soldiers

Soldiers' racist postings on Facebook investigated

March 31, 2011 at 11:32 AM ET

The slurs of war are an ugly fact of life, but usually done privately, between soldiers, and not shared in comments, photos and videos on Facebook. But some Australian soldiers in Afghanistan couldn't keep it to themselves, and took their behavior to the social networking site. And they're now being investigated for it.

Australia's Seven Network News recently broadcast "expletive-laden video footage posted on Facebook that included soldiers using racist terms among themselves to describe Afghans ... They used several derogatory terms to refer to Afghans. One solider described them as 'smelly locals,' " according to an AP report.  Also, "Australian soldiers are heard cheering and laughing as an Afghan man, described as a 'scared ... mufti,' is videotaped fleeing a bridge explosion."

"When you put words into the public domain, you will be held accountable," acting Australian army chief, Major General Paul Symon, told the network.

Australia has 1,550 troops in Afghanistan, and they're in country to back the United States' difficult war there.

"Combat provides a lot of stress, but that’s no excuse for this type of behavior, particularly in a counter-insurgency war, where the support of the local people are important, and you don’t want to give the enemy propaganda," Neil James, of the Australian Defence Association, a think tank, told Seven Network News.

Trying to do damage control, Australian Defense Minister Stephen Smith called Afghan Defense Minister Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak last Thursday to apologize and assure him an investigation is underway, along with likely disciplinary action. 

 "This action by a small number of people is appalling," Smith told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio Friday, according to AP. "I condemn it absolutely."

It's not clear how many soldiers were involved in the Facebook postings. But as Symon told Seven Network News, many soldiers aren't amused by the behavior. "There will be thousands of soldiers disgusted at what you’re hearing," he said.

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