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December 3, 2005
In the LeadBy Greyhawk
In the wake of President Bush's speech at Annapolis it appears a battalion of journalists has been dispatched with marching orders to discredit his claims of progress in Iraq. We applaud the efforts of true fact checkers - those who keep our politicians honest. Unfortunately, most of the current efforts of the media "quick reaction force" are a discredit to those who do consider non-partisan efforts at bringing the truth to the American public an important service.
Frequent commenter Wilson Kolb brings to our attention one such example. Under the headline "Embedded TIME Reporter: Bush Lied In Speech Yesterday About Iraqi Security Forces" the political website Think Progress details what they believe is an example of fraud in the President's speech.
First, here's the passage they question:
The progress of the Iraqi forces is especially clear when the recent anti-terrorist operations in Tal Afar are compared with last year's assault in Fallujah. In Fallujah, the assault was led by nine coalition battalions made up primarily of United States Marines and Army -- with six Iraqi battalions supporting them. The Iraqis fought and sustained casualties. Yet in most situations, the Iraqi role was limited to protecting the flanks of coalition forces, and securing ground that had already been cleared by our troops. This year in TAL Afar, it was a very different story.And here's the statement Time magazine reporter Michael Ware made to CNN's Anderson Cooper - which they feel effectively debunks the above:
COOPER: You know this is not one of the shows where we take sides. I really try to just look at facts on the ground, and the President in his speech talked about the battle of Tal Afar. And in his speech today, he said that it was led primarily by Iraqi security forces, eleven Iraqi battalions, backed by five coalition battalions providing support. He used this as compared to the battle of Fallujah as an example of how much better the Iraqis are doing. Earlier, I talked to Time Magazine’s Michael Ware, the Baghdad bureau chief who was embedded during the entire battle. I want to play you what he said about the Iraqi units he saw.First, note that Ware acknowledges the placement of Iraqi forces in the battle - "I was with Iraqi units right there on the front line as they were battling with al Qaeda" - this statement is all that's needed to confirm the President's account. Anyone thinking the President meant anything other than that by "in the lead" is fooling themselves.
But Ware's problem is with the Special Forces advisors; their presence indicates the Iraqis aren't ready to go it alone. But the "argument" boils down to this: the President says progress is being made towards a goal where Iraqi forces can carry the battle themselves, and his detractors counter that it isn't true - because they haven't yet reached that goal.
But let's really "think" about "progress", because Ware (perhaps unwittingly) confirmed the other quoted paragraphs of the President's speech too.
Two years ago they broke and ran at every opportunity - this is certainly true of the April '04 battle in Fallujah, when one Baghdad-based Iraqi unit mutinied on the road to Fallujah and refused to join the battle (see Bing West's outstanding book No True Glory : A Frontline Account of the Battle for Fallujah - highly recomended.)
Last November they fought in Fallujah - clearing and holding immediately behind the front line US troops, and none have broken and run since.
Now as the clear and hold operations extend to other towns in al Anbar those units are in the lead. As Ware notes, they have Special Forces advisors with them, calling the shots, directing, etc. That is why the advisors are there. To assume they would not do so is patently ridiculous.
His argument that they were not "in the lead" because they had Special Forces advisors with them "right there on the front line as they were battling with al Qaeda" is equally ridiculous - and an insult to the courage and resolve of Iraqi troops and the Special Forces. No one - certainly not the president (who, if you want to be mince words, actually said "The assault was primarily led by Iraqi security forces") is claiming the Iraqis are ready to go without our help. This is the whole reason we're still there. Ware has invented his own definition of what the President meant by "in the lead" - and it's not one the President shares. How can I be sure? Because as the President has made clear, when the Iraqis are ready to go without Special Forces advisors is when we come home - victorious.
Ware didn't mean to confirm everything the President said - but in fact he did. That's the danger of attacking rapidly without a well thought out plan.
Posted by Greyhawk / December 3, 2005 4:44 PM | Permalink
This was posted a few days ago at Think Progress: Yesterday, President Bush claimed that Iraqi security forces “primarily led” the assault on the city of Tal Afar. Bush highlighted it as an “especially clear” sign of the progress Iraq securit... 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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