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August 21, 2008
Reds (Part One)By Greyhawk
A History of Violence...
This post is about 2008. More importantly it's also about 2009 and all the years thereafter. But we're going to drop back in time just a bit first - please bear with me.
We're heading for Baghdad, late 2003 and early 2004. Steven Vincent is our tour guide - there is no better. He is dead, of course, but because of that he's frozen in time via his writing. Our vehicle for this trip is In The Red Zone: A Journey Into The Soul Of Iraq, his chronicle of his journeys in Iraq in 2003 and 2004. To read it now is to be reminded of things forgotten - or nearly so.
He titled chapter two "An image of Hadeel" - after a picture of an Iraqi girl he had seen on a wall in Baghdad...
The photo - actually a color Xerox - showed a pretty, rather plump , reddish-haired Iraqi woman smiling at the camera, a Santa Claus cap perched on her head. Her name, according to an inscription printed beneath her image, was Hadeel..."At the time of the photograph" our tour guide informs us, "the 29 year old had just gotten engaged, the nuptials set for mid-February."
The cautious reader will have a sense of foreboding at this point, a nagging urge to click away, go no further, advance no more...
Caught in an unguarded moment of laughter, hair mussed, eyes gleaming, the silly mirth of an office Christmas party behind her, Hadeel seemed like any young woman the world over who was anticipating marriage, children, and a happy future growing old with her husband.She was killed by a suicide bomber driving "a flatbed truck carrying a thousand pounds of plastic explosives and several 155mm artillery shells... It seemed the shaheed had intended to ram his truck into the CPA compound, but had prematurely detonated the device in rush hour traffic."
Trapped inside the car as she waited to enter for work, Hadeel burned to death.
The people who killed her have supporters in the United States:
Were we as anti-war activists in the US really resisting? And if not, what would have to change?We'll get around to sourcing that quote later - for now I'll only hint that the author has something in common with Hadeel, though she herself was never burned to death in a car on her way to work by people with a "right to resist".
That last quote was from 2005, by the way. Terrorist apologists were fairly common in that year, four years after 9/11, two years into Iraq. It was a year in which three elections were held in Iraq, a year in which Steven Vincent was killed in Basra, and a year I documented a number of atrocities committed by the "resistance":
The suicide attack that was performed on an election center in one of Baghdad's districts (Baghdad Al-Jadeedah) last Sunday was performed using a kidnapped "Down Syndrome" patient.
A Shia Muslim from the Sadr City slums of Baghdad, Ahmed had joined the new Iraqi National Guard, only to be killed in his patrol car when a bomb planted by insurgents exploded.
BAGHDAD -- A suicide bomber in an explosives-laden SUV killed at least 27, including an American soldier, late this morning in the deadliest insurgent attack in more than two months.
"If we are fighting a war against terrorism, terrorism impacts innocent people, so we want to show them that we're against that, and that's why we need to help these families that are so desperate."
The group said in a statement posted on the Internet that it had killed the envoy, Ihab al-Sherif, but it did not say when or how. The group said "that the verdict of God has been implemented against the ambassador of the infidels, the ambassador of Egypt, thank God."
Iraq's most feared terror group warned foreign diplomats yesterday to flee the country after announcing it will put to death two kidnapped Moroccan Embassy employees.
To win the war against the US military and Badr, Colonel Jassam advises the Omariyun to follow two short-term goals - to cement mujahideen control over the Ramadi area, and to stage operations that will increase pressure on US opinion to withdraw troops.
And I watched a car bomb burn at a police check point in Tall 'Afar, the explosion killing no one but the people inside the car -- a man, a woman and two young children.
A suicide attacker steered a car packed with explosives toward U.S. soldiers giving away toys to children outside a hospital in central Iraq on Thursday, killing at least 31 people. Almost all of the victims were women and children, police said.
But Shaya said he was injured even before he went on the mission when insurgents detonated a truck bomb he was supposed to leave at a target site.
"Terrorism was in London. Terrorism was in Spain. Terrorism was, obviously, in the United States.
Were we as anti-war activists in the US really resisting? And if not, what would have to change? <...> We must begin by really standing with the Iraqi people and defending their right to resist. I can remain myself against all forms of violence, and yet I cannot judge what someone has to do when pushed to the wall to protect all they love.All from 2005. And 2006 saw even more death and destruction. But the irony within that final quote is that 2006 is also the year that the Iraqi people did find their backs to the wall and increasingly exercised their right to resist - against the people who actually were slaughtering them in the streets. It was the year of the Samarra bombing and the year of "civil war in Iraq" headlines, but it was also the year of Anbar Awakening, and the year America figured things out. It was the year we almost lost, but almost doesn't count. And it was the year I began with a review of 2005 that ended like this:
And now 2006 has begun. As noted here early last year (and repeated)If you've been reading Mudville for any time at all you must have gotten the message: the insurgents are on the ropes. Make no mistake about it - they are capable of killing people in large numbers, but their political effectiveness is virtually nil."Capable of killing people in large numbers" - proven.
To win the war against the US military and Badr, Colonel Jassam advises the Omariyun to follow two short-term goals - to cement mujahideen control over the Ramadi area, and to stage operations that will increase pressure on US opinion to withdraw troops. <...> To achieve their second goal, turning Americans against the war, the mujahideen need to shape their operations "to support anti- war sentiment in the west", he says.By 2007, they could time their most heinous attacks to coincide with US Congressional votes - and few would even notice the connection...
Reid, the Senate's top Democrat, described part of a meeting with Bush at the White House on Wednesday -- the same day bombs killed almost 200 people in Baghdad in the worst day of violence since a U.S.-backed security crackdown was launched there earlier this year.But 2007 was the year we won the war. We poured in troops and got things done and while strident voices on the home front demanded we abandon Iraq (and some would maintain the 2006 fiction that we were "caught in the crossfire of a civil war") none would dare argue the 2005 point that we were fighting against a righteous and noble "resistance".
What if we had chosen another course? What if we had pulled back instead of pushing forward? One possible answer can be gleaned from the British experience of the last three years - an experience I documented here. In compiling that I realized that in hindsight - even more so than when new - Steven Vincent's posts from Basra were amazing. They filled a huge gap in the narrative of Southern Iraq, and revealed a population begging the British to remain in force or for the more "aggressive" Americans to replace them - even as our allies acted on the theory that their presence was only making things worse, that only if left to themselves would the Iraqis work things out. The failure of that theory is evident now - in hindsight - but the warning signs were glaringly obvious if one reads the first-hand accounts of Basra in 2005 that cost Steven Vincent his life.
Posted by Greyhawk / August 21, 2008 1:58 AM | 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.
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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