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June 8, 2008
Genesis (III)By Greyhawk
And: This was the surge.
A spate of stories of US negotiating with terrorists in Iraq followed the June, 2005 London Times report. That weekend, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made the rounds of network television's weekend news talk shows. While witholding details, during his appearances Rumsfeld obliquely confirmed that meetings were indeed taking place. He also discussed (and dismissed) the need for more troops in Iraq ("...the implication of the question was that we don't have enough to win against the insurgency. We're not going to win against the insurgency. The Iraqi people are going to win against the insurgency... Coalition forces, foreign forces are not going to repress that insurgency. We're going to create an environment that the Iraqi people and the Iraqi security forces can win against that insurgency"), and without using the terms, introduced the concept of "reconcilables" and "irreconcilables":
FOX NEWS SUNDAY' HOST CHRIS WALLACE: Good morning again from Fox News in Washington. Let's begin, as always, with a quick check of the latest headlines.An odd aside - at the time, the argument against Iraq was that while there had been tremendous political progress, violence was ongoing (an anti-war argument that would be reversed in the wake of the surge):
We had Secretary Rice on last week, and she tried to make the same argument I think that you are, sir, that while the political progress -- and there's no question there's been political progress. There's been an election, there's been the forming of a government, the forming of a constitutional committee.
One quote from that interview with Secretary Rumsfeld would make headlines - but not for the reason that would prove significant in the long term:
Second, the implication of the question was that we don't have enough to win against the insurgency. We're not going to win against the insurgency. The Iraqi people are going to win against the insurgency. That insurgency could go on for any number of years. Insurgencies tend to go on five, six, eight, 10, 12 years.
The "10 to 12 year" remark would be the news of the week. But a Washington Post follow up to the story that actually mattered would indicate that talks with insurgents had been in the works for months before the Time Magazine story appeared in January:
Other parts of the U.S. government, including the State Department and CIA, have also been holding secret meetings with Iraqi insurgent factions in an effort to stop the violence and coax them into the political process, according to U.S. government officials and others who have participated in the efforts.
Excised from the headlines by Rumsfeld's 10-12 year remark, reporters would quickly forget the "US negotiating with terrorists" angle, and the story would vanish from the media for several months. Typical news coverage of Iraq from that period (and all others) offered little more than the running death toll, and bore headlines like the one on this story: Bombings Across Iraq Kill More Than 50 People.
In the deadliest of Monday's attacks, two bombings killed 30 people in the volatile northern town of Tall Afar, hospital officials said.A follow up story the next day would add "balance" to a report that al Qaeda in Iraq leader Zarqawi had been shot:
Insurgent Chief Wounded, Aide SaysAs with Rumsfeld's 10 to 12 years remark, the Zarqawi possibly shot angle garnered the vast majority of American media attention. (Only after he was actually killed in a coalition strike would the media reveal that he was actually a pathtic fool whose importance was over-emphasized by Americans and whose death only strengthened al Qaeda in Iraq.)
As for the situation in Tall Afar, Moqtada Sadr announced he was going to send "help":
However, Moqtada Sadr, a radical Shiite cleric based in the southern city of Najaf, said the fighting in Tall Afar involved two tribes and that news media were exaggerating its sectarian nature. Sadr said he would send aides to the city.
Although it rarely appeared in the news as other than a place where someone was killed, the importance of that obscure northern town of Tall Afar had been explained one year previously in a Christian Science Monitor report:
Iraq Battles Its Leaking BordersIn spite of heroic individual and unit efforts, the American experience in Tall Afar over the next year would stand as an example of how not to conduct counter insurgency operations. In fact, by the time of Secretary Rumsfeld's "We're not going to win against the insurgency. We're going to create an environment that the Iraqi people and the Iraqi security forces can win against that insurgency" comment, certain limitations in the American approach to achieving that noble goal should have been clear.
Posted by Greyhawk / June 8, 2008 3:26 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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