Fort Wainwright Soldier Investigated Over Facebook Video of Iraqi Children

Video posted on Facebook shows soldier taunting Iraqi children with gay slurs.

May 25, 2010, 1:43 PM

May 26, 2010— -- A video posted on a Fort Wainwright soldier's Facebook page showing a soldier taunting Iraqi children with gay slurs has been yanked from the Internet, and the soldier who posted it has come under investigation.

Spc. Robert A. Rodgriquez posted the video, titled "future gay terrorists!," earlier this month. It shows two young, T-shirt-clad boys standing side-by-side on a dirt road, nodding and giving the thumbs up sign as the man behind the camera taunts them about whether they are gay or terrorists.

Alaska-based U.S. Army Maj. Bill Coppernoll called the behavior in the video "disgraceful."

"Are you going to grow up to be a terrorist?" the solder, who may be Rodriguez, asks from behind the camera.

The boys do not appear to understand English as they raise their thumbs.

"Yeah, all right. Cool," the cameraman responds. "Terrorists. Woo!"

Coppernoll said the Army was notified about the video on Rodriguez's Facebook page by Raleigh, N.C., CBS affiliate WRAL. It was ordered removed immediately, he said.

"The content in the video is disgraceful," he said.

Coppernoll declined to release Rodriguez's name, hometown or anything information about his military service. His Fairbanks-based unit returned from a yearlong deployment to Iraq last fall, Coppernoll said, and so far is not scheduled to deploy anytime this year.

According to shots of Rodriguez's Facebook page that WRAL took before he edited his privacy settings, Rodriguez is from Miami. Attempts to contact him were unsuccessful, and his girlfriend and friends did not respond to requests for comment.

WRAL posted a portion of the video on its website.

In addition to asking the boys if they were terrorists, the man behind the camera also asked them if they were gay, using a slur the station didn't air. They were also asked if they engaged in certain sex acts. When the boys smiled, the camera operator asked, "Are you good at it?"

The boys continued to smile and nod.

Later in the video, it appeared that the older boy began to realize the man wielding the camera was making fun of them. He reached over and carefully lowered the arm of the other little boy as he again made the thumbs up sign.

Coppernoll said the video is "not representative of our soldiers."

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"The vast majority of soldiers are doing the right thing, and I think the public knows that," Coppernoll said.

But a quick search of YouTube pulled up several videos of soldiers from across the United States and the United Kingdom mocking children. One showed American soldiers waving a much-desired bottle of water out the back of a truck as Iraqi children ran behind it, pleading for a drink.

Others showed soldiers intentionally scaring the children. But some videos showed the opposite -- soldiers handing out candy or playing soccer with locals.

Dr. Amir Afkhami, a George Washington University professor who leads the State Department's Iraq Mental Health Intiative, had not seen the video but said the behavior of whoever was behind the camera was pathological.

"This is kind of shocking," he said. "Whatever it is, it's abhorrent behavior."

Soldiers from all branches undergo extensive training in cultural sensitivity before they deploy, Afkhami said. Sensitive issues in Iraq include family privacy, interaction between men and woman, and respect for Islam and religion in general.

"In general, the U.S. military, the contacts I've had with them ... has been one where they really respected locals," he said.

Using homosexuality to poke fun at someone is in poor taste anywhere in the world, Afkhami said, not just in Iraq.

"It's the kind of thing that would get several disciplined if it goes up the chain of command," he said.

Coppernoll could not say what kind of discplinary action Rodriguez might face regarding the video, or if he'd had similar run-ins in the past.

Army officials, he said, are still investigating where in Iraq the video was filmed and what laws or military procedures might have been violated.

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