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October 26, 2004
Good News From Iraq?By Greyhawk
Two articles, two sources, one theme: "Not all the news from Iraq is bad." Does this signal a tidal shift in attitude at some media outlets? An acknowledgement that they might have overdone the "we're losing the war / its a quagmire" angle? Is it a response to alternative information sources (ahem)?
Or a cynical attempt to establish "balance" claims for the preponderance of "we're losing war / it's a quagmire" coverage still to come?
Targets. On the highways, there is only tension. To soldiers, every broken-down car is a potential bomb; every tumbleweed may disguise an artillery shell set to explode. With dozens of bombs found each week, soldiers have good reason to be anxious. The military has responded by adding armor plating on humvees and many transport trucks. But the improvised bombs have grown increasingly sophisticated; insurgents, for instance, are rigging explosives to highway overpasses to hit the exposed humvee gunners. "It's a matter of getting through as fast as you can," says Lt. Mike Byrnes, an officer with the 10th Mountain Division, who has escorted convoys both inside and outside Baghdad. Insurgents, he says, "are trying to disrupt the supply lines. They hit a big truck full of fuel, ammo, or food--that hurts us. We depend on these convoys. Without 'em, we don't get what we need."
But then goes here:
Small talk. In the village of Salaam, just south of Baghdad, Army Capt. Scott Shaw patrols the streets tasked with the job of preventing insurgents from bringing down an airplane with a rocket. Shaw is a dynamic company commander who seems to genuinely enjoy interacting with Iraqis. "I know this village like the back of my hand," he says. Shaw walks around asking residents about the price of rice and eggs, checking for signs of inflation at the food markets. He relishes taking meals with people in his area. Strangely, it reminds him of home, Little Rock, Ark. "Iraqis eat more okra than anyone I've met," he says. "They have this soup of tomatoes and okra. I could eat that every day." He talks about the upcoming election, quizzing residents about whether they know the location of the polling place. Encountering the son of a local sheik, Shaw exchanges kisses with him in greeting and asks how the new water pump he secured for him is working.
Meanwhile the LA Times starts here:
Last week, the Onion offered a satirical story with a Baghdad dateline: "After 19 months of struggle in Iraq, U.S. military officials conceded a loss to Iraqi insurgents Monday, but said America can be proud of finishing 'a very strong second.' "
Then moves here:
At least a few less-intimately involved observers also glimpse hope amid the televised images of 24-hour carnage, among them Christopher Hitchens, Michael Rubin, Frederick W. Kagan and Gary Schmitt.
I've only posted brief excerpts of these "good news" reports - but the entire collection is well worth the read.
Still while I'm glad to see some small mention of the truth in reporting from Iraq, why do the good news stories from this country, at least when reported in mainstream media, require several careful paragraphs explaining that it's an exception to the rule? That chaos is actually the order of the day?
And why is the above piece (surprisingly headlined "What's Going Right In Iraqi") in the Opinion section?
Posted by Greyhawk / October 26, 2004 8:45 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...)
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