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November 8, 2005
The Road to VictoryBy Greyhawk
(Update/bump from 2005-11-04 22:31:54)
The Washington Post describes conditions along Baghdad's airport road. Dubbed "Route Irish" by the US military, the highway connecting Baghdad Airport to the city proper - and the rest of Iraq - is a crucial artery for the nation. It's importance can't be overstated - and the terrorists know it.
For 2 1/2 years, the road was, in many ways, a symbol of the U.S. failure to secure Iraq. Military convoys roared past in a frantic attempt to escape the looming dangers of suicide bombers, grenades, rockets and booby-trapped litter. But insurgents' relentless attacks claimed a steady toll.That was then - this is now:
Then, two months ago, the killings stopped. In October, one person was wounded on the road and no one was killed, according to the U.S. Army, which also calculated the April deaths. The turnaround was owed to simple, boots-on-the-ground military tactics, Army officials said.And this is how. Many factors contributed to that success - but the one that can't be overemphasized is the presence of trained Iraqi troops on the street.
The Iraqi soldiers, with a handful of U.S. troops by their side, walked the dusty dirt roads of the neighborhood. Weapons drawn, they searched alleys and courtyards. But mostly, they just walked, calling out greetings to Iraqis gathered outside their homes before the breaking of the fast during the holy month of Ramadan. The sweet scent of spice-infused meat and vegetables filled the night air, as women in black cloaks scurried home with stacks of piping-hot flat bread.Pay attention to that "strangers" quote - it's not the locals who are the enemy.
From my own time in Iraq I can attest to this, the battle for Route Irish was significant, and securing it is a victory on two fronts. On one level it's battle won and ground gained in a very different kind of war. But it's not just the ground gained that matters. It's the successful deployment of Iraqi forces that makes this a victory on a second front for the good guys. The key to a successful return from Iraq for coalition forces is the assumption of responsibility for security by the Iraqis - and real progress is being made.
And efforts are ongoing to make sure those gains aren't lost. Back in the States, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force is readying to return to Iraq in February. The training they are getting isn't how to fight - it's how to train the Iraqi forces:
When the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force resumes responsibility for volatile Anbar province in Iraq in February, the Marines will be bolstered by 18 battalions from the new Iraqi army, plus a large number of Iraqi police and border security forces, Lt. Gen. John Sattler said.The road to victory is clear.
8 Nov Update: This post from 4 November was originally intended as nothing more than a quick look at progress in Iraq. But on 7 November 60 Minutes aired a report describing their view of conditions along Route Irish, and their conclusion:
"Despite making the road somewhat safer, attacks continue and there is no clear victory in sight."challenges the validity of the Washington Post report. But the 60 Minutes story appears to have been compiled last summer - the unit profiled returned to the US in September. That "no clear victory in sight" claim illustrates the perils of defeatist reporting, and of approaching the story of the Iraq war from a pre-conceived failure narrative. (Or perhaps the foolishness of betting against the US Army.) I'll refrain from further speculation as to why the CBS report wasn't updated with more recent information, or questioning the validity of the term "news".
Besides, USA Today had a much more up to date quote from Lt. Col. Geoffrey Slack, the battalion commander profiled on the 60 Minutes' broadcast. This one's from only two months ago - September 19, 2005:
"Route Irish is definitely not the most dangerous road in Iraq any longer, and everyone who uses it knows it," says Lt. Col. Geoffrey Slack, commander of the New York National Guard's 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry Regiment.USA Today also noted
There hasn't been a suicide car bombing on the road since April, according to U.S. military statistics through August.Lt. General David Petraeus also detailed the improved conditions along Route Irish and the progress made in training Iraqi troops on his recent return to the US after his second tour in Iraq.
Let's salute Lt. Col. Geoffrey Slack and the 69th Infantry Regiment of the New York National Guard, a unit with a proud history. Their efforts in the face of a determined foe have brought about real results. It's easy to declare failure, quite another thing to achieve success amidst such declarations - especially coming from sources ostensibly "on your side."
Update 17 Nov 05: CBS producer expresses outrage here.
Related recent posts on progress in Iraq:
On media coverage of Iraq:
Posted by Greyhawk / November 8, 2005 12:59 PM | Permalink
Greyhawk over at Mudville Gazette has the must read article of the week about Iraq - it answers conclusively those absurd leftwing claims that we've lost the war in Iraq. A sample: That was then - this is now: "Then,... Read More
Is there a road to victory in Iraq. Greyhawk at Mudville Gazette thinks so and he tells us about it. He could be right. I hope he is. Our troops there have been magnificent. But there are some folks in America who need to do their part. Read on. 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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