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June 23, 2008
Pointing and ShootingBy Greyhawk
Some recent photos from markets in Basra, Iraq:
The two above are from the London Times, and are captioned "Now the tide of fundamentalism which swept in when the Shia militias enforced their brand of Islam appears to have been turned back. Citizens report that music stores are reopening, fashionable clothes are being worn again, and people are holding parties."
But this one is from the New York Times:
Its caption reads "A young boy slept on his mother`s shoulder as she shopped in the Jaezeri market in downtown Basra. The government`s success in Basra may not have been so much a victory as heavy fighting followed by a truce that allowed militias to melt away with their weapons."
You can tell by the grim looks and by the photographer's use of black and white that such must be the case.
Its from a park, not a market, but here's another baby photo from Basra
This one came from the Washington Post. "Families picnic on the weekend at a small neighborhood amusement park in Basra." The caption reads. "The park was closed for weeks in April amid violence in Basra."
Someone had best get them a subscription to the New York Times soon - then they could see dark and grainy photos like this one:
"Iraqi soldiers," the caption reads, "inside a warehouse compound, repelled several attacks by the Mahdi Army, the militia of the anti-American Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, on the site."
Is that good news, or bad?
The answer depends on you. Point your camera in another direction, switch to color, and you'll capture images of Iraqi soldiers like this one from the Washington Post:
Here's a close up, along with a similar photo from the London Times
There's something for everyone in Basra (and Baghdad, London, Detroit and DC, too). You can get photos that show stark reality, and others that are suitable for viewing by readers of the NY Times. Gloomy grim and black and white or in vibrant living color - unless you're actually there how you see Iraq depends on lenses and filters. Not necessarily those used by photographers - some are selected for you by helpful editors or political leaders - while others might be of your own choosing.
"...a doomsayer is a person with a serious point of view, someone who is to be respected. And ...a doomslayer is a crackpot who needs to be taken down a peg.(More here.)
I attempted to explain that in a different context myself, from Baghdad last year.
I suppose there could be another sub-genre of science fiction: the bleak future that didn't happen. Watch almost any pre-Star Wars sci-fi films of the 70's - Silent Running, Soylent Green, Logan's Run, et al - and you'll see examples what I mean.I don't know if anyone caught on, but I was actually talking about Iraq there - not any of those other things. I mean, I was in Baghdad, after all - during a month with one of the highest death tolls of the war. Perhaps my optimism amidst all that would earn me scorn from New York Times readers (if they ever sought news from other sources) - but if so, they would at least have understood what I meant.
But surely this is cause for hope: "The New York Times has made a startling discovery: things are much improved in Iraq."
Just ignore the photos above. And Frank Rich's New York Times opinion piece:
THE Iraq war’s defenders like to bash the press for pushing the bad news and ignoring the good. Maybe they’ll be happy to hear that the bad news doesn’t rate anymore. When a bomb killed at least 51 Iraqis at a Baghdad market on Tuesday, ending an extended run of relative calm, only one of the three network newscasts (NBC’s) even bothered to mention it.But - paradoxically - Frank knows. He's wrong on many counts, but right as rain on this one:
The G.O.P.’s badgering of Mr. Obama about the war is also backfiring. In sync with Mr. McCain, the Republican National Committee unveiled an online clock — “Track How Long Since Obama Was in Iraq!” — only to have Mr. Obama call the bluff by announcing that he will go to both Afghanistan and Iraq before the election. Unless he takes along his own Lieberman-like Jiminy Cricket to whisper factual corrections into his ear, this trip is likely to enhance his stature as a potential commander in chief.Demanding Obama go to Iraq was the dumbest political move thus far of the as yet early silly season. Why? Look at the photos above - Obama will most assuredly see Iraq in black and white.
"What I hope we don’t hear from General Petraeus next week is any glorification of what has just happened in Basra..."
She could perhaps be excused if she only gets her news from American sources. Media outlets in countries that aren't having presidential elections this year continued to cover the Basra story long after her declaration of failure.
But then Nancy Pelosi went to Iraq.
BAGHDAD (AP) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a top Democratic critic of the U.S.-led war in Iraq, expressed confidence during a visit to Iraq Saturday that expected provincial elections will promote national reconciliation.Hooray! She saw it in person, and can't deny The Progress! Then, once back in America:
In an interview yesterday with the San Francisco Chronicle, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi claimed the U.S. troop surge failed to accomplish its goal. She then partially credited the success of the troop surge to “the goodwill of the Iranians,” claiming that they were responsible for ending violence in the southern city of Basra.(More here)
Mr. Speaker, I’m sorry I cannot fully participate in all of the camaraderie that is accompanying this legislation because of the huge amount of money that is in this bill to fund the war in Iraq without any conditions, without any limitation on time spent there.Now no one's going to call Speaker Pelosi for that bit of hypocrisy, anymore than they'll point out she's wrong about how long we were in World War II (hint: not just 3 years) or how many Americans have been killed in battle in Iraq (3,340 as of June 20, not 4,100).
Because Nancy went to Iraq, and came back:
“Over Memorial Day, I visited our troops in Iraq with some of our colleagues and it was my sixth trip into the theatre. And what they asked me was what they always asked: ‘What’s going to happen to us when we go home?’ And for a long time on those visits, I didn’t have an answer that I could be pleased to tell them....and sees it all in black and white.
And Barack Hussein Obama says he's going to follow in her footsteps.
Posted by Greyhawk / June 23, 2008 3:59 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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