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June 6, 2008
Exodus (III)By Greyhawk
Continuing a series begun here.
Judith Miller, in City Journal:
There are no campaign rallies or bumper stickers for him in Syria, no “Yes We Can” T-shirts on sale, but Obamamania has definitely infected the “beating heart of Arab nationalism,” as it once called itself. During my recent visit to Damascus, Syrian officials and the political elite seemed captivated by Barack Obama, well before it was clear that the Democrats’ charismatic young superstar would be the party’s presidential nominee.True - there are two billion reasons Bashar hearts Barack that weren't mentioned in that story. We'll get to them shortly.
Meanwhile, back in Iraq, following the New York Times lead many American media sources began reporting on the return of exiles to their neighborhoods. The Christian Science Monitor examined how the American military deals with the challenge:
In Saidiyah, a religiously mixed neighborhood in southwestern Baghdad rebuilding after sectarian bloodshed peaked here last year, as many as 400 families have retuned since the Americans arrived and implemented radical new safety measures.Not all the returning displaced persons are crossing borders. Many had moved to new homes in safer neighborhoods in Iraq. With the dramatic drop in violence many of them are coming home.
BAGHDAD (AP) — The surge has been good for the Murads.But the AP reporter adds that the trend is still early: "families like the Murads are a tiny minority"...
"There are now areas of Baghdad and other cities that have become ethnically homogenized," says Roberta Cohen, a human rights specialist with the Brookings Institution.Also apparent - many are returning to damaged or destroyed homes. Rebuiling begins:
In Khidr, a Shiite hamlet of date palms 45 miles south of Baghdad, all that remains of the downtown area are the mosque walls and huge piles of rubble. Months of shelling and bombings blamed on al-Qaida in Iraq finally forced all 800 villagers to flee in October 2006.For their part, the Iraqi government has formed the Commission for Resolution of Real Property Disputes in an attempt to sort out ownership of property - a problem that began long before 2003:
The Commission for Resolution of Real Property Disputes (CRRPD) is an independent agency of the Government of Iraq, established to redress certain wrongful takings of real property, including primary rights in rem (e.g. ownership, usage, residence, long-term lease, etc.), during the period from 17 July 1968 to 9 April 2003. The jurisdiction, structure and procedures of operation of the CRRPD are governed by the new Statute of the Commission for Resolution of Real Property Disputes, which annulled CPA Regulation 12, as of 6 March 2006.Clearly the problem will have no simple solution.
But in at least one case, a former exile should have no trouble establishing his property rights. The LA Times reports:
BAGHDAD — Abu Hassan took deep breaths of joy as he crossed the double-decker bridge spanning the Tigris River. The water below may have stunk of sewage. The air may have been choked with traffic fumes. It didn't matter to Abu Hassan.The return of exiled Iraqis to their homes - from Syria and from within Iraq - is a clear signal of the vast improvement brought about by coalition forces and the cooperative response of Iraqi citizens. Can the trend continue? Those familiar with the situation would probably agree with the NY Times' Mohamed Hussein, formerly exiled in Syria, now reporting from his Baghdad home:
Now, maybe if we think deeply about it, we will find that each needs the other. People need the soldiers to secure them. At the same time the U.S. troops are now in a safe place, maybe they can have more than one Green Zone.As the rest of the world debates the "progress" in Iraq, displaced Iraqis are returning home. One might think that would be cause for hope leading to calls for support. If so, one would be wrong. The numbers of people returning to Iraq are numbers that matter, and in our next installment you'll see why those numbers have been (and will be) disputed - the final indicator of success in Iraq is also the last hope for those who bet on failure.
Which brings us back to that two billion mentioned above. After he withdraws American forces from Iraq, Barack Obama has pledged to give at a minimum that number of taxpayer dollars to Iraq's "neighboring countries"...
"President Bush likes to warn of the dire consequences of ending the war….he warns of huge movements of refugees and mass sectarian killing, but that has already taken place. These are not the consequences of afuture withdrawal. They are the reality of Iraq’s present. . . . We have a strategic interest – and a moral obligation – to act."To be continued...
Posted by Greyhawk / June 6, 2008 9:46 AM | 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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