Greetings! You are reading an article from The Mudville Gazette. To reach the front page, with all the latest news and views, click the logo above or "main" below. Thanks for stopping by!
July 19, 2008
The TempestBy Greyhawk
- Shakespeare, The Tempest
In comments through the (currently ongoing) While America Slept Series, recently embedded Iraq reporter Nathan Webster and I have been discussing the relative merits of the troop increase ("the surge") and the recruitment of local citizens (Awakening Movements, Sons of Iraq, Concerned local Citizens groups, former insurgents, and a host of other names - your choice - I'll use any and all below) in the fight to stabilize Iraq.
I think this comment is a reasonable statement:
To propose that any of these deeply intertwined developments would have brought us to where we are today without the influence of the others is wrong. In fact, it's absurd. Better analogies probably escape me just now, but it seems akin to arguing whether your car's engine or transmission deserve the credit for your last trip.I can add a couple of others - whether the offense or defense wins football games, or whether the guitar or drums matter more to a band. There are those who are willing to enter such arguments - I'm not among them. (Nor is Mr Webster, I should add.)
But those who follow politics are aware of the argument that "the surge" was unnecessary and pointless (or, in the extreme, a "failure") because of the rise of Iraqis (usually this argument is limited to the Anbar Awakening movement - with similar success in other areas being ignored) against militias, insurgents, JAM, or al Qaeda (again, your choice). Those who make this argument also tend to see the Awakening Movement as something that sprang forth from the sands (in spite of US presence in Iraq - or even because of American failure to pacify the region) in the late summer of 2006. (I'm not aware of anyone anywhere arguing that the "citizens" movement didn't contribute to success in Iraq. If there are such voices please let me know.)
Hopefully my position on the Iraqis or Americans debate is clear from the above. If not, the short answer is both. For those seeking a long answer, I've been working on another ongoing (though overdue for update) series here called Genesis that describes in greater detail the parallel development of both trends.
That said, the Genesis series may be a bit complex (and lengthy) for some. With that in mind, I will attempt to present a shorter timeline on the development of the "awakening councils" alone here. The staunch defenders of the "surge wasn't needed" argument will probably be surprised to discover whose point of view they currently embrace.
"What's past is prologue." as the bard wrote. This is a brief overview of developments that did not occur in isolation from others (a few references to concurrent events are included for some historical perspective on what the mainstream narrative on Iraq was at the time). For additional details and links to source material see Genesis.
August, 2004 (The Washington Times):
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.February, 2005 (Michael Ware/Time magazine):
"We are ready," he says before leaving, "to work with you."June, 2005 ( The London Times):
AT a summer villa near Balad in the hills 40 miles north of Baghdad, a group of Iraqis and their American visitors recently sat down to tea. It looked like a pleasant social encounter far removed from the stresses of war, but the heavy US military presence around the isolated property signalled that an unusual meeting was taking place.June, 2005 (Fox News Sunday):
CHRIS WALLACE: Let's start with these reports of these direct meetings between U.S. officials, including allegedly a representative of the Pentagon, and insurgent commanders. Did they happen, and, if so, what did they accomplish?In that same interview, Rumsfeld dismissed calls for additional troops in Iraq, stating that the Iraqis were the ones who would ultimately defeat "the insurgency":
I can understand some people would say, "Oh, there ought to be more," or, "There ought to be less." General Abizaid and General Casey are absolutely convinced, and said so publicly, that they would worry if there were more U.S. forces there, because it would require more force protection, more support troops, more targets, a heavier footprint, a more intrusive occupation force that would further alienate Iraqi people from the coalition forces and what they're trying to do.January, 2006 (USA Today):
"Now you actually have a wedge, or a split, between the Sunni population and al-Qaeda in Iraq," said Maj. Gen. Richard Zahner, deputy chief of staff for intelligence for multinational forces in Iraq. "It poses a significant crossroads for these groups as they look at where they head."February, 2006 (The Christian Science Monitor):
Sunni Tribes Turn Against JihadisFebruary, 2006 (The London Times):
Sunni Leader Killed For Joining Ceasefire TalksMarch, 2006 (The Washington Post)
Iraqi Tribes Strike Back At InsurgentsMarch, 2006 (Reuters):
Most Americans see Iraq civil war as likely: pollJune, 2006 (Time Magazine):
The objective of Maliki's "national unity" policy, strongly backed by U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, involves trying to draw the Sunnis, including some mainstream insurgent groups, into the political process.While all this was ongoing, coalition forces were capturing al-Qaeda members (often on tips from Iraqi citizens) and gaining intel that ultimately led to the June attack that killed Zarqawi.
June, 2006 (Mudville)
Coalition forces kill Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi
June, 2006 (Mudville):
The recently released letter from a senior al-Qaeda "advisor" to al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (captured in the aftermath of the strike that killed him) confirms the strained relationship between the factions of the terrorist organization.August/September, 2006 (Mudville. Note: While now considered "conventional wisdom" the events described in this passage were ignored by American media as they happened, and this story was broken right here in the Mudville Gazette):
A first publicly-released message from Abu Hamza al-Muhajir — also known as Abu Ayyub al-Masri - the late Abu Musab al Zarqawi's replacement as leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, made brief headlines in the western media late last month.November, 2006 (The London Times):
While the world’s attention has been focused on Baghdad’s slide into sectarian warfare, something remarkable has been happening in Ramadi, a city of 400,000 inhabitants that al-Qaeda and its Iraqi allies have controlled since mid-2004 and would like to make the capital of their cherished Islamic caliphate.November, 2006 (Mudville):
Sunni Leader Urges Arab Nations Not To Back Iraq's Shiite-Led GovernmentBut...
Sunni sheiks from Iraq's volatile Anbar province have denounced a powerful Sunni cleric as "a thug" for supporting the al-Qaida terrorist group.November 2006 (Mudville):
Close Air Support to the Anbar Salvation CouncilDecember, 2006 - Anbar, as described in American media:
The U.S. military is no longer able to defeat a bloody insurgency in western Iraq or counter al-Qaeda's rising popularity there, according to newly disclosed details from a classified Marine Corps intelligence report...Janury, 2007 - President Bush announces "the surge" (Mudville)
Our military forces in Anbar are killing and capturing al Qaeda leaders, and they are protecting the local population. Recently, local tribal leaders have begun to show their willingness to take on al Qaeda. And as a result, our commanders believe we have an opportunity to deal a serious blow to the terrorists.March, 2007 (Mudville):
Q (Through interpreter.) (Name inaudible) -- from Al Hurra. Could you confirm to us, please, that there is a dialogue between the American officials and the Mahdi Army militias and some armed groups like the Islamic Party in Iraq?The rest, as they say, is history.
But let's review the words of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld from June, 2005:
"And if you think about it, there aren't the good guys and the bad guys over there. There are people all across the spectrum.The next time you hear someone arguing that the Salvation Councils saved Iraq and that McCain's additional troops weren't needed, point out that they're claiming that Rumsfeld was right, that his plan worked - and ask them why they didn't support the former SecDef so staunchly and vocally when it mattered.
Politics makes strange bedfellows: Political interests can bring together people who otherwise have little in common. This saying is adapted from a line in the play The Tempest, by William Shakespeare: “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.” It is spoken by a man who has been shipwrecked and finds himself seeking shelter beside a sleeping monster.
For more details on the above see Genesis.
For another comparison/contrast of news coverage of the Awakening Councils vs al Qaeda battle, see Decap Attacks.
Posted by Greyhawk / July 19, 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...)
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