensitisation parties in armed conflict sometimes undergo.

 

"For the military to say they found no evidence is to me staggering"

Ibrahim Hooper,
CAIR, Washington

"I know from my experience covering the civil war in Lebanon for many years and the start of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980, and other experiences covering post-war situations in various places, that when people - mainly men - are trained to kill other people in warfare, there is already a great deal of "desensitization" of their normal human impulses that is a necessary part of that training," she says.

 

"Every war involves considerable desensitising of the men (and now, women) who fight it.  But in the present wars, this process has continued almost unchecked."

 

The US military already employs sensitivity training for its troops overseas.

 

"This matter will be addressed within the chain of command in Iraq to continue their sensitivity to the remains of deceased locals," Carpenter said.

 

Pictures used in this article are not from the aforementioned pornographic website