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February 6, 2006
Meanwhile, back at the FrontBy Greyhawk
(Origianlly posted 2006-02-04 18:00:41 - bumped for the Moday crowd)
One week of developments in Iraq - and the home front.
Last week ended with a major operation for Iraqi troops. The Philadelphia Inquirer:
Iraqi Troops Hit A Stronghold Of InsurgentsBut before the weekend was over the news had turned grim:
Woodruff, Vogt, and their four-man team were in the lead vehicle traveling in a convoy with Iraqi security forces. They were standing up in the back hatch of their vehicle taping a video log of the patrol at the time of the attack.Such an IED was likely detonated by an observer - and it's equally likely the visible news team was deliberately targeted by the attackers.
(Shoot)... the reporter carrying the camera. First because the camera can be used as binoculars; second, it is the most difficult thing to hide the death of a reporter in Iraq.
In other news, Al Jazeera television broadcast a second videotape of the kidnapped American journalist Jill Carroll, and the captors of four members of "Christian Peacemaker Teams" abducted in November renewed their threat to kill the hostages if all Iraqi prisoners were not set free.
In Britain, citizens held protests and candlelight vigils Wednesday to express anger over their country's involvement in the Iraq war.
Protests Mark Britain's 100th Fatality In IraqAnd in TV News news, CNN's Christiane Amanpour declared that: a) "The War in Iraq has turned out basically to be a disaster" and b) "journalists have paid for it."
That second point might be contended on relative terms by coalition military members, their families, and citizens of Iraq, but the first bit deserves consideration.
And that's why we're here.
Lets start with some raw numbers, from that USA Today coverage of the 100th British death in Iraq:
Britain's 8,000 troops comprise the second-largest contingent in the Iraq coalition. The United States, which has about 138,000 troops in Iraq, has suffered 2,236 fatalities since the March 2003 invasion.That's almost right. Actually, Britain ranks third in number of troops in the coalition. The US, with 138,000 (down from a peak of 161,000 in October and nearly that level in December) is second, and Iraq has the most, with 227,000 trained security personnel. Ignoring Iraq as a member of the coalition is a key element in denying the reality of the situation there - and this slight is accomplished without a second thought in virtually every media report on the subject. Expect casualty figures this year to reflect those numbers, but thus far (and it's way too early to draw conclusions) attacks in Iraq have declined.
One reason for that reduction may be that last year's numbers were unsustainably high. But...
- While the number of attacks on coalition and Iraqi forces, as well as on Iraqi civilians, rose by 29 percent in 2005, the "success rate" of the attacks - those that caused casualties or damage - has held relatively constant at 24 percent.More on that report later. First, some observations from on the ground.
Reporter Joe Galloway, whose experience in the Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam led to the book "We Were Soldiers Once, and Young", is no friend of the US administration, nor is he a "supporter" of the Iraq war. But this week he too took the risk of reporting from Iraq:
In some places the news was bad: The insurgents had surged back into rural areas of the Triangle when a unit responsible for the area hunkered down in their outposts and left it to the enemy. Now a successor unit was fighting hard to take the countryside back and was suffering casualties almost every day.Read it all.
The Washington Post offers a look at Mosul, where violence is still common, but the number of reported attacks is down 57% from last year's peak. The handover of security there to Iraqi forces is ongoing:
So far, two Iraqi battalions, roughly 1,500 men, have been given authority over sectors of the city formerly patrolled by American units. U.S. commanders plan to put a third battalion in charge of another area soon. If all goes as planned, Mosul and surrounding Nineveh province will be in the hands of 24,000 Iraqi troops by November.A notable (perhaps stunning) point is made at the end of the story:
Abdulahmed's daughter-in-law, Laela Shaikhow, was watching an episode of "Melrose Place" as soldiers entered the house. She didn't need the Arabic subtitles; born in Manchester, England, she spoke perfect English.Now lets take the highway from Mosul to Baghdad. Via email, Haider Ajina sends his translation of a story from the January 31st edition of “Sot al-Iraq”:
”Iraqi forces receive security responsibility of Major Highway”Haider comments:
More evidence almost daily now that Iraqis are taking back the control of their country province by province area by area. Every time we graduate a brigade they get assigned their area of responsibility for which they were trained. This type of fundamental and methodical training and deployment of well trained competent Iraqi troops will assure the survival of the fledgling Iraqi democracy and the defeat of terrorism.Arriving in Baghdad, we find Haider offers news from that city as well:
Greetings,CENTOM offers additional details:
BAGHDAD, Iraq –Even more from Jonathan Finer, reporting from Iraq for the Washington Post:
The ceremony was more than a month behind schedule, and the area transferred to Iraqi control significantly smaller than originally planned: 20 buildings inside Baghdad's Green Zone instead of the fortified complex's entire perimeter.Stories like Finer's demonstrate the depth of coverage that can be provided by dedicated journalists willing to spend months in Iraq to present unvarnished truth. While the transfer of authority may not be moving as fast as many would prefer, progress is being made - and not at the convenience of the bring them home now crowd.
But quickly enough that at least one US unit finds itself in "limbo" - sitting in Kuwait until it can be determined if they're needed in Iraq at all.
And if these efforts are successful they won't be - Newsweek reports that American officials in Iraq are in face-to-face talks with high-level Iraqi Sunni insurgents. Although "back door" diplomatic efforts have been reported before,
This marks the first time either Americans or insurgents have admitted that "senior leaders" have met at the negotiating table for planning purposes. "Those who are coming to work with [the U.S.] or come to an understanding with [the U.S.], even if they worked with Al Qaeda in a tactical sense in the past—and I don't know that—they are willing to fight Al Qaeda now," says a Western diplomat in Baghdad who has close knowledge of the discussions.Although the overall mission remains the same, more subtle changes in the US approach in Iraq will likely become evident in the coming months:
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — With a new general in charge, the plan to fight Iraq’s insurgents is expected to emphasize improvements in Iraqis’ quality of life, rather than killing or capturing guerrillas.Which brings us back to the insurgents - and that report we referenced earlier.
Iraqi and foreign guerrillas have proven themselves masters of political and psychological warfare, but remain far from prevailing in the bomb-and-run war they continue to conduct.In addition to the findings we cited above, Cordesman's study also notes that
- Attacks have ebbed and flowed, with marked acceleration evident before elections and other important moments. Before the Oct. 15 referendum last year on the new constitution, attacks peaked at about 700 a week. By last month, however, they had dropped by almost half, to about 430 weekly.Further, he concludes that only a strong Iraqi government - and security force - can bring stability. And he delivers what should be a wake up call to the media - and it's consumers:
But Cordesman also depicts an insurgency especially skilled at morphing as necessary to counter advances by its enemies, and consistently successful in exploiting the Arab and foreign media, pushing assorted symbolic "hot buttons," and fostering conspiracy theories that U.S. forces have trouble debunking.We reached the same conclusion last year.
Iraqi Shiite Militia Blames U.S. As Car Bombs Kill At Least 11Major Charles Moore, an Army officer serving in Baghdad, writes in the Washington Times
New Year's resolutions are hard to keep. I am already struggling to keep this year's resolution. I promised myself I'd give the headlines more than a scant passing as I rush about my daily activities. This year I vowed to look beyond the black clouds of death and destruction rising over Baghdad and other parts of Iraq and seek their meaning before passing judgment.Read the whole thing.
The week - and the Iraq portion of this roundup - began with a report of Iraqi troops capturing large numbers of insurgents. It concludes with more of the same, from today's LA Times:
Iraqi police and soldiers rounded up 59 people Friday in crackdowns in Baghdad and the southern city of Basra.And so it goes.
The home front - support the troops edition:
One result of the wounding of ABC newsmen Bob Woodruff and Doug Vogt has been some exceptional overage of the medical teams providing care to the wounded in Iraq. Here's a profile of two neurosurgeons serving at Balad Air Base. And here's a story of the care given on the medevac flight to Germany.
None of that stopped the Washington Post from running a cartoon implying that the military treats wounded troops as little more than administrative annoyances. This prompted a response from several GIs - including these guys
A Reprehensible Cartoon
In his response, the Post's editor explained that the cartoon was intended as an insult to the Army, not the troops.
This week's edition of headlines we thought we'd never see:
Turnaround In Recruiting Puts Guard On Path For ExpansionIn other Guard news,
SACRAMENTO — A year after it was launched to help activated National Guard families suffering financial hardships, the California Military Family Relief Fund has been a major disappointment to its sponsors.California Lt Governor Cruz Bustamante blamed the National Guard for not developing awareness of the program, which grants up to $2,000 emergency relief to needy military families. But the program requires 30% loss of income between the soldier's civilian and military income, and in most cases that doesn't occur.
Col. Lawrence Cooper, the Guard's director of personnel and human resources, said "we had 18 applications and were able to grant only three."
Other programs that offer significant help to mostly fictional soldiers include the congressionally mandated payback for armor purchased by individuals because the military wouldn't issue it:
So far, however, the official who oversees the processing of such claims for the Army said, only 30 soldiers have requested reimbursement for equipment, primarily for tactical body armor, at a cost of about $22,000.Like Bustamante, Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut and sponsor of the program, is hopping mad:
"Our troops' welfare should be a top priority," Mr. Dodd said on Friday. "The Pentagon fought this initiative, and they had to be dragged kicking and screaming to implement its important provisions."Meanwhile,
A week ago, Pfc. Anthony Calla became the proud owner of the only metallic blue Ford Mustang at Ft. Benning.The story offers no word on whether the Senate has verified the safety features of the vehicles.
Speaking of the latest safety features...
Top Army and Marine Corps officers said Wednesday that they are buying and sending the latest body armor to troops in Iraq as fast as possible, including ceramic plates to protect against bullets or shrapnel from the side.Elsewhere:
Only days after receiving a $70 million order from the Army, Ceradyne of Costa Mesa this week sent its first shipment of ceramic armor side plates to U.S troops in Iraq.
Unfortunately, the troops may also need the armor at home. Senior Airman (Air Force E4) Elio Carrion is a USAF Security Police troop who recently returned from Iraq. On leave in San Bernadino County, California, his welcome home included three rounds from a sheriff's deputy - but we don't mean free drinks. The event was caught on video:
At one point, a voice on the recording appears to say "stay on the ground." Seconds later, however, the deputy appears to tell Carrion: "Get up, get up." As Carrion rises, the deputy, who is standing several feet away, shoots him three times.No comment yet from Cruz Bustamante.
We conclude with a salute. Maj. Michael Jason and his team from the 4th Infantry Division evacuated ABC News' Bob Woodruff and Doug Vogt from the danger zone just minutes after the roadside bombing in Iraq. They were honored Friday by ABC's World News Tonight" as their "persons of the week"
Last week's edition of Meanwhile Back at the Front can be read here
(The author of these compilations, an Iraq war veteran, runs the blog The Mudville Gazette)
Posted by Greyhawk / February 6, 2006 5:17 PM | Permalink
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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