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August 7, 2008
The British InvasionBy Greyhawk
(A short version of this post can be found here,)
From the get go, they tried very hard to not be American. They succeeded.
April, 2003 - The Guardian:
Senior British military officers on the ground are making it clear they are dismayed by the failure of US troops to try to fight the battle for hearts and minds.May, 2003 - The New York Times:
Under Low-Key British Rule, Basra Shows Signs of Coming Back to LifeJune, 2003, - The BBC:
Six British military police officers have been killed and eight other servicemen wounded in two separate incidents in south-eastern Iraq.
October, 2003 - The Independent
Crime-racked Basra calls on British troops to get tougherSpring, 2004 - Steven Vincent:
Last spring, my friend Nour and I sat down in Basra's Hamdan Restaurant with Khalid and two other corresondents from his newspaper, where they told me about the difficult problems of carrying out "true" journalism in their country. Under the passive noses of the British, they complained, criminal gangs had taken control of Iraq's second largest city, earning money through extortion, fuel smuggling and liquor and drug dealing. Moreover, favoritism, bribery and graft--particularly through the use of phony contracting--was rampant.October, 2004, The Telegraph:
US tactics condemned by British officersDecember, 2004 - Steven Vincent:
Recently I received an e-mail from Khalid, a journalist I met in Basra, where he was an up-and-coming reporter for one of the city's largest newspaper. At the time, he was a very pro-American young man, who, like many Iraqis, felt anxious--but excited--about the future of post-Saddam Iraq. His correspondence, therefore, came as an unpleasant surprise I wish I could offer better news, but if I'm going to invite my friends to contribute on this blog, I must present their comments as they write them, negative assessments and all.March, 2005 - The Washington Post:
Picnic Is No Party In the New BasraMay/June, 2005 - Steven Vincent, National Review:
Basra, Iraq — It’s been a little over a year since I was last in Basra, and at first glance little has changed. The buildings are just as dilapidated, livestock still periodically cross the rubble-strewn streets, and the once beautiful canals remain clotted with trash. The heat, too, is the same, although the summertime onslaught of humidity that afflicts this southern port city — situated about 40 kilometers from the Arabian Gulf — is still months away.May, 2005 - Steven Vincent:
Seems the MNF (as in "Multi-national Force," the preferred term these days for the "Coalition") was turning over a newly-refurbished border fort to Iraqi control and did I want to go? Sure, why not, throwing on a blue helmet and flak jacket, `s only gonna take an hour or two, right?May, 2005 - Steven Vincent:
Jesus. I mean, Jee-zus. Crumbling houses, muddy streets, broken down cars rotting in pools of motor oil, plastic bags--the scourge of the Iraqi environment--ensnared on coils of concertina wire...this is a booming port town?June, 2005 - Steven Vincent:
The sharp ripping sound erupted somewhere close to the hotel. Automatic weapon fire, I thought, flashing back to Baghdad, where the same noise was--and still is--a constant part of city life. Perhaps it's just a wedding. But it was 9 a.m., and besides, everyone knows that the Hauwza--the religious establishment in Najaf--has outlawed the casualty-producing custom of celebrating nuptials by firing guns into the sky.June, 2005 - Steven Vincent:
According to Dr Zaineldin, his institution lacks the one facility you'd expect in a well-equipped Iraqi hospital--an emergency ward. "The British asked us to close it down," he explained. Why? Seems it was encouraging young tribal bucks to go out a-feuding, get themselves shot up, then receive top-notch treatment in the most advanced medical center in town.
July 2005 - Steven Vincent, The New York Times:
"No one trusts the police," one Iraqi journalist told me. "If our new ayatollahs snap their fingers, thousands of police will jump." Mufeed al-Mushashaee, the leader of a liberal political organization called the Shabanea Rebellion, told me that he felt that "the entire force should be dissolved and replaced with people educated in human rights and democracy."August, 2005 - National review:
According to an e-mail from Vincent's wife sent on Tuesday night, Vincent and his Iraqi translator, Nour Weidi, were "snatched in front of a bank on Tuesday, August 2nd at 6:30 P.M. local time. Two men drove up, grabbed them, threw them in a car and took off. Nour dropped her ID on the street, which is how the British were able to figure out who it was." Hours later, the American embassy in Baghdad would confirm Vincent dead, and his translator seriously wounded. Vincent's body was found on the side of a highway. He had been shot multiple times in the head.
September, 2005 - The Guardian:
Day of violence in Basra exposes myth of trust between British and Iraqi forcesNovember, 2005 - The Spectator:
The proverbial library of successful counter-insurgencies -- a woefully small collection -- is dominated by the near-legendary campaigns of the British, including those carried out in Malaya, Aden, and Oman. Until recently, some observers thought it entirely possible that the British effort in southern Iraq would join this catalog of battlefield achievements. Those hopes -- once prevalent among the media and military experts -- died a most public death early this fall, when British soldiers rushed to rescue two special forces operatives that had been arrested by Iraqi police. After storming the compound, the troops were confronted by squads of heavily armed militiamen who had strategically intermixed themselves with the riotous crowd. The resultant firefight saw British armored vehicles pelted with Molotov cocktails and British soldiers wounded by hurled explosives.November, 2005 - The New York Times:
Blair Says a Troop Cut in Iraq Is a 'Possibility' Next YearJanuary, 2006 - CNN:
100th British soldier dies in IraqFebruary, 2006 - The Daily Times:
Explosives packed into the wash area of a Shia mosque in the southern city of Basra blew up on Sunday, causing minor injuries, police and witnesses said.October, 2006 - The Telegraph:
British to evacuate consulate in Basra after mortar attacksFebruary, 2007 - The BBC:
Blair announces Iraq troops cutFebruary, 2007 - The Independent:
The partial British military withdrawal from southern Iraq announced by Tony Blair this week follows political and military failure, and is not because of any improvement in local security, say specialists on Iraq.July, 2007 - The New York Times:
British Pullback in Iraq Presages Hurdles for U.S.August, 2007 - The Washington Post:
As British Leave, Basra DeterioratesSeptember, 2007 - Simon Henderson, The Washington Institute:
Leaving Basra City: Britain's Withdrawal from IraqSummer, 2007 - Michael Yon, Moment of Truth in Iraq
The British soldiers had been out longer than thirteen hours and the heat was stifling. Ambient temperature was now 115 F, outside the vehicles, and temperatures approached 70 C (around 150 F) inside. Soldiers poured water down their body armor. The driver was naked other than his body armor and helmet, while soldiers in the back literally pulled down their pants. This was more than an attempt at comfort; they were trying not to die. Thick clouds of thick dust baked the putrid Basra odors until they could gag a goat, although by then the soldiers inside the Bulldogs and Warriors [British military vehicles] could have offered serious competition in a stink contest.With their heavy body armor and helmets, and laden with ammunition, rashes erupted on their skin. Their goggles and ballistic glasses were filthy. The place was like a toilet used as an oven. The people on the septic streets were flushed with hostility.<(See also: Men of Valor)
October 2007 - The Independent:
US 'delayed' British withdrawal from BasraOctober, 2007 - The Telegraph:
Message from Basra: 'get us out of here'March, 2008 - Defense News/Agence France-Presse:
U.S. Wants British 'Surge' In S. Iraq: PaperMarch 25, 2008 - Associated Press:
Iraqi forces clashed with Shiite militias in the southern oil port of Basra on Tuesday as a security plan to clamp down on violence between rival militia factions in the region began.27 March, 2008 - VOA:
Iraqi PM Vows to Continue Basra Offensive Despite ProtestsMarch 30, 2008 - McClatchy:
Iraqi lawmakers traveled to the Iranian holy city of Qom over the weekend to win the support of the commander of Iran's Qods brigades in persuading Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr to order his followers to stop military operations, members of the Iraqi parliament said.April 1, 2008 - The Australian:
No peace in Basra despite Sadr callMarch 31, 2008 - The New York Times:
Calling on my experience as a captain in the Iraqi Army before the 2003 invasion and essentially a war correspondent since then, I headed to Basra to see if I could make my way into the city and see what was happening there.April 16, 2008 - Xinhua:
Coalition air strikes kill four gunmen in Iraq's BasraApril 20, 2008 - Associated Press:
Secretary of State Rice Mocks Muslim Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr as a CowardApril 25, 2008 - The London Times:
Young women are daring to wear jeans, soldiers listen to pop music on their mobile phones and bands are performing at wedding parties again.April 27, 2008 - ABC (Australia):
Iraqis take last Sadr bastion in Basra: USAugust, 2008 - The London Times:
Secret deal kept British Army out of battle for Basra
Posted by Greyhawk / August 7, 2008 12:47 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