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April 4, 2009
This week in the (mainstream media) History of the Iraq WarBy Greyhawk
A blast from the past about the past - this Mudville entry is originally from April 5th, 2008...
As the Mrs reminded us, April 4th marked the 5th anniversary of the day SFC Paul Ray Smith earned the Medal of Honor during the battle for what was then known as Saddam Hussein International Airport...
...when morning broke and B Company of the 11th Engineers arrived unscathed at Saddam Airport - some even snapping photos along the way - Sergeant Smith was still uneasy. Things were too quiet, and the airport's high walls obscured the battlefield around him.That story didn't make the news that day. That's hardly a condemnation of reporters; obviously much time would pass before events of that nature (in the midst of a war) could be sorted out and accurately reported.
So what did make news from Iraq on 4 April, 2003?
SADDAM HUSSEIN INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT - So where are the Americans? I prowled the empty departure lounges, mooched through the abandoned customs department, chatted to the seven armed militia guards, met the airport director and stood beside the runways where two dust-covered Iraqi Airways passenger jets -- an old 727 and an even more elderly Antonov -- stood forlornly on the runway not far from an equally decrepit military helicopter.A report that in many ways confirmed this one from a few days before:
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The U.S. war plan has "failed," veteran war correspondent Peter Arnett told Iraqi TV in an interview that aired Sunday.Indeed. And for something that important, one shouldn't let little things like truth, objectivity, or integrity stand in the way.
There were reports of heroism and courage from Iraq in the media that week. The most memorable - appearing in the Washington Post on April 3rd, 2003, was truly incredible - even though it included this strong disclaimer from the DoD:
Several officials cautioned that the precise sequence of events is still being determined, and that further information will emerge... Reports thus far are based on battlefield intelligence, they said, which comes from monitored communications and from Iraqi sources in Nasiriyah whose reliability has yet to be assessed. Pentagon officials said they had heard "rumors"... but had no confirmation.But the paper chose to bury that detail far down in the story that began with these paragraphs:
Pfc. Jessica Lynch, rescued Tuesday from an Iraqi hospital, fought fiercely and shot several enemy soldiers after Iraqi forces ambushed the Army's 507th Ordnance Maintenance Company, firing her weapon until she ran out of ammunition, U.S. officials said yesterday.But within hours of that report, a named "official" would derail the Post's attempt to create a hero:
Hours after the Post account appeared, Col. David Rubenstein, commander of the Army hospital in Germany where Lynch was taken, was widely quoted as saying that medical evidence did "not suggest that any of her wounds were caused by either gunshots or stabbing."And on the very day Paul Smith was fighting for the lives of his troops, even as Robert Fisk was denying his presence at the airport...
On April 4, a Post story from the Lynch home in West Virginia quoted her father, Greg Lynch Sr., as saying, "The doctor has not seen any of this. There's no entry [wounds] whatsoever."
AS the deputy commander at United States Central Command from 2001 to 2003, I represented the military in dealing with politicians regarding the capture and rescue of Pfc. Jessica D. Lynch in Iraq, and thus I can speak with authority about what really happened after her maintenance convoy got lost near Nasiriya in 2003 and she was taken prisoner.One of those politicians from her home state, West Virginia was probably had his own motives for getting her a medal - he could use it to slap the President:
Byrd denounced Bush for donning a military flight suit and flying on a fighter jet to the carrier USS Abraham Lincoln to announce the war's end.And ironically, the Jessica Lynch story would later be used in a different campaign, as truth (or fear of its revelation) never stopped the colleagues of those "West Virginia politicians" from holding a kangaroo court on the issue...
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform said an April 24 hearing would be part of its investigation into whether there was a strategy to mislead the public.A hero for about three hours - until Army doctors refuted the Post's story. As for "bogged down" - Baghdad was six days from falling, in spite of what Robert Fisk or Peter Arnett had to say.
Still, even after congressional hearings to "investigate" the issue, no reporters or "West Virginia politicians" have been charged with crimes in the case.
Search Google News for Jessica Lynch today (April 5, 2008) and you'll find a handful of recent stories of the "where are they now" variety.
Search google news for Paul Ray Smith and - outside an Army Times account - you'll find nothing. Journalists will assure you this is because they don't trust the Pentagon's efforts to create heroes - after what happened with Jessica Lynch.
Peter Arnett was fired by NBC in the wake of his remarks. He was hired immediately by the British newspaper The Daily Mirror:
The tabloid's banner headline Tuesday said: "Fired by America for telling the truth ... hired by Daily Mirror to carry on telling it."
Robert Fisk continues his career as a "journalist". In 2006 he was awarded the "Lannan Cultural Freedom Lifetime Achievement Prize":
The Prize for Cultural Freedom was established to recognize people whose extraordinary and courageous work celebrates the human right to freedom of imagination, inquiry, and expression...2008-04-05 19:33:09
Posted by Greyhawk / April 4, 2009 9:07 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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