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February 19, 2006
Meanwhile, Back at the FrontBy Greyhawk
(One week of developments in Iraq - and the home front. This week: the war we’re losing edition.)
This isn't good news - its news that's less bad:
The number of U.S. troops wounded in Iraq in January fell to its lowest monthly total since the beginning of 2004, according to new Pentagon data.According to the DoD, as of 17 February 16,762 US troops have been wounded in action since the beginning of the war in Iraq. Of those, 9007 (54%) returned to duty within 72 hours. From March 19, 2003, through December 31, 2005, 3,171 service members were wounded in action severely enough to require evacuation to stateside Army medical facilities.
So the Brookings Institute's Iraq index does reveal a positive trend in the number of US wounded.
Likewise, the numbers of US troops killed in action has declined; 70 in October, 69 in November, and 30 in both December and January. A positive trend, but little consolation to families of the fallen.
But the "insurgents" have not been idle.
Attacks In Baghdad Kill 16, Including 5 ChildrenAccording to the Brooking's report, even though casualty numbers for American GIs have declined the numbers of Iraqis killed in insurgent attacks have not. Last October multiple fatality bombings claimed the lives of 310 Iraqi citizens, in November 415 were killed. The number dipped to 173 in December, but rose again to 305 in January - ten times the number of US servicemembers killed that month.
And that's just the numbers for multiple fatality bombings. Shootings, beheadings, and other acts remain less well documented. But anyone and everyone can be a target for Iraq's "insurgency", as the Arizona Daily Star reported this week:
BAGHDAD — Marwan Rassam's restaurant is a Baghdad institution, famous for its pizzas and grilled meat sandwiches wrapped in flat "saj" bread.But in spite of the disproportionate slaughter of Iraqis, the insurgency has been amazingly successful at portraying itself as "resistance to the American occupation". This week West Point's Combating Terrorism Center released previously classified information from the “Harmony” database. Compiled by the U.S. Special Operations Command, captured al-Qaeda documents reveal (among other things) a terrorist organization fully aware of the need for good PR:
Many documents show al-Qaeda leaders discussing the need for a successful public relations strategy. In June 2000, an operative named Abu Huthaifa writes a mentor that al-Qaeda needs to fix problems in its “informational and political efforts,” failings that are “killers of the movement.”They've taken that lesson to heart. This English language propaganda video is a direct appeal to the world Left.
We thank all those, including those of Britain and the US, who took to the streets in protest against this war and against globalism.Oddly enough, it also contains an exhortation to "not believe their media" - referring to the western news organizations. Odd, because few western media sources are willing to point out the real nature of the insurgency in Iraq - a nature revealed not by their propaganda efforts, but by their results. We compiled a year's worth of coverage of the Iraqi "insurgency" here. Among last year's "victories against the aggressor":
The suicide attack that was performed on an election center in one of Baghdad's districts (Baghdad Al-Jadeedah) last Sunday was performed using a kidnapped "Down Syndrome" patient.As difficult as it may be to remain "neutral" in a battle with such an enemy, most Western media outlets are attempting to do so. Witness the horror described this week by the mayor of Tall Afar:
Our city was the main base of operations for Abu Mousab Al Zarqawi. The city was completely held hostage in the hands of his henchmen. Our schools, governmental services, businesses and offices were closed. Our streets were silent, and no one dared to walk them. Our people were barricaded in their homes out of fear; death awaited them around every corner. Terrorists occupied and controlled the only hospital in the city. Their savagery reached such a level that they stuffed the corpses of children with explosives and tossed them into the streets in order to kill grieving parents attempting to retrieve the bodies of their young.That type of news, when it can be used to demonstrate the failure of the military in Iraq, is often reported. But the mayor's next comments will never be seen in a mainstream media outlet in America:
This was the situation of our city until God prepared and delivered unto them the courageous soldiers of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, who liberated this city, ridding it of Zarqawi’s followers after harsh fighting, killing many terrorists, and forcing the remaining butchers to flee the city like rats to the surrounding areas, where the bravery of other 3d ACR soldiers in Sinjar, Rabiah, Zumar and Avgani finally destroyed them.In fact, a Washington Post reporter had a copy of that letter, but elected not to publish it, explaining that "Yes, the mayor gave me a copy of the letter when I had lunch with him. But one thing Americans have done in Iraq is take things too much at face value."
While many of the citizens of Fallujah still eke out their existence in the ruins of their former homes, in Tal Afar the streets are full of building sites. New sewers have been dug and the fronts of shops, destroyed in the US assault, were replaced within weeks. Sunni police have been hired and 2,000 goats were even distributed to farmers.In a recent press conference, the commander of US troops in Tall Afar requested only one thing of US reporters:
I hope you tell our troopers' families how awesome they are. I mean, I hope in some way you can communicate that to them. I know it may not fit in on whatever you're covering at this point, but they ought to know the job that their soldiers are doing, and the wide range of responsibilities they've taken on. And they ought to understand, you know, their courage, you know, how tough they are in combat, but also how compassionate and how disciplined they are. I mean, there are people in the neighborhoods where we're living who are naming their children after our soldiers, you know? And I know people don't see that. And they ought to know that their soldiers are proud of what they're accomplishing every day. They're drawing strength from seeing that, and they're drawing strength as always on each other and the cohesive team and family they're part of.This week, Newsweek answered him:
Army investigators in Iraq have cleared Apache Company's soldiers of any wrongdoing. The men did what they were trained to do under the circumstances. Yet that's small comfort to the Hassan orphans. "If it were up to me, I'd kill the Americans and drink their blood," says Jilan, 14.
How we called it last November:
A real count of terrorist fighters in Iraq, if such a thing were possible, would likely reveal their numbers are small - perhaps a few thousand - and their organization above small "squad level" non-existent. Al Qaeda in Iraq, probably the most formidable component of a fractious opposition, can accomplish little beyond sporadic (admittedly sometimes spectacular) violence. Their most "successful" attacks involve suicide bombers creating large numbers of casualties - and larger numbers of enemies to their cause. And the majority of their most "highly coordinated" suicide attacks fail, insofar as the attackers invariably die short of their goals.Now, a few months later, that handover to Iraqi forces continues, and the people of Iraq are suffering an ever larger proportion of the deaths and injuries there. Americans will continue to move into the background, and the "insurgents" will have an incresingly difficult time convincing anyone they are fighting against "the occupation".
Unless the western media remains "neutral" in the same sense they are today.
The Home Front
February 18, 2006 -- Al Qaeda and other Islamic extremist groups have poisoned the Muslim public's view of the United States through deft use of the Internet and other modern communications methods that the American government has failed to master, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said yesterday.Reuters:
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The United States lags dangerously behind al Qaeda and other enemies in getting out information in the digital media age and must update its old-fashioned methods, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Friday.Somewhat reminiscent of something General Peter Pace said last December:
The top US general said the US military has not done a good enough job of explaining to the public what its forces are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Let's turn to the milbloggers for another view.
Porphyrogenitus got to Iraq late last year:
I do have one complaint with how the military, or at least our Division, has handled stuff, and it's a complaint that might be of interest to Bloggers. That is this:Later another milblogger explained to him that all he had to do was register his blog, and that he'd be okay.
I'd like to hear how that worked out for him, but he hasn't blogged since.
On second thought, maybe I shouldn't link any more MilBlogs...
But you might want to watch this.
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 19, 2006 8:13 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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