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January 22, 2005
Somewhere in central Iraq an aircraft lands delivering goods that aren't made in country. Nothing unusual in that; go to any bazaar in this land and you'll find imported items outnumber those manufactured locally. Years of brutal dictatorship, UN sanctions, and ultimately war to end both have left this nation's manufacturing infrastructure less than intact, to say the least. The task of rebuilding is a daunting one, made more so by factions that would see to it that success is limited, that progress isn't made.
That's the future, at least the future as those with any sense of optimism see it. For now forklifts scurry quickly up the lowered cargo door and hoist pallets of material then return to their starting points, unload and climb for more. A forest of pallets forms on the pavement, soon to be loaded on trucks for transport away from the relative safety of the airbase. Now empty, the plane taxis away to retrieve another load. Now full, a convoy of trucks departs for other locations around the country, the drivers will quite literally risk their lives to get this material to its intended destination.
The forklifts stand by as in the distance the drone of another approaching aircraft signals their job is far from over.
The scene is repeated in various locations around the country. The payload? The material thought worth dying for by hundreds of men determined to move their nation forward? Election material, of course. The future history of free Iraq is being written. Across the country the people express a commitment to democracy, a determination to vote. Should they see the reports from America they must be stunned; stories of "disenfranchisement" from here and there where the weather was bad and many voters felt the wait in line was just too long, thanks. This is America? Could these people actually be somehow related to the men and women in uniform here in Iraq? Those who are shoulder to shoulder with the people of Baghdad, Mosul, Basra... delivering the ballots, manning the checkpoints, ever vigilant for the appearance of the "former regime loyalist" and the "foreign insurgent" determined to inflict the rule of the knife on a population that has never known anything but?
Bloody days are in store. These elections will be like nothing before witnessed. In most areas of the country all will be well, but elsewhere a shredded remnant of the anti-Iraqi forces will make their presence known. Their efforts are nearly impotent; on a recent day five separate car bomb attacks failed to reach their intended targets. Yet even as their failures mount, even as their ranks are diminished and their slaughterhouses are shut down they know one thing that brings them a glimmer of hope: their allies in the world media will not let them down. Whether to simply sell papers, lure advertisers, or to support a cause they firmly believe in, many in the media are the insurgent?s final hope.
Lines are drawn. On one side, the people of Iraq, the majority of Americans, the freedom loving people of the world. On another are those who would behead them all in the street. A more well-defined definition of good vs evil has not been seen in modern times. The final days approach.
The second plane opens it's cargo ramp. The forklifts roll. Elsewhere a convoy exits a gate, moves to a highway, drivers and gunners scanning ahead, left right...
Elsewhere another driver waits, his vehicle sitting low on its axels, 500 pounds of explosives weighing it down...
Posted by Greyhawk / January 22, 2005 2:25 PM | Permalink
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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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