Among the scenes being viewed daily by thousands of users of the sites are sniper attacks in which Americans are felled by snipers as a camera records the action and of armored Humvees or other military vehicles being hit by roadside bombs.
In some videos, the troops do not appear to have been seriously injured; in one, titled “Sniper Hit” and posted on YouTube by a user named 69souljah, a serviceman is knocked down by a shot but then gets up to seek cover. Other videos, however, show soldiers bleeding on the ground, vehicles exploding and troops being loaded onto medical evacuation helicopters.
At a time when the Bush administration has restricted photographs of the coffins of military personnel returning to the United States and the Pentagon keeps close tabs on videotapes of combat operations taken by the news media, the videos give average Americans a level of access to combat scenes rarely available before, if ever.
Their availability has also produced some backlash. In recent weeks, YouTube has removed dozens of the videos from its archives and suspended the accounts of some users who have posted them, a reaction, it said, to complaints from other users.