The Buzz

Live From Iraq

You now can watch a man getting shot, roadside bombs taking out vehicles, the violent deaths of three people and many views of the aftermath of bombings and suicide attacks, all from the comfort of your personal computer or laptop. If television brought the Vietnam War into American's living rooms, then Internet images and videos are bringing the Iraq war into offices, bedrooms, coffee shops-anywhere we use the Web.

A mid-August search for "Iraq" on YouTube.com, an online video sharing site, brought 8,458 results. Many purport to be shot by troops in country, though there's no way to tell since anyone can upload to the site. It displays political screeds, patriotic paeans as well as lip-synched heavy metal, air guitar and overturned occupied latrines.

It was tape of a Marine singing his own off-color ditty that roused the biggest Pentagon reaction so far. In June, the Council on American-Islamic Relations denounced Cpl. Joshua Belile's "Hadji Girl" performance. He sings of a Marine who falls for an Iraqi woman, but is ambushed by her father and brother when she takes him home. He pulls the woman's little sister in front of him and, "as the bullets began to fly, the blood sprayed from between her eyes." He then loads his M-16 and "I blew those little f-----s to eternity."

An investigation found the video to be in bad taste but not a violation of Marine Corps Internet policy, which is aimed at keeping planned operations and troop deployments secret. Belile apologized.

U.S. Central Command and the Multi-National Corps in Iraq have similar policies, according to Mark Glaser's Web log, Mediashift. In January, a CENTCOM spokeswoman told him photographing or filming detainees and casualties or disseminating classified or casualty information before next of kin are notified are banned. Web sites, blog postings and blogs must be registered and may be monitored. Meanwhile, commanders in Iraq reportedly are asking troops not to post videos that reflect badly on the U.S. mission.

True Oversight

Iraq contractors beware: The special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction is keeping an eye on you-literally. During the second quarter of 2005, the IG set up a satellite imagery operation to conduct oversight of reconstruction projects too remote or too unsafe to visit. Through March, the IG performed 58 imagery assessments with help from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the National Ground Intelligence Center, according to the IG's April 30 report to Congress.

The focus of images studied this year was forts and road projects. Photographs from space showed all but six forts under construction along Iraq's borders with Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria met contract provisions. One in five road segments showed no sign of work.

By analyzing images, the IG discovered the absence of retaining walls at forts and a perimeter wall at a police station, as well as corrective measures taken after earlier images pinpointed unleveled soil at a clinic being built in southern Iraq.

If only the Defense Contract Audit Agency could position satellites over weapons contractors.

West Point For Feds

Two young Southerners came to Washington this summer with a big idea about bettering the bureaucracy-create a civilian West Point to train future government leaders. Surprisingly, they're making progress in Congress.

Chris Myers Asch and Shawn Raymond envision a 5,000-person undergraduate U.S. Public Service Academy that would require students to study abroad and complete internships with nonprofit and military organizations as well as to undergo a summer of emergency response training.

Tuition would be free, but in return students would spend five years in public service-though the duo defines public service beyond government, including nonprofits.

Even with a $164 million annual price tag, the school has won committed sponsors from both parties in both houses, Asch and Raymond say. They hope to get a bill supporting the academy introduced when Congress returns from recess in September.

Asch and Raymond are mum about who their congressional sponsors are, saying they want to get everything all lined up first. But they're not mum about a growing list of supporters off the Hill. Retired Lt. Gen. Dave Palmer, former head of West Point, and James Postl, former chief executive officer of motor oil giant Pennzoil-Quaker State, are among the latest backers.

Asch ends every e-mail with this quote from Victor Hugo: "Nothing is stronger than an idea whose time has come." Except, perhaps, the $260 billion U.S. deficit staring legislators in the face.

-Karen Rutzick
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