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October 14, 2004
Eve of Destruction?By Greyhawk
The Mrs. writes
So tell me, without violating OPSEC, what's it really like there?
And I can read the worry in those lines, and don't need to violate OPSEC - it's not that bad. For me it's nothing like this:
FORWARD OPERATING BASE EAGLE, Iraq ? There's no shortage of dangerous, austere and just plain miserable military postings in Iraq, but the U.S. soldiers of the 1st Cavalry Division bunking at this base just outside Baghdad's Sadr City slum might have drawn the shortest straw of all.
But hopefully this past week's agreement with Sadr will hold, and the troops at Eagle will get a break.
But this next bit threw me for a bit of a loop:
The Dirty Bird, as Eagle is unaffectionately known, has none of the lounges, movie theaters, bicycle fleets and other amenities that U.S. soldiers enjoy at other camps across Iraq.
Let me assure anyone imagining 18-screen multiplexes when "movie theaters" is mentioned that I haven't seen anything like that. Remember M*A*S*H on TV, the movie tent? I do have that option. But there's no pool here, and who the hell has bicycle fleets? And where do they go on them?
"You hear people griping about how the swimming pool isn't working, the chow hall is too small, and I'm like, 'We get mortared every night. What are you talking about?'" Pfc. Jeremy Chapman said.
It's a funny thing about troops in Iraq, many are convinced they're at the absolutely worst, most God-forsaken corner of the nation, and that everyone else is in a palace, living in luxury and safety and style. I think that's a tradition carried forward from every war, but as far as that safety in the base camp areas it's also one that no longer holds true:
In a brazen attack that punctured any illusions of a safe haven in the capital, five people, including three American civilians, were killed today when two separate explosions were set off inside the heavily controlled Green Zone in central Baghdad.
"...punctured any illusions of safe haven..." must refer to the reporters' illusions, because the story goes on to detail the lack of such illusions on anyone else's part:
In recent weeks, the sense of security inside has been fraying. Last week, a homemade bomb was discovered inside the Green Zone Restaurant and defused.
But I'm not in the "Green Zone" either. (Point of fact, no one is, since apparently unknown to the Times crew the Green Zone is now called the "International Zone", and, as long as I'm nit-picking "Camp Victory" is now "Camp Liberty" - but why quibble over facts?)
Where I am is quiet, and has been for a little while. And once again there are thunderstorms just over the horizon. Really, on this eve of Ramadan I can see them, though they are too distant to hear the thunder.
But what will the next weeks bring? If two hundred are killed in this country tomorrow in a long planned "insurgent uprising" will that mean that conditions are getting worse? And what is the unit of measure of conditions? I know that temperature is gauged in degrees Celsius or Fahrenheit, distance can be measured in miles or kilometers, and sound in decibels, but what about "conditions"?
Here's the final line in the linked Times article:
"Dexter Filkins contributed reporting in Baghdad for this article. Edward Wong reported from Baghdad and Terence Neilan from New York."
What was Terence's contribution? I imagine Terence "frames" articles, then sits back and waits for numbers, names, or minor details from Iraq, then he passes the story on. But that's just me imagining things - and I'm not really there. And anyway, since most of the next few weeks' stories are already framed it's too late to agree on a fair unit of measure for "conditions"; but it sure would be nice if we could have such a consensus.
For although that might ruin a cherished avenue of complaint for a lot of GI's I could at least answer the wife.
Posted by Greyhawk / October 14, 2004 6:29 PM | Permalink
If you want to see the perspective of an American Warrior in harms way in Iraq, you must check out Greyhawk and his correspondence with his wife. The Mudville Gazette should be on your daily reading. In the San Diego... Read More
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.
Furthermore, I will occasionally use satire or parody herein. The bottom line: it's my house.
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