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8 Sep, 2010 04:49

Iraqi war turns into laughing stock for some

An American soldier serving in Iraq has sparked controversy after video footage of his pranks was posted on YouTube. A discharged sergeant planted grenades in locals' cars at check points just to see their reactions.

Manning a checkpoint all day must get boring, which is perhaps why Sergeant Dunson and his partner admit they passed the time playing jokes on unsuspecting drivers.

In this YouTube posting, Dunson describes how they planted a grenade in an Iraqi man’s car. A few seconds of confusion – all’s explained – and the perplexed, but very relieved driver, is sent on his way.

“We had, you know, a hundred cars coming through there per hour. It was just one of those things, you know, that happened. I’m a kind guy, I’m a funny guy, I like to have fun,” Sergeant Dunson told RT.

But for most Iraqis this is not fun and life here is very far from being a joke. For most people in Iraq, a checkpoint can often mean the difference between life and death.

It’s not uncommon here to have your car checked at least a dozen times a day. If you’re found to have illegal weapons, or even more seriously, a grenade, you’ll be arrested on the spot and charged with terrorism.

And some American military personal, like Lieutenant Colonel Joel Hamilton, aren’t seeing the funny side of Sergeant Dunson’s antics.

“I would not tolerate that in my organization. I do not think that that is conducive to the partnership with the federal police or entrusting their confidence with us, or the people in trusting the federal police,” Hamilton says.

Political analyst Dr Fadhil Al-Badrani has never been a victim of a prank himself, but claims to have witnessed American soldiers displaying even more alarming behavior.

“I personally know of many cases where soldiers would take a bet and, for example, hit an Iraqi citizen – just for fun. There were cases where people died from this so-called fun. We had about 150,000 American soldiers here and although some were professional, there were many who were not,” Al-Badrani says.

But ironically, a local TV station’s now picked up on the idea. It takes well known local celebrities to Iraqi checkpoints and plays pranks on them in much the same way as Dunson and his colleagues.

Producer Najm Al Rubae says it is a way to lighten the situation.

“We’re not making fun of the Iraqi forces. They are very brave in fighting terror. But we wanted to present them in a unique and different way. We also wanted to present weapons as something people can laugh about,” Al Rubae says.

There’s mixed reaction to the Iraqi show. But still Iraqis making fun of Iraqis is very different – according to most people here – to Americans getting in on the act.

And with people still being killed in Iraq every day, there is a constant reminder that terrorism is no laughing matter.