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May 12, 2009
Hot Town, Summer in the City...By Greyhawk
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 cities even after the June 30 deadline that the United States and Iraq had set for the departure."
AFP - US on track to exit Iraqi cities by end June: commander: "WASHINGTON (AFP) — US forces are on track to pull out of all Iraqi cities by the end of June in line with a deal struck with Iraq, Washington's top commander in the country said on Friday."
And a bonus: We don't need US troops in cities: Iraq PM tells Pelosi
But the first paragraph of that last story exposes the lie in the headline: ""We don't need big numbers of (US) military forces inside the cities after we get control of them," Maliki said..." - so chalk that up as another obvious example of why people who read headlines alone aren't as "well informed" as the rapidly dwindling number of morons who believe the text they read beneath them.
As for the other two headlines, they're reminiscent of the time of the announcement of the surge, when both President Bush and General Petraeus explained that we were sending in more troops, but the solution to Iraq's problems weren't exclusively military. The media created a fictional disagreement between them by giving each credit for half the quote - but this is the first time I recall them actually attempting to fabricate a General who wouldn't listen to himself.
The American media-created myth of withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraqi cities continues unabated. But the reality isn't that complicated and has not changed since the SOFA (pdf) and Strategic Framework Agreement (pdf) were signed last Fall. Prime Minister Maliki understands it - reduced numbers of ("non-combat") U.S. troops will remain in Iraqi cities functioning as enablers (coordinating air support and other services the Iraqis can't yet provide themselves) and advisers (trainers, etc.). Others stationed outside the cities will be available if needed to provide security.
American military commanders understand this too - and are willing to take as much time as necessary to explain it very carefully to American reporters. U.S. Brigade Combat Teams (now called "Advise and Assist Brigades") preparing to deploy to Iraq are training for that role - and even learning the basics of providing essential city management services. In Iraq, efforts are ongoing to ensure Iraqis are informed of and understand the continued presence of American troops in cities there after June 30th. In the Western media, an equally vigorous effort is underway to ensure the rest of the world is ignorant. (An alternative explanation exists - that reporters simply can't comprehend and are effortlessly sharing their confusion with others.) For additional details including audio and video interviews with American commanders on this topic, see here.
As for the briefing that resulted in both the headlines above, here's the transcript of General Odierno's attempt to update the press last week.
First order of business, there are now only two cities where "combat" troops remain, Baghdad and Mosul, and there's a possibility "combat" troops will remain in Mosul after June 30th:
...frankly, we're basically out of all the cities except for two, Baghdad and Mosul. We are on our way out of Baghdad. We've been slowly turning that over to the Iraqi security forces now for about three months, and I think they've made some pretty good progress.As for how many troops ("enablers" and "advisors") will remain in cities throughout Iraq after June 30th, the General doesn't have an exact answer:
Q What's your best assessment of the number of U.S. troops that would stay behind as enablers in the cities after June 30th?So lower level commanders will maintain latitude on decisions regarding troop levels to meet the needs of their missions - good.
As the briefing drew to a close, someone must have woken up a dozing reporter who then offered this question:
Q After June 30, will there be any U.S. military advisers embedded with Iraqi forces in the cities?It shouldn't be that damn hard to write a story explaining that - unfortunately, the media have had this story wrong since last Fall, too.
Barring disaster, Iraq on July 1st won't look much different on June 30th, which won't look much different than Iraq today. As an Iraq-bound Brigade Commander explained earlier this month, the process is evolutionary - not revolutionary. Transition of the U.S. role to more of a build/support/"enable from overwatch" posture has been ongoing since early 2008 - a result of the military successes of the year before.
Posted by Greyhawk / May 12, 2009 1:48 PM | Permalink
Welcome to the Dawn Patrol, our daily roundup of information on the War on Terror and other topics - from the MilBlogs and various sources around the world. If you're a blogger, you can join the conversation. If you link to any of these stories, add a ... 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...)
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.
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