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Sunday, May 11, 2008

One little-noticed problem that U.S. troops in Iraq face concerns DVDs. Discs bought overseas are often coded to make them incompatible with players sold in the United States. Decoders can get around that, but another hurdle is proving far trickier: the "porno-virus," which is sometimes carried by bootlegg ed DVDs purchased in Iraqi markets, or souks. The viruses spread as data and discs are passed among soldiers.

Here, Army Reserve Capt. Michael Noonan, who advised an Iraqi army unit in 2006-07, recalls his struggles with a plague that isn't often discussed in official reviews of operations in Iraq:

The DVDs at the PXs are the U.S. ones. I left behind my collection of "souk" DVDs to my replacement, but guys who watched them on their laptops didn't seem to have problems with them -- of course I warned guys that they were risking giving their PCs "RAM rot," to coin a phrase, from doing so because who knows what else was on those CDs. . . . [D]ue to the average Iraqi Armysoldier's love of pornography, my memory stick would be filthy with viruses every time I had to go and get documents from my counterpart or his section NCOs.

Tom Ricks is The Post's military correspondent. This feature aims to give readers a snapshot of the conversations about Iraq, Afghanistan and other matters that play out in Ricks's e-mail inbox. Have an interesting document? Send it to TheInbox@washpost.com.

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