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January 29, 2005
The Big Day looms. Or is it just another day?
Here's group of folks who predict failure and illegitimacy, but what the story really tells us is that there is still apparently a demand for ignorance masked as news.
Here's a quote from the NY Times on-line teaser to a story:
Shiite Faction Ready to Shun Sunday's Election in Iraq
Foreshadowed? Has the election happened? Here's the actual quote from the story:
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Jan. 28 - Less than 48 hours before nationwide elections here, Nasir al-Saedy, one of the city's most popular Shiite clerics, stood before a crowd of 20,000 Iraqis and uttered not a single word about the vote.
On consideration, the line can not be refuted. Certainly many areas will not be overwhelmed with voters. But what signal is the Times sending here? And not to play linguistic games, but might foreshadows be the more appropriate form?
Another story from the AP:
With crucial national elections only two days away, Iraqi officials announced the arrests of three more purported lieutenants of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, including the Jordanian terror mastermind's military adviser and chief of operations in Baghdad.
Seems like a fine bit of reporting - who what where when which why how - unfortunately the paragraphs above were separated and buried in a story headlined Insurgents Warn Iraqis Not to Vote. In fact, you must wade through a lot of doom and gloom before getting to the paragraphs describing just who was captured - they come at the very bottom of a long article that includes these paragraphs too:
Despite Saleh's assurances, al-Zarqawi's group posted a new Web message Friday warning Iraqis that they could get hit by shelling or other attacks if they approach polling stations, which it called "the centers of atheism and of vice."
"We have warned you, so don't blame us. You have only yourselves to blame," it said. Interesting logic there. Of course, the "it" that the report was referring to was a "message", and not the messenger. Let's not de-humanize the foe. "A mortar shell landed on a house close to a school believed to be used as polling site in Ramadi, wounding two women and two children, a hospital doctor said." AP refrained from using the phrase an increasingly bold and sophisticated insurgency in this report.
I've discussed this style of reporting before, burying the good news from Iraq in layers of bad and calling it a "round-up." This could be called "balanced" reporting, but though you'll often see bad news without mention of good, you'll never see good news presented in any other format - from major media outlets, that is.
Odd that among all this weekend's stories of insurgent bombs that almost hit their target (or that "detonated near polling places", if you prefer) these sorts of stories are overlooked:
Alpha Company, 1-112 Infantry, a National Guard company based out of the Pittsburgh area, and Soldiers from the 201st Iraqi Army Battalion established a hasty traffic control point Jan. 22 north of Tikrit, in the area called Kadasia, and swiftly apprehended two insurgents.
--Marine Sgt Kevin Lewis, to Dan Rather during his recent visit to Iraq
And by the way, this will have more of an impact on voter turn out than Zarqawi could hope to. After all, bad weather kept over a quarter-million Democrats from voting in Ohio last year, and thus was God's chosen allowed to continue his reign. Let's call it the Inshallah factor then, and tomorrow looks fine.
The NY Times does not have a forecast available.
Still others might recall this quote from a recent movie:
"A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down, but it is not this day. This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you *stand, Men of the West!"
Aragorn, of course, from The Return of the King. There have been numerous superficial comparisons made between current events and the Lord of the Rings, and the appearance of the movie at this point in history was certainly fortuitous. Successful films reflect the times, and though no one knew at the time these films were being made exactly what the world situation would be upon their release they've meshed amazingly well. Gandalf's response to Frodo's lament that "I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened." seemed extraordinarily fit for 2001: "So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work, Frodo, than the will of evil.
Or the next year, as the US prepared to go into Iraq, Grima dismissed Gandalf as a warmonger in the court of Theoden. Later, Theoden: I will not risk open war. Aragorn: Open war is upon you whether you would risk it or not. Later still: Aragorn: You have some skill with a blade. Eowyn: The women of this country learned long ago, those without swords can still die upon them.
In spite of the chillingly accurate applicability, it's not the superficial and obvious comparisons that make the real connection to modern events; it's the underlying theme of the books that rings true. For Tolkien's story was much larger, much grander than the trilogy, after all. That tale was of but one battle in an ongoing war, and references to the larger theme gave the books a depth that most imitators lack. Tolkein had fleshed out that larger history before he began his sequel to The Hobbit, it was in fact his true life's work. And that grand story was of the eternal struggle between good and evil, and that's why the books sell today and why the movies have an appeal to a worldwide audience unmatched by anything else. Tolkein tapped into something fundamental that dwells within us all, the conflict of the positive and the negative, of darkness and light, good and evil that struggles in each soul, as it does in the world at large. And that is why the words of the characters have a resonance with us today.
I harbor no illusions about what we're doing, and I certainly don't imagine myself as a warrior at the gates of Mordor. But tomorrow is yet another skirmish in the real world war, the one I've personally been involved in for 20 years now. I'll predict a victory for the good guys.
After all, there are other forces at work, Frodo, than what you read in the papers.
Posted by Greyhawk / January 29, 2005 2:40 PM | Permalink
Greyhawk posts in the Mudvill Gazette an extraordinary article on the upcoming Iraqi election from the point of view of someone who is actually there, because he is. He goes from an analysis of the MSM's pathetic negativity to drawing parallels betwee... Read More
Greyhawk posts over at the Mudville Gazette about the Iraqi elections tomorrow, but puts it in context of the War on Terror. Interestingly - and compellingly (is that a word?) - he uses Tolkein's Lord of the Rings to frame Read More
Sorry for the dearth of posting this weekend. I have been busy with both the interesting and mundane. I will update you all on my activities later tonight. Now, having completed doing the laundry (odd, my clothes used to magically appear washed and ... 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...)
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