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April 26, 2011
For Easter I re-posted an old entry from the archives, something I'd written in 2009 about something I'd done in 2006. That got me into the April 2006 archives, too - in search of reminders of what I had been writing about back then. Among other topics: whether or not Iraq was a Civil War was one that was heating up nicely - just in time for the then-upcoming American political season. Apparently in the minds of many vote-seekers, if it was a civil war then we had no business being involved in another country's civil war. (They'd repeat the phrase frequently for at least two years after that.)
For my thoughts on what Iraq "was" at that time, see here. Short version: don't play stupid word games with what you call a war. I still think that's good advice, but for more recent thoughts, stand by.
I believe if you're going to take the trouble to write on various issues, you should take the trouble to at least occasionally write something worth looking at years later. Below, from April, 2006, a post that I think captures the absurdity - the insanity, even - of the moment, five years ago. Perhaps it has no value beyond that... (/end 2011 intro, rest same...)
The full "newstand" version of the Middle East Stars and Stripes - the newspaper available to the troops in the combat zone, is available in pdf format online.
Has been for a long time. You can read some background and policy information on the publication here.
First published by Union troops during the Civil War, the paper was also published during WWI. After a between-war hiatus, the paper began again in WWII. After that...
As wartime military staff began returning to the States, the newspaper began replacing them with a full-time civilian staff. Gradually they built a top-of-the-line team of professional journalists and newspaper business people, augmented by a small contingent of military journalists and managers.Today,
In addition to the stories filed by our own reporters, daily issues can include content from the Associated Press, Knight-Ridder, Scripps-Howard, the Washington Post and other news services.From the DoD directive:
Stars and Stripes is a Department of Defense-authorized daily newspaper distributed overseas for the U.S. military community. Editorially independent of interference from outside its editorial chain-of-command, it provides commercially available U.S. and world news and objective staff-produced stories relevant to the military community in a balanced, fair, and accurate manner. By keeping its audience informed, Stars and Stripes enhances military readiness and better enables U.S. military personnel and their families stationed overseas to exercise their responsibilities of citizenship. -- Revised DoD Directive 5122.11
How well do they do their job? You be the judge.
Here's the cover of the February 23 issue - the day after the shrine bombing in Sammara. Looks like the front page was already set up when the news broke. But just inside on page 3 are all the details, from an Associated Press story that probably ran in your local paper too.
By the following day the front page was given over to reports of the subsequent violence. Inside you'll find another page 3 AP story with the details - including pictures of the devastated shrine.
You'll find a story filed by a Stripes reporter too. "Insurgents control many perilous rural roads" is the headline on that one.
The next day the drama continues to unfold, and the AP reports: Iraq's most influential Shiite political leader called Friday for Sunni-Shiite unity as religious figures sought to calm passions and pull the nation from the brink of civil war...
The next day a deal is announced, but the page 3 story, this time from the Washington Post, is headlined: "More than 50 Iraqis are killed despite effort to curb violence."
Note the above the banner headline too; "Kerry leads Democrat's push for bigger troop pay increases". Good for him!
An AP headline elsewhere in the issue says that the "U.S. gives mixed report on Iraqi army readiness." (That sounds right to me. At this point I believe they are "summer soldiers" - summer soldiers, summer not.)
Did the Stars and Stripes provide accurate coverage of events? Probably more so than most other publications - certainly far better than the NY Times. But that's my opinion - since each of the images are linked to the full paper you can read them and decide for yourself.
That was just introduction - now our story really begins. There are several lessons to be learned from this tale, a cautionary story of how fast bad information can travel far.
Dreadcow is a fine milblogger, one of our favorites currently in Iraq. He's a grunt, and he travels outside the wire. He knows how things are in his part of the world, and he tells it like he sees it.
In a recent post he told about a phone conversation with his parents in the States:
Now, stop and think a moment, and you'll realize one possible reason why the guy actually in Iraq didn't know there was a civil war in Iraq: Because there isn't one. Violence? You bet. Death? Many every day. Civil War? Seems to me that's the kind of thing you notice in your neighborhood long before you hear about it in an overseas phone call or read it in the newspaper.
But Dreadcow chose to vent his anger at what he believed was the cause of his lack of information:
Now you've already seen the Stripes coverage of events of those days - they told the story. But bear in mind that distribution of the paper to every corner of Iraq may not always be rapid. (I was somewhere around Baghdad and I saw it daily and on time - free copies were available for the taking at the DFAC.) And although he has access to the internet, that might not be daily either. For whatever reason, Dreradcow exercised his God-given right to vent.
And somehow that post came to the attention of some of the folks who aren't quite so quick on the uptake.
A soldier who blogs from Iraq is upset that he didn't hear the country was on the brink of civil war until he happened to phone home to his parents.Alternet:
Dreadcow, a soldier in Iraq, tells the story of (his words, not mine) "[being] fed nothing but propaganda." I quote him at length, the story is powerful:Crooks and Liars
Alternet posts this story from a soldier in Iraq called: There's a civil what? where? The soldier heard about it through his mother.
In fact, he made a fairly big splash among the true believers. The conclusions these folks draw is that Bush's evil propaganda is so powerful that even people in Iraq don't know about the civil war in Iraq!
Let's recap our story thus far.
But the story doesn't end there. Because enough of them visited Dreadcow's blog that he noticed. And if you thought he was angry at S&S, you ain't seen nothin' yet:
His bottom line?
So you can bet I was pretty pissed off when I find out that my blog entry "Propaganda" was used by two separate political websites for their own gain. I never authorized them to use my writing and I emailed the administrators of both websites, politely asking them to remove what writing of mine they used. During the composition of this entry they have yet to comply with my wishes.
Nor will they ever. And they certainly aren't going to acknowledge that later post.
As I said before, there are lessons to be learned from this.
1. Bad news travels faster than the speed of thought.
2. While you should always listen to your mother you don't have to tell the world what she says.
3. If you want a great grunt's-eye view of Iraq, read Fun With Hand Grenades.
4. If you want a great balance of both good and bad news from Iraq, read Stars and Stripes.
(Original post: first half 2006-04-04 00:08:52, second 2006-04-05 20:37:52.)
Posted by Greyhawk / April 26, 2011 12:00 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...)
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