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September 4, 2004
More Thunder on the HorizonBy Greyhawk
More from Thunder Run:
Just south of the spaghetti junction, beyond the row of greenhouses on the west side of the highway, Yusef Taha and his brother Ziad were huddled in the rear downstairs room of their two-story stucco home in the shade of the nursery awnings. The Taha brothers owned one of the greenhouses, which had been shredded by coax from the Rogue Bradleys two days earlier. They had stayed in the war zone to protect their house - not from the Americans but from the Syrian mercenaries who had arrived several days earlier to seize control of the entire greenhouse complex. The brothers knew that if they fled, the Syrians would have set up sniper's nests on their roof, drawing tank rounds that would have flattened their modest little home. So now they were hunkered down inside with twelve family members - aunts and uncles, in-laws and children - praying that the Americans would pass by quickly and leave their house intact.
It's beyond tragic to be caught in a crossfire between two factions, neither of which you support, and both of which see you and your life's belongings as expendable. But it's not questionable which side would have most liked to see the Taha brothers destroyed:
Colonel Raaed Faik was riding with fellow Republican Guard officers on a civilian bus thirty-two kilometers northeast of Baghdad that morning, trying to obey an order to rush to Baghdad to join in the defense of the city. They were to help keep Highway 8 open for a counterattack. Faik was a senior signal officer in the Republican Guard, but he was dressed now in civilian clothes. The chief of staff had radioed an order for this division to fight without uniforms in hopes of mounting an effective guerilla war against the American forces on the streets of Baghdad. But some officers had not received the order, and they were still in their uniforms. They bickered with the plainclothes officers over how to dress for the battle.
Civilian clothing, civilian vehicles (often including ambulances) - all to one purpose: kill unwitting Americans who would hesitate to harm civilians or force them to adapt a "shoot first" attitude that would result in true civilian casualties, leading to a predictable response from a press that was demonstrably sympathetic to Saddam's cause.
Now, riding on the bus toward Baghdad on the morning of April 7, Faik was convinced he was being sent into the city to be slaughtered. For weeks, the military command had been preparing for a siege of the capital. Faik and other commanders had been told to prepare to fight street by street against American infantry units they expected to parachute in or unload from helicopters. They even named the units - the 101st Airborne Division and the 82nd Airborne Division. Iraqi forces would fight them from bunkers and rooftops and alleyways, taking advantage of the familiar urban terrain. A long siege would produce steady American casualties and the United States would be forced by American public opinion to negotiate a truce.
Emphasis added. Saddam's strategy was built on a well-founded hope: hold out long enough so that those crying "another Vietnam" in America would have time to ensure that that was indeed what Iraq became. As events then and now have demonstrated, he had not misjudged that sizable minority of the American public. But the US plan was to topple his regime swiftly, and it worked, and he was denied the benefit of their support while in power.
But in spite of that victory, Americans and Iraqi citizens alike suffer daily from attacks by remnants of the regime and foreigners seeking jihad. Factor in a hostile press and a sizable group of Americans determined to uphold the traditions of Jane Fonda, the Chicago Seven, and the many (ahem) other members of that old crowd and you'll understand the poster to the side of this page: This war's not won by a damn sight. Indeed, current events in Baghdad and Beslan make that all too clear. Tomorrow's history is being written, and what happens next, as they so often say, remains to be seen.
(Although this part of history is ready for reading. Enjoy.)
Posted by Greyhawk / September 4, 2004 5:57 PM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
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