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May 18, 2005
Warrior to WarriorBy Greyhawk
Vietnam veteran and author John Harriman returns to Mudville with the tenth installment of his series Warrior to Warrior, letters from a Vietnam veteran to our soldiers in Iraq. See the intro to the series here).
News to Tremble By
Dear Warrior in Iraq . . .
I promised somebody I would stop complaining about press coverage of this war. Was it you? No? Maybe it was my wife.
I tried, honest, I tried. But it's gotten to me again.
It's the drumbeat, the constant deluge of negatives.
It's so unsubtle, too.
One wire story went out of its way to tell American moms about the deaths of 22 people, including two Americans. The AP story writer felt obliged to mention strewn burning vehicles, mutilated bodies and bloodied children. No, wait, make that "bloodied school children." It's a lot of bad news to cram into one 44-word lead sentence.
The wire editor at the paper I'm quoting here wrote a five-column headline across the top of the page, "Americans among dead in violence in Iraq." Is your heart racing yet, mom? Thinking it's your son?
Then, five paragraphs into the story, just in case you've forgotten what you read 15 seconds ago, the story repeats itself: "At least 22 people were killed, including the two Americans . . . ." Who, by the way, were not soldiers. You can breathe again, dad. It's not your son.
Now forget about the further details about blood streaming down one girl's legs and another kid losing an eye in the violence. This was May 8, 2005. We wire editors just want to say: "Happy Mother's Day."
Am I saying the papers shouldn't report such news? Nah. Give it to parents and wives, day after day because in the world of news, "If it bleeds, it leads."
I get that.
What I don't get is . . . were there any positive developments in Iraq? Any at all? Ever?
Did any of the bad guys take a bullet for their cause? Any town halls get built? Any attacks thwarted?
Surely there must have been something to report, maybe as a sidebar.
Oh, wait, there was a second story that day. Just below the 22 dead including two Americans.
A nice little piece about the military investigation of 1,700 reports of sexual assault in 2004. Which, as the story dutifully reports, is up from the two previous years.
Sigh. Isn't it wonderful knowing how the papers back home feel about you? They need to report that daughters and sons live where they might well be a victim or perpetrator of a sex crime. With luck, any day now.
Remember that the next time you hear somebody in the press mention how he is against the war but supports the soldiers fighting it.
But, oh, isn't this an isolated incident? Surely.
Nope. Sorry. Checking other issues within a week of Mother's Day, you'd find more bombings, and a nice little feature that goes on at length about the recklessness of military pilots being responsible for killing other nice people in uniform. Biting your nails yet, mom? Oh, and at least two stories of the single most important event in your war, the abuses at Abu Ghraib. A week does not go by without a report on the handful of wayward criminals and negligent officers who are being cast as the face of Americans in uniform in Iraq.
The Abu Ghraib judge sends out for sandwiches? That's a story. One sentence, to be sure, but it does give the writer the chance to rehash the entire history of abuses. Let's report how many senior officers got off with reprimands. And just how many sources are calling for the secretary of Defense to resign again?
When the press's history of the War-for-Oil II is finally written, Abu Ghraib will be the shorthand term for it, just as Tet is shorthand for Vietnam, which is shorthand for everything that is wrong with America, which I'm tired of reading.
What's my problem here? Why am I so rabid about this?
Because. As a rule, one person, the wire editor, gets to choose the war news that goes inside the paper. The wire editor feeds you a constant stream of news, firehose-style, depending on his personal take on the war. Check your paper. What's his slant?
Am I telling you that the history of your service in Iraq is being written into the minds of readers by one guy who might dislike soldiers?
You bet I am.
Something else. A guy name of Arthur Chrenkoff went looking for other worthy news in Iraq in April. He found at least one story for every day. Everything from terrorist commanders surrendering to terrorist deaths to school building to oil output reaching pre-war levels (there's that War-for-Oil thing again). See for yourself.
If you didn't read it in your daily paper, now you know why. Thank your wire editor, parents.
Till next week . . .
God bless you and Godspeed.
Posted by Greyhawk / May 18, 2005 8:15 PM | Permalink
Leave it to the media guy to get the media picture all backasswards, and a military man, writing at Mudville Gazette, to see it right. John Harriman has been publishing on that blog "letters from a Vietnam veteran to our soldiers in Iraq." Here's par... 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.
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Original content copyright © 2003 - 2011 by Greyhawk. Fair, not-for-profit use of said material by others is encouraged, as long as acknowledgement and credit is given, to include the url of the original source post. Other arrangements can be made as needed.
Contact: greyhawk at mudvillegazette dot com