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July 17, 2008
While America Slept (Part four)By Greyhawk
(Previous entry in series here.)
"I'm reluctant to say "the war has ended," as he did, but everything else he wrote is undoubtedly true."
He was expanding on a brief post he'd done at his own site, in which he added that "...I'll be back in Iraq myself soon enough, and I'll weigh in on that question then."
And I believe he's uniquely (and superbly) qualified to do it - so I'm looking forward to his reports.
I met quite a few wandering bloggers passing through Baghdad last year. Missed a few, too.
Mike Totten stopped by on his way to and from Fallujah. He'd been through before, had seen the red zone at it's most red. But this trip was different. While we'd been hearing a little about Ramadi (specifically the awakening movement) Fallujah had all but dropped off the radar as far as media reports from Iraq. Generally this means a place is relatively peaceful, and I thought Mike's choice was interesting for that reason - what sort of story could he tell from such a place?
Turns out he could tell a damn fine story (several, in fact), and once back stateside he did. Michael Totten hadn't come looking for a tale of combat, he sought the story of Iraq.
And by coincidence, his first posted story on his travels to Fallujah prompted what would turn out to be my own final post from Iraq.
Here (with spelling errors intact) is an absurd comment left under Michael Totten's first report from Fallujah:Your no Micheal Yon, and your reporting seems to be all over the place. Are things better or not in the town? Seems like you give it a "Wow, I'm not in harms way since the surge helped the country, how many ways can I say things are bad over here, but not as bad. I suggest these readers go to someone who goes out on combat missions he's attached to with the ground pounders, and get a real feel of reporting. Micheal Yon.I don't want to promote any discussion of the relative merits of the various bloggers who've actually come to Iraq to cover the war first-hand - I greatly admire them all, and I've yet to find any who weren't worth reading. The more the merrier, as they say; after all, there are a million stories to tell over here - plenty to go around. But I wanted to highlight this for two reasons: one, to provide the link to Totten's Fallujah report (which should be widely read) and two, to point out something most readers here have probably seen but not noticed: two of Yon's most recent posts have actually been advice columns on suitable cameras for deployed reporters.
But with that and other evidence of victory obvious in Baghdad at the time, I also noted that "Meanwhile, back in America 48 percent of respondents to a Pew Poll feel that the military effort is not going well, and 44 percent feel we are losing ground to the insurgents."
Such, I suppose, is the power of television.
"Well, we're drowning in information but somebody has to sort it out. So, when it came to the war, despite enormous pressure from the administration that said to the media, 'You folks in the media are being too negative. You're distorting the picture.' We had brave correspondents bringing us the carnage night after night, into our living rooms, what was going on in Iraq. And you had the anchors framing the story in such a way that it really punched through."
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Bill Roggio in this discussion. Especially since he and I were on Camp Victory for one of the more spectacular (and, frankly, not spectacular) indirect fire attacks of the year. Bill's efforts in establishing the Long War Journal as the go-to site for front line reporting and strategic analysis on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan are without equal, grass-roots media at it's finest. His site is now home to an unmatched cadre of new media war reporters, and if the mainstream media shifts their focus to Afghanistan over the coming months they'll have to work hard to catch up to LWJ, Bill never lost his focus on that corner of the war.
"I'd like to leave Iraq a little better than I found it."
I met quite a few wandering bloggers passing through Baghdad last year. Missed a few, too. One of those I missed had recently stopped updating his site - like so many other military bloggers too often do. But shortly before he deployed Mrs G received a welcome email: "As you may recall, I had to go to radio listening silence after I was warned that my writings might be a bit too strong to stay within Army regs a few months back. I'm happy to report that I am blogging again..."
He added that he was hoping to "maybe give the folks back home a little information they wouldn't otherwise get."
She replied "Great News, was looking in on you just the other day for anything new. Glad to have you back. Greyhawk asked me to pass on that he's in Baghdad. Maybe you two can get together and do lunch."
"I'd enjoy that. I will spend about two weeks at Taji sometime in mid-July...if he's in that area, I'd love to get a chance to finally meet him."
Schedules are inflexible, leisure travel impossible, and lunch was the most that could be hoped for. But it didn't happen. I'd have enjoyed getting the chance to actually speak to him face to face - I wanted him to accept the credit I thought was his. A few years before, when I'd begun writing my history of milblogs project, I'd emailed him about just how early he'd begun - I believed then (and still do) that he was the first of us all.
From reading his reply I got the impression that was a distinction he felt he didn't deserve:
"What I remember isn't much: I started blogging on 11 Oct 01, inspired by Glenn Reynolds primarily, although I was also reading Virginia Postrel at the time. I'm sure there were other milbloggers at the time, although I can't recall any off hand. The first I remember seeing was Sgt. Stryker. I'm not sure when he got his start. He was more of a true military guy, though, as my focus has always been more on philosophy and politics."
You can get a feel for that philosophy in a profile a local paper did on him before he deployed:
"I want to see if I can help the Iraqi Army understand a little bit about the rule of law and the importance of being professional soldiers devoted to something higher than just the local tribe or their family," he said. "But I don't know how realistic that is. I don't expect to make any huge changes. If I can make some incremental changes that's about the best I can hope for."
That was Andy Olmsted, of course, in the Rocky Mountain News. He was going to lead a team doing the toughest job left to do in Iraq - fighting the last battle of the war, if you will: prepare the Iraqi Army to take the lead, and facilitate our departure. That's part of the story he'd hoped to help tell.
Here's the full email I quoted from above:
As you may recall, I had to go to radio listening silence after I was warned that my writings might be a bit too strong to stay within Army regs a few months back. I'm happy to report that I am blogging again, now for the Rocky Mountain News about my assignment as a MiTT commander. The blog is here, and they've done a profile of me here. I plan to take full advantage of this exposure to get the word out about what the MiTTs are doing in Iraq and maybe give the folks back home a little information they wouldn't otherwise get.
Less well known was that he was also blogging at Obsidian Wings under the pseudonym G'kar. A co-blogger there would post his final entry on Andrew's own blog - an entry in which Andy announced "I'm dead. That sucks," and "I died doing a job I loved."
One who knew him better than I addressed the overwhelming attention that post received:
I think Andy would be astonished at the amount of attention his last post received. He could be pretty self-effacing that way... He'd be embarrassed by all the fuss, and genuinely surprised, but deep down, I think it would have meant the world to him. I just wish he could be here to see it.Andrew Olmsted had prepared his final post before he deployed, when the fighting at Iraq was at it's worst, as was a different sort of fighting back home. And in it he also left this message for the world:
I do ask (not that I'm in a position to enforce this) that no one try to use my death to further their political purposes. I went to Iraq and did what I did for my reasons, not yours. My life isn't a chit to be used to bludgeon people to silence on either side. If you think the U.S. should stay in Iraq, don't drag me into it by claiming that somehow my death demands us staying in Iraq. If you think the U.S. ought to get out tomorrow, don't cite my name as an example of someone's life who was wasted by our mission in Iraq. I have my own opinions about what we should do about Iraq, but since I'm not around to expound on them I'd prefer others not try and use me as some kind of moral capital to support a position I probably didn't support.
Guess what, Andy... we won.
Posted by Greyhawk / July 17, 2008 6:31 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...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
Furthermore, I will occasionally use satire or parody herein. The bottom line: it's my house.
I like having visitors to my house. I hope you are entertained. I fight for your right to free speech, and am thrilled when you exercise said rights here. Comments and e-mails are welcome, but all such communication is to be assumed to be 1)the original work of any who initiate said communication and 2)the property of the Mudville Gazette, with free use granted thereto for publication in electronic or written form. If you do NOT wish to have your message posted, write "CONFIDENTIAL" in the subject line of your email.
Original content copyright © 2003 - 2011 by Greyhawk. Fair, not-for-profit use of said material by others is encouraged, as long as acknowledgement and credit is given, to include the url of the original source post. Other arrangements can be made as needed.
Contact: greyhawk at mudvillegazette dot com