Four days ago, Reuters reported that ISIS had released a new video, in the wake of the video showing the beheading of journalist James Foley. ISIS called this new video “Breaking the American cross.”
The video with the theme “breaking of the American cross” boasts Islamic State will emerge victorious over “crusader” America. It follows a video posted on Monday warning of attacks on American targets if Washington struck against its fighters in Iraq and Syria. …
The video showed footage of President Barack Obama as well as strategic U.S. ally King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, and attacks on American soldiers.
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A few media outlets picked up the Reuters report, but little has been made of the video in the last few days. That may be because YouTube has removed it; apparently – if we are to judge by viewer comments at the site – more than once.
In an online search for the video, using “breaking the American cross,” many of the top search results are Tweets. When I went through them (midday on Saturday, 23 August), I encountered a remarkable pattern. The users who seem to tweet mostly for English speakers (even if they have Arabic names) had had their accounts suspended.
I was able to find one user tweeting in English with a link to the video whose account was still active. (The Tweet is embedded below, along with a screen-grab in case the account gets suspended.)
— أبناء الجزيرة (@pq_gg) August 19, 2014
The link for the video went to a standard YouTube page proclaiming that the video had been removed “because its contents violated YouTube’s Terms of Service.”
It took a little session with Google Translate, creating “breaking the American cross” in Arabic and doing a search on that, to find the video. It’s embedded below. I recommend watching it now, as it will probably be removed again as soon as YouTube figures out it’s back.
I do request that at least some of you watch it, to join me in bearing witness to what’s in it. It’s in Arabic, with the exception of audio in some of the clips, which is in English. But you can follow it.
With due respect to YouTube and Twitter, it seems pretty tame to me. I can understand why YouTube removed the video of James Foley being beheaded. People may legitimately disagree with that decision, but YouTube is a privately operated commercial enterprise, and has every right to make its own decisions about hosting content. I certainly understand the wish of Foley’s family that the video not be broadcast or shared all over the web. There may be no stopping that, but YouTube can decide not to be part of it.
But there’s no gratuitous gore in the “Breaking the American cross” video. It is certainly no worse than many videos posted by jihadi groups that are still on YouTube.
There is an emotionally painful interlude between minutes 7 and 11 in which American soldiers come under fire, while male voices sing “Amazing Grace” as a musical accompaniment. It’s a pastiche of video clips, some of which are obviously from Afghanistan (not Iraq), based on the BDUs. In the longest single clip, a serviceman prays aloud for God’s protection while his unit is under fire during an urban patrol.
Americans are also shown honoring their dead with battlefield crosses: the helmet, rifle, and boots arranged in the semblance of a cross. This featured interlude, at the very center of the video, is clearly linked with ISIS’s theme of “breaking the American cross.”
ISIS probably got these clips from YouTube. A brief clip at the beginning of this segment, taken from a sniper’s perspective, shows patrolling soldiers being shot on the street, and that clip may be directly from terrorists who recorded the incident. But the rest of them were almost certainly obtained from YouTube. I’m sitting here looking right now at dozens of videos loaded to YouTube from patrols in Iraq and Afghanistan, showing events much worse than what we see in the ISIS video. “Breaking the American cross” cannot have been censored because of the nature of its visual content.
Even the references to Obama look unexceptional, although I’m not an Arabic speaker, and can’t vouch for that. The segment on “Obama 2014” is very brief, however, and appears to do no more than show news reporting of Obama beginning the air strikes on ISIS. In any case, there is a much longer segment at the beginning showing members of the Bush administration (“Bush 2003”) making a case about WMD in Iraq – clearly meant to play to the deathless media theme on that topic.
Why is this video being removed? Americans need to know how ISIS presents itself and what its purposes are. Given ISIS’s obscenely vicious persecution of Christians in Syria and Iraq, Americans have a right to know that ISIS sees us, in a national sense, as standard-bearers of the cross, and that that is intimately connected to ISIS’s hatred for America. Who benefits from censoring a video that makes that plain? How would YouTube come to the conclusion that this video should be removed, when nothing in it differs from the content of videos that are still all over YouTube, but presented with another thematic emphasis?
We report, you decide.
* UPDATE *: Many thanks to Debby Witt (“VA Viper,” Jonah Goldberg’s Odd Links Gal), who notified me she has posted the video at her site here. It will be available if/when YouTube pulls the one embedded in this post.