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June 11, 2006
Haditha: Signal to Noise (II)By Greyhawk
(Continuing a discussion begun here.)
The Calm Before the Storm
Returning to our chronology of events.
Even after Time Magazine broke their story in March, scant attention was paid by other media outlets - perhaps in part due to Time's contention that "The available evidence does not provide conclusive proof that the Marines deliberately killed innocents in Haditha".
The day after publication of the Time story, a similar atrocity was claimed by residents of the town of Ishaqi. It too was hardly noted in the media, perhaps due to the absurd aspect of some of the claims (Americans had handcuffed and executed 11 people from one family, ranging from a 75-year old woman to a 6-month old baby, then burned their vehicles, killed their farm animals, and blew up the house to cover up the crime) and when the story was effectively debunked by Iraqi police just two days later it also faded completely. (It would return briefly to prominence once the Haditha story "caught fire" - but with the more outlandish details purged.)
Marine Corps spokesman 2nd Lt. Lawton King said Natonski relieved the three of command because he lacked confidence in their leadership, based on their recent deployment to Iraq and a series of actions by the battalion.We covered those developments in a larger piece here.
Then, on May 17,
Rep. John Murtha, an influential Pennsylvania lawmaker and outspoken critic of the war in Iraq, said today Marines had “killed innocent civilians in cold blood” after allegedly responding to a roadside bomb ambush that killed a Marine during a patrol in Haditha, Iraq, Nov. 19.Murtha (a House Armed Services Committee member) had been briefed on the still incomplete investigations by DoD officials.
All bets were off, and now months of media silence could be used to the advantage of those who'd been scooped by Time. The story was suddenly "new", and the passage of tme since the original story broke could even be used to enhance the "cover-up" claims against the Marine Corps. While Murtha could be accused of influencing an ongoing investigation, he would instead be credited for exposing it and the Haditha story to the light. (At a minimum, he had assured that much future coverage of the story would include favorable references to or quotes by him, along with his picture.(4))
Reporters scrambled to make up for lost time. Officially the DoD could say nothing about the incomplete investigation, but quotes from "senior Defense officials who spoke only on condition of anonymity because the investigation was not yet completed" detailing the results of the investigation became common. And several news agencies interviewed Haditha residents who were willing to share their accounts (first-hand and otherwise) of the "cold blooded massacre". Some of those subjects were also quoted in the original Time story.
But as their stories were repeated, flaws began to appear.
(More to follow - note that comments will be "off" until completion of this post.)
4. Murtha: While Mr Murtha's opinions of the war in Iraq are subjective and open to debate, his abuse of facts to support them is not. A couple brief examples from a recent appearance on CBS News' Face the Nation (transcript in pdf) include claims that "...only 30 percent of the people [of Iraq are] getting water" and "We've lost almost 20,000 people in this war".
Both are broad exaggerations. If 70 percent of people in Iraq weren't getting water, they would die within days - and a check of the State Department Reports he cited as source reveals no water shortage of the sort he describes. And the number of "lost" can't be supported without including the number of wounded troops whose injuries were minor enough that they could return to duty within 72 hours. (Updated numbers can always be found in this pdf.) There are many other examples, but this post is not about Jack Murtha. However, it seems the congressman has rarely stated a fact on Iraq that he didn't feel needed to be exaggerated to make his point, and it's likely that his cold blooded killers comment may have been either a personal opinion/understanding of the results of the incomplete investigation, or another exaggeration for some unknown desired effect.
Posted by Greyhawk / June 11, 2006 5:42 PM | Permalink
(I'll keep adding new things to this post and bumping it occasionally till it gets too long. Originally posted 2006.06.10.23:39) Greyhawk has an excellent history and analysis of the Haditha story started here, and promises to add more to it Read More
If you want to get the truth concerning the incident in Haditha, you should be reading these blogs: Sweetness and Light has been doing a great job of real reporting. Check out this post, then follow the links at the 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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