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April 3, 2006
Headless in the HeadlinesBy Greyhawk
(Update/bump from 2006-04-01 17:13:53)
NY Times headline, March 27: 30 Beheaded Bodies Found; Iraqi Death Squads Blamed
BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 26 — The bodies of 30 beheaded men were found on a main highway near Baquba this evening, providing more evidence that the death squads in Iraq are becoming out of control.But Blazing headlines notwithstanding, the odd thing about those headless bodies that provided more evidence that death squads in Iraq were out of control is that nobody ever claims to have actually seen them:
Interior Ministry officials said a driver discovered the bodies heaped in a pile next to a highway that links Baghdad to Baquba, a volatile city northeast of the capital that has been wracked by sectarian and insurgent violence.In short, some guy said he knew a guy that saw them. Which is how the story should have been reported - as a rumor. But it wasn't.
Yesterday's press briefing from Iraq:
Q: About, on the news that we heard this week of a number of headless bodies being found along a road in Baghdad. I was wondering what more you could tell us about that, what you know about the victims, and who the perpetrators were?But apparently within the standards of acceptable journalism for the New York Times.
Update: Times readers eager to find a correction will discover it featured prominently in paragraph 17 of this story
The police in western Baghdad discovered 14 bodies on Tuesday, all killed execution-style with gunshots to the head, apparently the latest victims of sectarian bloodletting. On Monday, Iraqi forces found 18 bodies near Baquba with similar wounds. Earlier reports of 30 beheaded bodies found in that area were wrong, the Interior Ministry official said.Update 3 Apr:
U.S., Iraqi Troops Nab Insurgents Suspected In Mass SlayingThat's from Stars and Stripes. No doubt the NY Times has the story too.
More: This report also confirms an earlier one on the topic:
BAQOUBA, Iraq — A mass execution in a rural village north of Baghdad on Sunday night was the latest example of insurgents staging fake sectarian killings in order to fuel tensions between the Sunnis and Shiites, U.S. soldiers investigating the incident said.That's also from Stars and Stripes. There are thousands of actual and compelling stories to be found in Iraq, and the mainstream media misses them all in favor or urban legends.
These real stories have plenty of blood, death, human misery and suffering too, so "if it doesn't bleed it doesn't lead" can't be the reason.
(More in comments. Don't skip 'em!)
Posted by Greyhawk / April 3, 2006 6:59 PM | Permalink
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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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