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May 4, 2009
Going Through WithdrawalsBy Greyhawk
Iraq's government said Sunday it won't extend a June deadline for U.S. combat troops to leave Iraqi cities despite concerns about ongoing attacks in cities like Mosul.That's fine - but what isn't is the willful propagation of ignorance on this topic by the American media. Anyone who believes the overly simplistic story CNN is pedaling here is in for a rude awakening at the end of June.
From the milblogs conference Q&A session with Major General Michael Oates, commander, Multi-National Division-South (MND-S), a two minute explanation of what U.S. forces will be doing in cities in Iraq after June 30th - per the security agreements between Iraq and the U.S.:
Given the referenced effort to ensure Iraqis are informed, it's a damn shame to see an equal - if not stronger - effort on the part of CNN to ensure Americans are kept as ignorant as possible. And while we're on the topic of possible, I should acknowledge that CNN is possibly ignorant about this too, and thus telling truth as best as they can possibly understand it as opposed to half truth (or outright lies).
First - the key passage from the Iraq Status of Forces Agreement: "All United States combat forces shall withdraw from Iraqi cities, villages, and localities no later than the time at which Iraqi Security Forces assume full responsibility for security in an Iraqi province, provided that such withdrawal is completed no later than June 30, 2009." Got it? Good.
Because the next Brigade Combat Team heading for Iraq (for MND-S, even) won't be called a combat team:
A city manager's course, civil affairs training and Border Patrol class have not been typical training for brigade combat teams headed to Iraq - until now.I may have misunderstood the purpose of that training, but learning "essential city services" seems an odd way for someone to spend their time if they won't be in cities.
There have already been some invocations of Orwell associated with the name change. But I took the opportunity to participate in the same roundtable that resulted in the story above, and in this two minute excerpt Col Newell addresses my question about those criticisms:
You can find full audio and text transcript of the roundtable discussion here. Whatever they're called doesn't matter - what the Brigade will be doing in Iraq is continuing the effort along a trajectory established well over a year ago - the transition to effective Iraqi control. That won't be easy, and success is by no means assured, as recent increases in violence demonstrate all too well. Controversy surrounding their mission will not help.
It might behoove the Obama administration to make an attempt here in the States to match the Iraq government's efforts at educating citizens regarding American presence after June 30th. Reports that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says that "she and Army Gen. Raymond Odierno, the top U.S. commander [in Iraq], agree that the uptick in bombings shouldn't change American plans for withdrawal" probably don't actually provide the needed clarification - in fact, they might exacerbate the potential problem. American troops will be operating in the cities, and those cities will likely not be without danger. Assuming CNN et al aren't simply reporting what they've been instructed to, there's likely to be an ugly surprise for someone in the news this July.
Fifteen minutes on the issues - here's the remainder of the Iraq-pertinent Q&A with Major General Oates from the milblogs conference:
Posted by Greyhawk / May 4, 2009 2:34 PM | Permalink
Andrew Exum calls this Washington Post report "The Most Depressing Thing You'll Read Today". I'd call it the most frustrating thing you'll read today, so if frustration depresses you than we're both right. The idea was to train the Iraqis so that when ... Read More
One briefing (General Odierno, 8 May 2009) - two headlines: New York Times - General Sees a Longer Stay in Iraq Cities for U.S. Troops "The top American general in Iraq said Friday that one-fifth of American combat troops would stay behind in Iraqi cit... Read More
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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