First there was the scandal over German soldiers posing with skulls in Afghanistan. Now the army is in trouble again over a video showing a recruit being encouraged to imagine he is shooting African-Americans in the Bronx.
German Defense Ministry spokesman Thomas Raabe said Monday that the army was investigating the incident. "This behavior is absolutely unacceptable and contradicts the training standards of the German army," Raabe said at a press conference, where he emphasized that the incident was an "isolated case." The army had begun a probe into the incident which would probably be completed within two to four weeks, he said.
The video in question shows an army recruit being trained in machine gun use by an army instructor. First the recruit is encouraged to imagine he is shooting terrorists in an airport. The soldier lets off a couple of rounds, apparently to the instructor's satisfaction. The second visualization exercise involves a more urban scenario. "You are in the Bronx," the instructor says. "A black van stops in front of you. Three African-Americans get out and insult your mother in the coarsest possible way." The recruit is told to fire and shout the English expletive "motherfucker" with each round, which he does after first laughing at the absurdity of the instructions given him. The instructor tells him to shout louder, and the recruit obeys.
Raabe said the video, which was shown on German national television Saturday, had been shot in July 2006 at barracks in the northern German town of Rendsburg, adding that the army had been aware of its existence since January. The video has been available for viewing on a German video site for months but was only recently discovered by the newsweekly Stern.
The video has been condemned by Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion Jr. "The German government obviously has work to do to correct something that is insidious," he said in comments Saturday. "Clearly these folks don't know anything about African-Americans or the Bronx."
New York Governor Eliot Spitzer likewise condemned the video saying: "Obviously that is a deeply offensive comment. It's one that I trust does not reflect the training practices of the German army." The Rev. Al Sharpton called on US President George W. Bush to condemn the incident and said it was unacceptable to depict "blacks as target practice."
The incident is the latest in a series of incidents which has marred the German Army's reputation. As well as the skull incident in Afghanistan, four former army instructors who allegedly abused recruits in 2004 are currently being prosecuted in an on-going court case. And two former commanders of German special forces were recently criticized for praising a World War II Nazi commando unit as an inspiration for Germany's modern-day elite soldiers.
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